Three University of Wisconsin-River Falls students received a $25,000 Ideadvance seed grant for their startup company, SōPOD, after taking first place in the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament (WBIT).

Eric Wenz, Andrew Lind and An Trieu are the students behind SōPOD, a water-soluble, biodegradable pod technology that packages single use portions of soap, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Their initial idea was to allow travelers to bring shower items in carry-on luggage while still complying with TSA restrictions.

After compiling initial customer research, Wenz, Lind and Trieu discovered that a better opportunity lies with hotels looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Currently, many hotels throw away these small plastic bottles of toiletries. SōPOD would help hotels significantly reduce its dry waste production and comply with green initiatives by replacing plastic bottles with packaging that simply disappears when a guest uses the item.

The students’ top spot at the WBIT, earned them a chance to participate in the International Business Model Competition (IBMC) at Brigham Young University on May 2, where they placed among the top 22 contenders. They received an additional $2,000 for making it to the semifinals of the IBMC.

SōPOD was among 11 teams of University of Wisconsin System student entrepreneurs who competed in the WBIT, which included presentations from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls and UW-Whitewater students.
2015 marked the second annual WBIT, which is an entrepreneurship event open to undergraduates attending any two- or four-year University of Wisconsin school across the state, with the exception of UW-Madison. It teaches cutting-edge business development tools, provides business mentorship and allows participants to compete in a fun format for paid internships and a chance to receive a $25,000 Ideadvance grant.