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Montana University System's John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition Awards More Than $30,000 To Budding Entrepreneurs

May 17, 2011View for printing

Montana's next generation of entrepreneurs took home more than $30,000 in prize money during The University of Montana's 22nd annual John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition, hosted May 12 by the UM School of Business Administration.

This year's competition winners are UM students John Beltrone and Emese Vitalis, who impressed judges and the public alike with CreativiTea, an epicurean custom blend tea retailer. The company will be based in Missoula and will sell direct to the consumer via the Internet and social media sites.

The CreativiTea team also took the prize for best elevator pitch, an award that recognizes the team's ability to explain the plan in three minutes. Collectively the team won prize money totaling $9,000.

The $4,000 second-place prize in the competition went to UM student Robert Reum and, a company that will sell specialty backdrops to small venues and individual musical performers.

Dance of the Sun, a plan submitted by students from Montana State University-Billings, took the $2,000 third-place award. The plan outlined a business that would market native art, beginning with artists from the Crow reservation.

The lifestyle division for smaller businesses was dominated by Bahia, a Brazilian-theme restaurant plan developed by UM student Tom Snyder. Snyder also was honored with the Passion, Poise and Charisma award and the People's Choice award. Collectively Bahia and Snyder won $5,000.

Other awards of $1,000 were presented to Good Times, runner up in the lifestyle division, and to Zerosion and Greg Sietz, who won in the environmental and social responsibility division for his erosion-control project.

All prize money and funds needed to support the annual competition are raised through generous private contributions. Fifty-four businesses supported the event this year with cash and in-kind contributions.

UM's Montana Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs recognizes the importance of entrepreneurship and works through the University to bring entrepreneurial experience to the classroom. MADE also conducts an educational seminar series and presents the Pioneer in Industry awards, which celebrate business leaders' commitment to Montana.

Visit for more information about MADE.
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