Serandu Custom Riding Boots wins the 2016 UK Venture Challenge

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 25, 2016) — College of Agriculture, Food and Environment students Cailtin Halliwell and Allison Burke of Team Serandu won UK Venture Challenge and $1,500 on Feb. 20 with their idea for custom-fitted riding boots. Second place and $1,000 went to Team Talkables, Cassady Ritter and Andrew Dharamse of College of Engineering, for their new device for pets. Juris doctor candidate Derek Campbell placed third and receives $500 for BlamBags, a fun, new gift bag concept.  

Eight student teams pitched their new business concepts to judges from the local entrepreneurial community at the fifth  annual competition at the William T. Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium. The teams’ written proposals were judged prior to their pitches.

“Competing in Venture Challenge sparked a passion for me to continue pursuing business as a career,” said Serandu team member Allison Burke, who was a December graduate in merchandising. “I am so inspired by the ideas of other young people and the amazing support by the faculty and staff at UK.”

Team Serandu was part of the 10-week Venture Studio Bootcamp, a new program in the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, which wrapped up at the end of the fall 2015 semester. The idea for the fitted boot originated from UK faculty members, Janet Kurzynske and Scarlett Wesley. “Because of the Venture Studio Bootcamp, both of us are planning on enrolling in the Gatton MBA program next semester,” said Caitlin Halliwell, a senior in equine business management.  

“Venture Challenge has already been opening a lot of doors for me,” said computer engineering sophomore Cassady Ritter. “I'm so excited to take Talkables all the way and really make something to show for my college experience beyond a degree.”

Talkables team member Andrew Dharamsey, also a sophomore studying computer engineering, said “Venture Challenge is a great way for me to use my technical expertise, while working on a team, to actually build a product.”

Talkables will also receive $50 for winning the popular online vote with nearly 2,000 votes.

“Venture Challenge is a wonderful way of furthering ideas and concepts by presenting them before people of note in the business community who can help you overcome initial barriers to entry and ultimately take a better product to market,” said BlamBags creator Derek Campbell, a Gatton College finance and economics graduate, who is currently a second-year law student UK.

The judges included LaShana M. Harris, founder and CEO, Babylocity LLC; Wanisa “Pang” Hartman, vice president and creative designer, Frogdice Inc.; and George Ward, executive director, Coldstream Research Campus.

The three sponsors were the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership, an economic development partnership between UK, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, and Commerce Lexington; the Gatton College of Business and Economics; and the College of Communication and Information.

UK Venture Challenge is organized by iNET, the Innovation Network for Entrepreneurial Thinking, hosted by the College of Communication and Information, with the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, Venture Studio & the Lexington Office of the Kentucky Innovation Network in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.