Entrepreneurial efforts that began at Eastern Oregon University earlier this year culminate this week at the Invent Oregon state finals in Klamath Falls.
Two teams of EOU students will compete against their peers from 11 Oregon institutions for $30,000 in cash prizes awarded to the top five prototypes. Kula Dudes, a yoga regimen designed specifically for men, and healthy snack business School Marm Treats both received $2,500 this spring to develop their business plans and produce prototypes.
The championship, held at Oregon Technical Institute, takes place June 29 and is open to the public. All levels of collegiate students can participate, and each school can field up to two teams at the state final. The winning team receives $15,000 and a chance to present their product at the Bend Venture Conference, one of the largest in the West.
EOU observed the inaugural competition last year, and returned to fully participate this season. Wilson Zehr, a business professor at EOU, serves as the program’s faculty representative on campus.
“This is a prototyping competition so it’s focused on the invention,” Zehr said. “We are fortunate to have two really strong teams with great ideas. The next step, if they win, is to showcase the investment potential in Bend.”
The goal of Kula Dudes is to weave new technology into the ancient art of yoga. Kula Dudes embraces advances in fabrics and materials, mobile applications and exercise science to create a superior physical and spiritual experience, targeted at a male demographic that is often under-represented in the discipline. Team members include health and wellness student Michael Herbst, exercise science student Peter Eke and health coach Spencer Harber.
Meanwhile, School Marm Treats offers a line of low-sugar, gluten-free, organic, vegan snacks that come with “a dose of health education.” Healthy cakes and other products come with food comparisons, recipes, kids’ activities and community events based on education and awareness of food options.
“Many of the unhealthy choices people make, when it comes to food are due to misinformation and confusion over what you should eat,” team member Michelle Russell said. “School Marm Treats is both a food education and treat line offering reliable educational information on healthy food and delicious organic, vegan, gluten-free, low-sugar treats.”
Team members include Portland Community College student Kurtis Russell, EOU history student Kevin Russell and food educator Michelle.
“Participating in InventOR is super exciting,” she said. “I’m learning all kinds of new information that is out of the normal scope of my studies and helps me advance my dreams of owning a business.”
The Invent Oregon competition is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, Business Oregon, The Oregon Community Foundation and PSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship. More information about the organization, event and competitors is available at: inventoregon.org