The IDEA Competition announced the names of three 2017 winners on Tuesday, April 25th at the IDEA awards banquet held at the Beaux Arts Ballroom, Bemidji State University.  Each winner receives $10,000 in cash to advance their business idea, plus additional specialized technical assistance.

The 2017 Winners are:

  • Chiara and Travis Bolton, Hubbard County, for Bolton Bees – provides MN-hard bees to backyard beekeepers; creates local, distinct, raw, location-specific honey; forms partnerships with solar companies to create pollinator friendly habitats. Bolton Bees is invested in our community.
  • Todd Sandwick, Fosston, for DeanUltraThinRetainerthe Dean retainer solves several problems seen in standard acrylic Hawley retainers, and does so by making use of pre-existing, time-tested materials. The advantages of a Dean retainer are evident in less breakage and loss, comfort and compliance, hygiene, and cost.
  • Mychal Stittsworth, Bemidji, for Stittsworth Meats working to bring a means of USDA inspected slaughter to Northern Minnesota through the use of a USDA approved Mobile Slaughter Unit. This will enable any local farmer regardless of size to sell their meat in a retail setting. The advantage of the MSU is that it goes to where the livestock live reducing stress on the animal and increasing yield and quality of the meat.

The 2017 runners up are Keila McCracken, Bemidji, for Bare Cloth; Russ Karasch and Robert Monahan, Park Rapids, for Squarrel Cooperage, LLC; Jeremy Leffelman, Bemidji and Joel Anderson, Solway, for Raptor Rack.

The main goal of the IDEA competition is to assist promising local entrepreneurs in the commercialization of innovative products, processes and deliveries by connecting them to the best resources available, along with access to the capital it takes to launch a successful venture.

For the second year in a row, one IDEA participant will be automatically entered into MN Cup, a statewide business start-up competition. The judges selected DeanUltraThinRetainer as the participant that will advance to the semifinals of this premier resource for early stage entrepreneurs, supporting and accelerating the development of breakthrough business ideas across Minnesota.

The IDEA Hall of Fame added Christian Brothers, Inc. – a former hockey stick manufacturing company. The three business principals; Roger Christian and Hal Bakke were inducted posthumously and Bill Christian, unable to attend had his daughter accept the award at the banquet.  The IDEA Hall of Fame was established to recognize the accomplishments of the region’s legacy innovators—those within the region who have inspired others with their entrepreneurial vision, leadership and achievement.

Major sponsors of the IDEA Competition include: Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 360 Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, Bremer Banks – Crookston and Warren, Border State Bank, First National Bank Mahnomen, Greater Bemidji Launch Pad, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Landsverk and Associates, Inc., Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc., Northwest Regional Development Commission, Northwest Small Business Development Center, Security Bank USA, and University of Minnesota Crookston.