Listening to mom pays off for Canyon Challenge winner

Powder Pal creator Lucas Patten won the Canyon Challenge on Thursday at Sunset Auditorium.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Listen to mother.

It will always pay off, somehow, somewhere.

Lucas Patten proved that Thursday night. His Powder Pal product, which was created in response to several verbal scoldings by his mother, Debbie, in their native New York, earned the first-place prize of $2,500 at the Canyon Challenge in Grand Canyon University's Sunset Auditorium.

“It started with my mother yelling at me (three years ago),” a giddy Patten said. “End of story.”

CEO of LUX Manufacturing Weston Smith (right) and the panel of judges ask questions about students' products during the Canyon Challenge.

Actually, it may be the beginning for Patten and the other four finalists who competed for $6,000 of cash prizes in the semiannual entrepreneurial competition similar to the popular “Shark Tank” television show.

Weston Smith, CEO of LUX Manufacturing, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at GCU, was one of the three judges who raved about the competitors.

“They all had great business models that we can see all of them really expanding out from this pitch,” Smith said.

Supporters cheer on Lucas Patten as he is named the winner of the Canyon Challenge.

Acadex, an artificial intelligence paper-grading system founded by Shyam Bodicherla designed to significantly trim the time teachers devote to grading, earned a second-place prize of $1,500. QPS (Quick Privacy Screen), started by Grace Radlund to provide privacy to victims of medical emergencies, earned the $1,000 third-place prize money.

Signature Tote Co., founded by Mackenzy Leray and tailored to provide durable and ecofriendly bags free to grocery stores and customers, won $1,000 as winner of the People’s Choice Award, voted by the audience via QR Code.

Powder Pal, Acadex and Signature Tote are companies that originated in a business execution class taught by Canyon Ventures Founding Director Robert Vera.

Mackenzie Leray makes her pitch for her Signature Tote Co. tote bag, which uses NTF technology, during the Canyon Challenge at Sunset Auditorium on April 18, 2024.

But Patten seized the moment two months after convincing classmate Caleb Graffam that his pinNaCle coffee business would be a success at two Marketplace events hosted by the IDEA Club.

Patten gave judges Nick Hool of Hoolest Performance, Ashley Sankar of Nineteentwenty and Smith each a glass of water.

Moments later, Patten played a video of his mother expressing her displeasure over him spilling protein powder on a kitchen counter.

Grace Radlund talks about her Quick Privacy Screen during the Canyon Challenge.

“Stop!” his mother yells while Lucas spills powder from a powder company-produced scooper. "You have to do this every day? Can’t you do that over the sink? Oh my gosh.”

“I’m so glad I don’t have to hear that again,” Patten told the judges and an engaged audience.

Rachel and Michael Anderson take questions about their TrueVine product.

Ben Bjornstad, who graduated in entrepreneurship in December, flexed his muscles in a workout outfit onstage before pouring the powder with the help of Power Pal into the glasses of the three judges.

Moments later, Patten displays the cost of scoopers from competitors, which are more expensive, ineffective, wasteful and flawed. That $2 of protein is lost for each “protein fumble.”

Patten announced his plans for a business-to-business (B2B) model, but Sankar was so impressed by his plans that she suggested he sell his product to the consumer.

There are advantages to selling directly to consumers, as Patten says Powder Pal can be used for baby formula (which he observes is locked up in stores and is expensive), chocolate milk, laundry detergent, coffee, baking and spices.

Powder Pal creator Lucas Patten enlists the help of fellow classmate and friend Ben Bjornstad to make his product pitch.

“I had it in my head, what can I make from stopping her (his mom) from yelling at me?” Patten said after he was announced as the winner.

And mom was contacted immediately.

“She’s happy,” Patten said in his New York accent.

He was grateful for the support he received from Vera and his fellow students that “gave me feedback every day in class.”

“All the competitors were amazing,” Patten said. “They all had good products. I’m very excited to see where they’re going to go with it.”

Smith said Powder Pal had the “biggest opportunity to get into revenue tomorrow.”

CCOB adjunct professor Tim Blake, who has already used Shyam Bodicherla’s Acadex artificial intelligence app for grading papers, congratulates Bodicherla on his second-place finish.

“They can go direct to consumer or B2B, and I think they can’t go wrong either way,” Smith said.

Bodicherla was happy with his second-place finish, and he impressed the audience with a video display that showed 20 papers graded in less than 40 seconds, with a 2.5 to 5 % margin for error.

“Teachers are overworked,” Bodicherla said. “I still believe this platform is profitable, either B2C (business to consumer) or B2B. I still stand firm.”

Lucas Patten (right) is congratulated by friends and fellow classmates after his Powder Pal product won the Canyon Challenge.

While the judges gathered outside the auditorium to evaluate the product and presentation of each candidate, a fashion show during the intermission featured clothing from AnomalyCo by Kate Hames, My Cross by Jay Greer, Fellowship Fits by Andrew Bussmann and For the Good by Winston Spencer.

Each student is committed to devoting a portion of their business proceeds to charity.

IDEA Club president Connor Vicary announced that Marketplace events raised more than $300,000 in merchandise sales.

Jack Godwin, who co-owns Jack’s Detail Garage with Vicary and finished second in the December 2022 Canyon Challenge competition, will take over as president of the IDEA Club in the fall and hopes to hold more student markets with more vendors.

As recently as two weeks ago, Patten was making and selling pizza at the last Marketplace.

“The pizza business is still going,” Patten said. “We’ll still do pizza. But now I’m shifting my focus to this (Powder Pal)."

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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