A combined flower and coffee shop and a medical tourism website were among the top business ideas students pitched this month during Hawk Tank, Fort Lewis College’s annual business plan contest.
The contest, based on the TV show “Shark Tank,” offers students and alumni the opportunity to win cash to help build their business ideas.
Now in its fourth year, Hawk Tank drew 51 teams initially, and 19 teams completed the contest’s workshop process.
In the student division, sophomore Bella Sage won first place and $5,000 for her idea, Blossoms and Brews, a shop that would combine Sage’s two favorite things – coffee and flowers.
She envisions the shop as a community gathering place that would also offer classes, such as bouquet design, she said. The judges were impressed with her passion for her idea, she said.
“I just want it to be a hangout spot for everyone and anyone,” she said.
Few flower and coffee shops exist in the U.S., but she did identify one in California.
FLC junior Katherine Candelaria, a Cortez resident, won second place and $2,500 for her concept, an online medical tourism website called Gringa Med Tours. The website would match patients with dentists and cosmetic surgeons in Mexico and other countries, where treatment is often more affordable than in the U.S.
She first learned about medical tourism when her father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and she began researching treatment options for him. Since then, she has traveled to Mexico for her own dental care.
She found the porcelain crowns she needed cost $180 in Mexico compared with $1,100 in Cortez. But it required months of research to identify dentists, and ultimately, she simply drove to Mexico to search for care.
Candelaria envisions a website that would provide patients with a list of potential health providers, their pricing and financing for services. She would also like to connect patients with guides and housing during their trip for medical care.
The ambitious business plan will likely require a team of people to launch and promotion around medical tourism, she said.
“There is not a lack of interest when people hear about this. ... There is a lack of knowledge that they can do it,” she said.
FLC seniors Scott Betzer and Seth Hyatt won third place and $1,000 for their idea, a social media app called Student Connect, which would allow students to build stronger networks within their college and town, according to an FLC news release.
The app would consolidate events, entertainment options, jobs and internships, and discounts at local businesses available to students into one app. The team received Southwest Innovation Corridor’s Innovation Kicker Award of $1,500 for the most innovative plan of the competition.
Anthony Martin won first place among the alumni competitors for a pitch focused on an international and cultural mountain bike tour company, DaLe Biking Adventures. He also took home $5,000.
Next year, FLC plans to offer a Hawk Tank track for high school students and offer them scholarships to the school.
The college had planned to include high school students in the contest this year but decided to wait until next year because of the collaboration that will be required, said Michael Valdez, a business administration professor.
FLC has started working with high schools in Durango, Dolores, Silverton and New Mexico on participating, he said.