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Clarkson University Team Wins $10,000 in Retail & Health Innovation Challenge

A Clarkson University student team won second place and $10,000 at the Wake Forest University Retail & Health Innovation Challenge, this month.

Birch Boys ChagaSophomores Garrett Kopp of Tupper Lake, N.Y., and Thomas Burke III of Weston, Conn., traveled to the competition earlier this month to pitch Birch Boys Adirondack Chaga. The ground chaga mushroom is a loose herbal tea supplement that is grown and harvested in the Adirondacks.

Kopp said the dried chaga mushroom is steeped for about 10 minutes and tastes like any black tea. It also can be combined with any loose-leaf tea or coffee.

A total of 12 teams from across the country traveled to compete in the annual Retail & Health Innovation Challenge. Kopp's team was selected to participate based on his business plan.

The competition was hosted by the Wake Forest School of Business's Center for Retail Innovation in Winston-Salem, N.C., and sponsored by CVS Health.

"Working with Clarkson's Reh Center for Entrepreneurship has been amazing," Kopp said. "I really feel like they took a chance in letting me pursue this co-op, but the fact that they believed in me and supported me reinforced my confidence and my desire to make my community at Clarkson proud. I have weekly meetings with Erin Draper, the director of the Reh Center. Aside from giving great advice, she is always sending me links to business competitions and introducing me to brilliant people in the world of business. The contacts she has introduced me to have proved to be extremely beneficial in my startup."

Each team delivered an elevator pitch about their product or service to a panel of judges comprised of industry experts. Kopp was then selected among the finalists for a round of 30-minute presentations.

Birch Boys Adirondack Chaga plans to use the $10,000 prize to continue growing the company by purchasing more efficient equipment, building a website and hiring an employee. The chaga is currently available in health food stores across New York, Vermont and Connecticut, and Kopp aims to expand to bigger health food chains throughout the Northeast.

"My goal has always been to introduce chaga to people who have never heard of it and allow people to try it who don't have access to it," Kopp said. "I want to build a retail brand focusing on education, authenticity and sustainability, and I want to be able to incorporate my outdoor lifestyle into a viable career."

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University sophomores Garrett Kopp, of Tupper Lake, N.Y., and Thomas Burke III, of Weston, Conn., won second place at the Wake Forest University Retail & Health Innovation Challenge for their business, Birch Boys Adirondack Chaga.

[Photograph for media use is available at ]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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