Written by Will Przedpelski, Content Editor
The Furman Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FI&E) held its first annual Paladin Pitch Competition on Saturday, Feb. 22 in McAlister Auditorium. The event featured six Furman student-teams pitching their best business ideas. The competition attracted hundreds of students, alumni, and community members. Sophomore Sam Ybarra took home the $10,000 prize for best pitch with his business Spectrum Tiny Homes.
Ybarra’s company plans to sell tiny houses to people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As he explained in his presentation, the problem his company confronts is that many high functioning spectrum individuals struggle have a particularly hard time finding independent living facilities that cater to their specific needs.
Motivated by his own experience living with Autism, Ybarra will build units specifically designed to address individuals’ sensory needs. He expects to sell his tiny houses for between $25-30,000, a fraction of the cost of a traditional house. Ybarra hopes his affordable tiny homes will empower people on the spectrum to thrive in independence.
Immediately following his victory, Ybarra said, “It’s kind of shocking. I kept my hopes high, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to win.” In the coming weeks, Ybarra plans to work alongside the entrepreneurs and business resources at Furman to develop an even more robust model and ultimately, “start building tiny houses.” Ybarra also thanked his parents for their support.
In a surprising turn of events, FI&E pulled together last-minute fundraising, securing $500 prizes for all six participants, as well as second and third-place awards. Lucas Bautista won a $5,000 second-place prize for his landscaping tech business, Instant Lawn Care. Trent Stubbs also took home $2,500 for his medical startup Aconabolics.