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The experiences I had at UM, both in the classroom and through the competition, were amazing.

Kurt Stange

From Clothing to Christmas Trees

The Business Plan Competition’s First Winner

The very first winner of the Business Plan Competition, in 2003, was the team of Kurt Stange (BBA ’05) and Zach Schlichter (BSBE ’05), who pitched a plan for a company called Crue Boarding that would make hip clothing for wakeboarders. They later successfully launched the company.

Since then, Stange has created two more businesses: Miami Christmas Lights, which designs, fabricates and delivers Christmas displays to commercial and government properties, and its offshoot, Easy Treezy, which invented the world’s first fully decorated artificial Christmas tree. The tree is easily assembled and disassembled because of its innovative inner system. Like any successful entrepreneur, Stange found an unaddressed opportunity. “The Christmas industry has been passed over by innovation for decades,” he says. His student days helped prepare him for his later endeavors. “The experiences I had at UM, both in the classroom and through the competition, were amazing,” he says.

Small class size and close teacher-student relationships were key to gaining the skills and knowledge he’s used in his career, he says. “Also, the network of entrepreneurs that UM made available to me was extensive, and through mentorship, I learned how to start and run a real business. The classroom setting is awesome, but hands-on experience is invaluable.”

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