Evergreen Student Wins $50,000 Veteran Business Plan Competition

Nicholas Timm with award check

Nicholas Timm ’17, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and an Evergreen student focused on business and sustainability, recently won first place in the inaugural Veteran’s Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship (VIBE) Business Plan Competition.

Timm, along with business partner and former teacher, Evergreen faculty member Zoe Van Schyndel, took top prize for their business, Tart Cider LLC, a commercial cidery in Olympia. A total of $50,000 was awarded, with $25,000 cash allotted for start-up costs and $25,000 in in-kind services, such as professional and legal services.

The competition was sponsored by University of Washington Tacoma to inspire, create, and retain businesses in Tacoma and throughout the South Sound. 15 student-led teams joined the competition, and spent two weeks working with coaches to advance to the finals, which took place May 5, 2017.

Tart Cider targets the artisanal cider market, and is distinguished by significantly less sugar, with a focus on sustainability and keg distribution. Business plans, investment strategies, and professionalism were part of the grading criteria.

Timm and Schyndel impressed judges along the way. One of the more challenging components, Timm said, was the tradeshow portion, which he described as a “Shark Tank-style elimination round.”

A portion of the Tart Cider presentation table at the VIBE Business Plan Competition. (Photo courtesy University of Washington Tacoma.)

Timm says the collaborative chemistry he shared with his former professor was a major key to their success.

“The biggest thing is that it has been a team effort,” says Timm. “This is something Zoe and I worked on for more than a year. You can taste how much hard work went into it.”

While the plan has been in effect for the last year, Timm’s upbringing on his family’s orchards in Eastern Washington came into play, as did his time spent in the Air Force and at Evergreen, he says.

“The military taught me how to work with, and talk with, many audiences—it gave me the confidence to do what we needed to do to put the plan in place, and ultimately win. Evergreen makes you think outside the box, then bring those thoughts back inside the box—it’s invaluable to learn to work your way around a problem rather than hitting it head on. At home, I learned what it took to set-up and run an apple business and what apples to use to get our cider just right.”

Now that a plan—complete with sales contracts—is in place, it won’t be long until Tart Cider is available to the public.

“We’re discussing shipments with restaurants and bars in the South Sound,” says Timm. “The first one we signed with is Odd Otter Brewing in Tacoma. We’ll be in Olympia, too. And we have three more products coming out soon, but I’m not going to tell you because it’s a surprise. But it will be in the same vein, with unique, tart, flavors.”

Timm and Van Schyndel presented top prize
Evergreen faculty member Zoe Van Schyndel (far left) and student Nicholas Timm (second left) are presented the top prize. (Photo courtesy University of Washington Tacoma.)

A Tart Cider launch party will be held on the evening of June 30 at Odd Otter in Tacoma, with an event in Olympia TBA.