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Merced College student finalist in worldwide product competition
merced college business student
Merced College student Blake Brigham (pictured center) pitches his convertible stadium/lawn chair in a video submission for the Weber Outdoor Recreational Product Competition (Photo contributed).

Merced College student Blake Brigham is one of 10 finalists that will be traveling to Ogden, Utah this week to participate in the Weber Outdoor Competition. College students from around the world were tasked with creating a new outdoor-recreational product. The winner of the competition receives $45,000.

Brigham’s product idea solves the problem of what type of chair to bring to an outdoor event. The business student said his moment of inspiration was at a softball game when he saw his girlfriend’s father try to make his lawn chair work on a set of bleachers and inevitably fall over.

“I’m always someone that looks at things and thinks how you can make it better,” Brigham said. “After he fell, I started thinking there should be something that could easily convert from a stadium chair to a lawn chair and back. I thought it over for a couple days and then built a rough prototype in my backyard.

“It’s a chair that you can use in the bleachers, but also has four folding legs, so you can convert it to a lawn chair.”

Brigham believed he had a money-making idea, but thought he should talk it over with an expert. He contacted Professor of Business, Entrepreneurship & Marketing Annette Haugen whom, in a bit of serendipitous fortune, had just received an email regarding the Outdoor Weber competition. Outdoor Weber is an outdoor recreation product and service idea competition for college students from around the world. Haugen was so impressed with Brigham’s idea, she encouraged him to enter.

The competition committee agreed with Brigham and Haugen’s assessment, naming him one of the 10 finalists. The Merced College sophomore will travel to Ogden, Utah from March 20-23 to compete for the $45,000 grand prize. Finalists will work with mentors to help streamline their ideas and then give a 10-minute presentation to a panel of judges.

“I thought it was innovative and an improvement to an already proven market,” Haugen said. “I was a little suspicious it might already exist, but after a pretty thorough online search followed by a patent search, we couldn’t find anything similar.

“I had just received the invite to the Outdoor Weber, looking for sporty, outdoorsy products. It was amazing timing. Blake’s advantage over the other nine finalists is scalability. I believe my exact words to him were, ‘You could enter this and win.’ I think this is just the first step in a long journey for him.”

After mapping out a plan of action, Haugen put Brigham in contact with Drafting Professor James Thornburgh, to see if his class could help Brigham draw up some specs. Thornbugh’s class came through and with a good action-plan in place, Brigham entered the competition.

Brigham submitted a 90-second video about the product to be voted on. The top-25 vote getters moved on to the semifinals and then judges picked one more person from each region to move on. While Brigham’s video didn’t get enough votes, he got picked by the judges to move on.

“I was pretty excited when I was told I was one of the 10 finalists. I’m pretty comfortable speaking in front of people, but 10 minutes is a long time, so there’s a little bit of nerves too. I’m just looking forward to going to Utah and seeing what happens,” he said.