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UMW Student Carson Crary Excels in John Ruffatto Startup Challenge

June 12, 2024

University of Montana Western student Carson Crary was recently named a finalist and award winner at the University of Montana’s John Ruffatto Startup Challenge.

Montana Western Campus

The John Ruffatto Startup Challenge, an annual event established in 1989 and hosted by the University of Montana College of Business, provides a dynamic platform for students across Montana to present innovative business and social entrepreneurship ideas. This statewide competition not only fosters entrepreneurial skills but also offers experiential learning and valuable networking opportunities.

Participants present their business concepts to a diverse panel of judges, including experts from academia, industry, and state agencies. The competition features several stages, from preliminary rounds to live finals, enabling students to showcase their projects comprehensively. It also serves as a crucial networking venue, connecting students with seasoned professionals and potential investors.

The 2024 event attracted over 100 entries, with finalists presenting ideas that spanned healthcare, technology, sustainability, and housing. These ideas addressed issues at local, regional, national, and international levels.

Carson Crary, a UMW sophomore, was selected as a finalist for his innovative business model aimed at providing specialized food services for individuals with digestive issues, illnesses, or diseases. Drawing from his personal experience with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crary identified a significant market gap and developed a service to offer safe, convenient food options for people with dietary restrictions. His business focuses on supplying curated, diet-compliant meals and snacks for those engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, or exploring remote areas where suitable food is often unavailable.

In addition to his finalist recognition, Crary received awards for “Best Elevator Pitch” and “Most Passionate Presenter,” securing a total prize of $3,000.

Crary’s business plan originated from an entrepreneurship course he took at Montana Western, where students develop business ideas and craft detailed business plans. Taking initiative, Crary applied for and participated in the competition, working with a mentor from the University of Montana to refine his presentation. He received additional guidance from professors in the UMW Business Department, culminating in a well-developed business plan.

The University of Montana Western proudly congratulates Carson Crary on his outstanding achievement and is honored to have him represent the university.

For more information on the John Ruffatto Startup Challenge, visit  For more information on the University of Montana Western and its programs, visit or call 877-683-7331.