Inaugural Innovation Challenge awards grand prize, recognizes outstanding student businesses

Paul Hunter and Charlee Riggio nearly fell to their knees.

The CEO and COO of Repurpose Bowties began Regis University’s Innovation Challenge nearly seven months ago, crafting their mission and message, meeting with business mentors and developing their products.

At the finals on April 20, the pair left with the $10,000 grand prize.

“Regis means so much to both of us,” Riggio said. “I came into Regis as a first-generation college student. At the beginning I had no idea the social impact would be so much bigger than I thought. I had no idea it would be what I’d do.”

The second-place team, Wallrest panchos, won $5,000 in funding, while third-place finisher Colorado Craft Bottling won $1,000. All three teams earned work space in the University’s Innovation Center.

The competition began in October, with semifinals in December to determine the top teams. Nine finalists presented to a panel of judges in a Shark Tank-like scenario. Each finalist had five minutes to present, followed by four minutes of questions from the judges.

“I’ve pitched and been pitched to,” said judge Al Rosabal, the CEO of Galvanize. “These top three finalists and winners had it dialed in. It’s great to see kids in a university setting in events like this.”

The inaugural event drew a crowd and businesses ranging from ponchos to cloud-based cybersecurity. The contest — unique to the University — will return for the 2018-19 academic year. The kickoff will take place in October.

“You might wonder why a guy and his family would donate to a university it has no ties with,” said judge Jamie Gronowski, who along with his wife Ann donated $1 million to build and launch an Innovation Incubator and design space on campus. “I can tell you why. Nights like tonight.”