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Coffee company brews up win at Hawk Tank
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Coffee company brews up win at Hawk Tank

Fort Lewis College held the 8th annual Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition on April 15, 2023. After a day of pitching to a panel of judges that included local business owners and leaders, teams were awarded cash prizes to put toward making their business dreams a reality.  

Hawk Tank is open to teams led by current college students, recent graduates, and Four Corners area high school students. This year, seven Fort Lewis College teams, two recent alumni teams, and three high school teams competed. Participants worked on their business plans since January to win large amounts of cash prizes. 

Hawk Tank is an invaluable opportunity for participants to build foundations in business practices through hands-on experience and mentorship with local business leaders and FLC alumni. 

“The 2023 Hawk Tank was a huge success,” said Professor of Management Michael Valdez. “From the fantastic viable business plans trying to solve real-world problems to Dr. Taylor’s Event Management class putting on a world-class event, Hawk Tank continues to highlight what makes Fort Lewis College and our community so unique and special.”

In the college track, the first-place student team, Wakȟályapí Coffee, took home the grand prize of $10,000. Wakȟályapí Coffee was founded by Devyn Valandra, a junior studying Entrepreneurship & Small Business. CreativitEE won the second-place prize of $2,500, and Golden Hour Esports won the third-place prize of $1,000.

In the alumni track, recent FLC graduates competed for a $5,000 prize for the best business plan. The first-place prize was awarded to Peaks and Dreams.

In the high school track, students from the Durango and Four Corners regions competed for prizes of up to $500 for each member. The first-place prize was awarded to Wolverine Den, followed by Mystical Mystique in second place, and Forks and Knives in third place.

“The 2023 Hawk Tank was a huge success. From the fantastic viable business plans trying to solve real-world problems to Dr. Taylor’s Event Management class putting on a world-class event, Hawk Tank continues to highlight what makes Fort Lewis College and our community so unique and special.”

Michael Valdez, professor of Management

This year’s Hawk Tank events were supported by presenting sponsor Baird Private Wealth Management. Other generous sponsors include Swan Global Investments, Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, J. Bo's Pizza and Rib Co., Carver's Brewing, Bank of the San Juans, Gene and Sally Bradley, San Juan College Foundation, and Four Corners Innovations, Inc.

Judges for the events included Bo Maloney, owner of J. Bo's Pizza and Rib Co.; Allison Aichele, treasurer and public trustee at La Plata County; Bill Luthy and Tina McCallum, vice presidents at RW Baird; Angelo and Jacquelene McHorse, owners of Bison Star Naturals; Nate Lee, vice president of corporate banking at Bank of America; Paul Clay, associate dean at FLC; and Justin Bates, managing director at IC Advisor Group.

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FLC Track winners 

  • 1st place ($10,000): Wakȟályapí Coffee, handcrafted premium sage-blend coffee sourced from the Black Hills of South Dakota.
  • 2nd place ($2,500): CreativitEE, a startup with a focus on educating the younger generation about engineering concepts through pre-made kits and hands-on training experiences.
  • 3rd place ($1,000): Golden Hour, an esports startup with a focus on providing an inclusive and engaging environment for competitive video gamers and aiding gamers in competitions. 

Alumni Track winners

  • 1st place ($5,000): Peaks and Dreams, an event planning organization that focuses primarily on weddings and making events magical and memorable.

High School Track winners 

  • 1st place ($500): Wolverine Den, a unique and delicious barbecue and burger food truck that will revolutionize the fast food scene in Bayfield, Colorado. 
  • 2nd place ($250): Mystical Mystique, a teen-focused bookshop with affordable tutoring and homework help available to students.
  • 3rd place ($100): Forks and Knives, an authentic Italian restaurant experience located in Farmington, New Mexico.
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Alumni in the Media

FLC Summits

An alumni story video series

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Reed Clément, English Communications ’05, created his own degree emphasis in videography while at FLC. After graduating, Reed headed for the locus of all things cinematic, Los Angeles, California. He now heads up Netflix’s CREATIVE LABS division at their Hollywood branch headquarters. Reed discusses his time at FLC, how it changed him, and how what he learned at the school informs his work today.
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Justin Beals (English-Theatre, '95)

In the fall of 2022, entrepreneur Justin Beals stopped by the school to have a look at his old haunts. Beals has built a career in cybersecurity and credits his success to time spent pacing the boards of the FLC Mainstage, where he learned to tell stories.
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Jacquelene & Angelo McHorse

In 2012, FLC alums Jacquelene and Angelo McHorse started Bison Star Naturals, a small family business whose products are made with organically, naturally and locally sourced ingredients. FLC caught up with the McHorses to chat about their time at FLC, their approach to entrepreneurialism and community, and their plans for the future!
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P.T. Wood (Business Administration, '90)

P. T. Wood isn’t the first person to have his life changed on a river trip. Nor is he the first to imbibe some liquid spirits on said trip. But for Wood, the convergence of the two has led to a life and occupation in one of those unique mountain-lifestyle ways: as a distiller and mayor of a thriving Colorado mountain town.
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Joshua Been (Art '99)

For Joshua Been, a career in art has been an art unto itself. As a working artist, change, adaptability, and growth – as well as the U.S. Army and the wildlands of the American West -- have been essential to his success. And that eclectic, self-crafted path was enabled by his ability to carve his own academic vision – both personally and professionally – at FLC.
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Ricardo Caté (Education, '06)

The most prominent Native American cartoonist working today, Marine veteran, speaker, and standup comedian Ricardo Caté was employed by the Santa Fe New Mexican immediately after his graduation from FLC in 2006 to publish a daily single-panel cartoon called “Without Reservation,” which he had created while working for FLC’s student newspaper, The Independent.
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Chris Schauble (Broadcast Journalism, '91)

Every kid has their favorite TV show. For Chris Schauble it was the evening news. That early obsession led to a career in broadcast journalism that has spanned thirty years, five daytime Emmy Awards, and six Golden Mikes. These days Chris is the morning news anchor for Los Angeles’ KTLA, serving the second-largest media market in the United States.