Published on April 27, 2021 by Morgan Black
Samford University’s Brock School of Business hosted the 13th annual Regions New Venture Challenge business plan competition Friday, April 23, 2021. In partnership with Regions Bank, the event provides a real-world opportunity for students from across campus to develop their entrepreneurial skills and display their talents while competing to win startup capital to launch their businesses. This year, Sara Bartlett took home the top prize with her business Canyon Couture.
Bartlett, a senior Brock Scholar studying economics and social entrepreneurship, started Canyon Couture to pursue her dream of owning her own business. While working as a full-time student and part-time waitress, she started her business using all her personal savings, in hopes that the Regions New Venture Challenge would be able to help her business get off the ground.
“I had always dreamed of owning my own business but was pretty scared to jump all the way in with a huge capital investment of my own,” Bartlett said. “When I learned about the opportunity to win funding through the New Venture Challenge, I decided to take a risk and start saving to invest in my business.”
The mission of Canyon Couture is to provide a curated collection of recycled and repurposed clothing and home decor that is both environmentally sustainable and ethically sourced. With the environmentally minded consumer as a top market, Canyon Couture brings unique products to people, when and where they want them. All inventory is sourced from local thrift stores, saving items from the landfill and supporting local non-profits in the process.
In January, well before information about the competition was announced, Bartlett purchased a 1997 international school bus for $5,000 and began to convert it into a mobile boutique. Currently, Canyon Couture is located in a 25-square foot booth which Bartlett rents from SOZO Trading Company, but her business plan includes transitioning into the fully converted school bus in June 2021.
“The opportunity to compete in this competition not only gave me the push I needed to bite the bullet and start my company, but it gave me the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into my business from established professionals,” she said. “The whole competition process has been amazing, and I would encourage anyone looking to start their own business after graduation to give it a try. I am truly so grateful for the opportunity to compete, let alone win funding for my dream!”
Jeremy Thornton, associate dean and social entrepreneurship program coordinator said, “Canyon Coutour is a great example what our social entrepreneurship program aspires to produce, a profitable venture combined with visible social mission. Many of our Brock School of Business social entrepreneurship students are finding creative ways to apply their business skills to redeem our culture and our communities. I am delighted Sara’s efforts can be recognized and celebrated.”
Follow Bartlett’s entrepreneurial adventure on TikTok and Instagram @canyoncouture.
The 2021 Regions New Venture Challenge winners from across campus include:
Open Division Winners
First Place: Canyon Couture
Sara Bartlett (Brock Scholar, economics and social entrepreneurship)
Second Place: The Modern Green Book
Theo Edwards-Butler (musical theatre)
Third Place: The Optimized
Lance Rybka (finance)
Fourth Place: Datam
Do Jin (accounting)
BUSA 100 Division Winners
First Place: Festivia
JD Beall (Christian ministry), Aiden Davitt (prebusiness), Brady Goodman (prebusiness), Olivia Lamb (prebusiness), Gracie Plunk (prebusiness), Rebecca Steelman (prebusiness)
Second Place: Multi-Crew
Mirra Cabote (prebusiness), Charlie Morrison (prebusiness), Ash Perry (prebusiness), Edwin Rainey (health sciences), India Rowe (communication studies), Luke Williams (prebusiness)
Third Place: Airwaze
Kyle Bowman (journalism and mass communications), Dylan Gadsey (prebusiness), Ryan Kean (prebusiness), Michaela Mattos (prebusiness), Mac Smith (prebusiness), Laura Beth Sumrall (prebusiness)
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.