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Winners Announced in PA Wilds $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest!

Winners Announced in PA Wilds $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest!

In partnership with the PA WILDS Center for Entrepreneurship, and with funding support provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ recent $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest targeted the counties of Cameron, Elk, McKean, Warren located in the PA WILDS. 

Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA Contest has given entrepreneurs and small manufacturers a risk-free funding opportunity for nearly 20 years. The prize money goes a long way in helping startups further develop their BIG IDEAS and infuse their companies with much-needed cash. In addition to the money, the pitch experience they gain, and the business training offered are just as valuable. 

On June 8, 2023, the BIG IDEA Finale Pitch event was hosted at the University of Pittsburg at Bradford. Eight finalists presented their business concepts to a panel of judges. The prize package for this contest included up to $50,000 in cash and the opportunity to win an additional $2,500 in a People’s Choice Award sponsored by NorthWest Bank.

Three Winners shared the $50,000 Cash Prize!

The First Place Prize of $25,000 was awarded to CiviLink (Ben Kafferlin and Lisa Hagberg), located in Warren County, who offers a unique, first-of-its-kind software package that streamlines procedures, maintains legal compliance, and enhances operational efficiency for government entities and public-sector employees on an intuitive, customizable platform.

The Second Place Prize of $15,000 was awarded to White Cane Coffee, (Robert Willman) located in Warren County, who is bringing sustainability and more economical manufacturing to a multi-use pod-based hot drink brewing system. Created as a PA Wilds regional product – White Cane Coffee’s reusable bag just needs hot water for a quick on-the-go cup; perfect for busy people and those who are conscientiously reducing their ecological footprint.

The Third Place Prize of $10,000 was awarded to Caregiver’s Artbox (Julie Mader), located in McKean County, who is developing a subscription-based service that supports individuals working in a home-care setting, or other health professionals within care communities to help spread joy, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of well-being to seniors. The Caregiver’s Artbox delivers engaging art lessons for physical and cognitive abilities, using quality supplies and helpful video instructions designed by experienced artists in health.

The $2,500 NorthWest Bank’s People’s Choice Award Goes to Caregiver’s Artbox!

Other finalists included: 

  1. Allegheny Mountain Beard Products (William Jones and Loretta Jones), located in Warren County, created all-natural personal care products that are free from harmful chemicals, synthetic ingredients, and toxins. They offer a range of products that include beard grooming, shampoos, skin creams, deodorant, and baby products. These products prioritize natural ingredients and sustainable packaging. 
  2. Behavioral Health Products (Arianne Iorfido) located in Elk County, developed a window blind specifically for inpatient psychiatric and other patient care environments with high-risk patients. Standard window treatments in a psychiatric setting require curtain tracks and curtains, which presents safety concerns for patients. This window blind allows healthcare facilities to retrofit any window, easily remove them as needed to accommodate high-risk patients, and can be easily wiped down in between patients. 
  3. Hoffman Appalachian Farm (Joshua Brock), located in Elk County, is a small hops farm producing both fresh and processed hops and grains for breweries and micro-breweries in the PA Wilds region. 
  4. TAT Technologies (Harb Nayar and Kyle Pond), located in Elk County, created a tabletop “oven” that uses heat, humidity, and high velocity, turbulent airflow to disinfect, decontaminate, or sterilize masks, plastic tools like syringes, and stainless-steel tools used in normal medical, dental, and operational practices. 
  5. Wright Monumental (Kelly Platko), Located in McKean County, will install a Model J Automatic Sandblaster, on their present manual sandblasting booth that will allow for the constant motion of automatic sandblasting versus manual sandblasting by an operator.  This creates a more consistent sandblast, which provides better performance on the final product.

About the BIG IDEA Contests: Since the start of the BIG IDEA contests, more than $3 million in cash prizes have been awarded throughout Ben Franklin’s 32-county footprint in central and northern Pennsylvania. The contest offers start-ups and entrepreneurs some much-needed seed funding, as well as business training, pitch experience, and industry contacts – often more valuable than the prize money itself.