Economics major hopes to take venture to market through Innovation Challenge win

For the last 13 years, the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst has hosted the 'Innovation Challenge,' an exciting business competition that gives students the opportunity to see their entrepreneurial dreams come to life. Students form teams to pitch their business ventures to a panel of entrepreneurs, legal experts, and consultants, during the four-part competition. One such team is Economics major Ethan Lazar ‘19, and fellow student Matthew Kaplan, who are competing for funding to launch their business. 

Lazar and Kaplan were one of the winning teams in the first round, known as ‘The Seed Pitch.’ The duo pitched their idea for Catalina Mixies, “a first of its kind healthy, ready-to-drink vodka based cocktail.” Lazar explained that his economics training has prepared him for the research, development, and financial challenges that come with starting a business. Lazar was able to establish a partnership with a distillery to produce the product, and has begun collaborating with a professional flavor company to perfect the taste.

“The Innovation Challenge was an incredible learning experience and winning proved to be a great vote of confidence for us moving forward,” he said.

The team were awarded $2,000 of equity free-funding, and the opportunity to continue to the next round of the competition, bringing them one step closer to the $65,000 grand prize.

“We are launching out of Los Angeles as it is both of our hometowns and the epicenter of the current health craze, but hope to quickly expand nationally” Lazar explained.

The team will be heading to the semifinal round of the Innovation Challenge on February 27, 2019. “Matthew and I are initiating our seed-funding round in the beginning of 2019. If all goes to plan, Catalina Mixies will be on shelves in September 2019,” he added.

-By Juliana Araujo, Communication ‘19