By Mitra Malek Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
A company that five Lee University students launched to help impoverished people earn a living in South Asia has won a regional faith-based business competition for startups.
Remedy Flies also took home $20,000 Saturday night and has a shot at winning $50,000 next month at Elevate's national final competition in California.
The startup, which will make fishing flies, came out ahead of seven other teams during the Southern regional contest, which was hosted by Covenant College and held at EPB.
"One of the biggest things for us is that our business model is helping the poorest of the poor," said Caroline Campbell, Remedy Flies president and a senior at Lee University.
Remedy Flies plans to train and hire workers in Cambodia and Nepal, while educating their children and supporting the work of local churches. This is possible through the company's partnership with People for Care and Learning, a nonprofit organization in Cleveland dedicated to serving the poor.
According to Remedy Flies, market conditions show there aren't enough fishing flies being made to meet current demand, and even more flies will be in demand in coming years. The startup is partnering with Rainy's Flies to help fill their current supply shortage, with plans to grow from there.
It has secured $20,000 from People for Care and Learning, or PCL, and $10,000 from First Baptist Cleveland, Campbell said. Production is expected to begin in September.
The startup projects its first-year revenue will be $500,000 with net income of $200,000.
It projects second-year revenue will be $1 million with $300,000 in net income, and third-year revenue will be just under $3 million with net income of $591,000.
Telos Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund based in Silicon Valley, created the Elevate competition centered around God. It's believed to be the first of its kind. The competitors had to be living out their faith through their business plans.
Remedy Flies will face off April 18 against Infinurja from University of Arizona, which provides customers with products that can help them generate their own electricity using waste material; Rapid SOS of Harvard Business School, which created technology for emergency communication; and a third startup to be determined this week.
Enoch Elwell, who was one of the South competition's preliminary judges, said the student pitches he saw Saturday were on par with presentations he's seen associated with accelerators.
All eight companies that presented Saturday had well-developed ideas that were financially viable, said Anthony Tucker, who coordinated the South competition.
Campbell said it will be satisfying to use her business and finance knowledge to help people in need get sustainable jobs.
"I would encourage other student entrepreneurs to seek out opportunities such as Elevate," Campbell, 22, said. "If you can identify a need in the marketplace, why not have a Christian entrepreneur fill that need?"