University of Nevada, Reno Master of Business Administration student Nicolo Monforte and Matt Linder, a University of California, Davis graduate, took home this year’s $50,000 grand prize at the annual Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition for their company, Sturn Designs.
Sturn Designs specializes in designing, manufacturing and distributing four-season all terrain expedition vehicles. All vehicles will be equipped with a four-person living cabin and each vehicle consists of a four-wheel drive midsized truck and a carbon or fiberglass camper shell. Their design allows for easier travel to off-road destinations while still providing a comfortable and easily-accessible camper.
The Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition, a program of the University’s College of Business, took place Wednesday, April 24 and featured six student-led competition teams all aiming to turn their business dreams into a reality.
“We had six excellent finalists this year,” Richard Bartholet, director of the Ozmen Center, said. “The judges had a very challenging decision selecting the winning team. In the end, they determined that Sturn Designs had created and communicated the most compelling business concept through their written business plan and their final pitch presentation.”
Monforte, who holds his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University, presented the Sturn Designs final pitch.
“Winning the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition has been a remarkable experience that we will remember forever- and it has not even fully set in yet,” Monforte said. “We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to launch our business and share our passion for an adventurous and nomadic lifestyle with those who want to get away.”
As part of the competition, a number of local entrepreneurs provided advice and guidance to the teams competing. According to Bartholet, the high-quality business plans and presentations received this year reflected this support. Bartholet also said that he expects a number of these teams will launch and/or grow businesses that will be successful additions to the northern Nevada economy.
This year’s event also included a presentation from guest speaker River Jangda, a 2013 University College of Business graduate and Sontag second-prize winner who successfully built and sold his first company. During his time at the University, Jangda not only competed in the Sontag Competition, but also went on to compete in the Governor’s Cup. He now has experience in numerous industries including e-commerce, digital marketing, blockchain and consulting.
Alongside Sturn Designs, five other teams presented their ideas to the judges. The finalists included:
- The Campus Refill Initiative: A company that seeks to reduce plastic waste with alternatives to single use plastic items.
- Don’tDrive: A web-based ride request and ride arrangement service.
- Scratch’d Anchor Recycled Sail bags: A retailer that creates products out of recycled sailboat sails.
- Tutology: An app used to help students find tutors for upper level STEM classes
- Under Par Indoor Disc Golf Course: A company that seeks to create an indoor disc golf course in the Reno area.
The Sontag Entrepreneurship Award is made possible by a major gift from University alumnus Rick Sontag. The $50,000 award is presented each spring semester to the winning team to help fund the expansion of their business.