Finalists announced in 2024 PA Wilds $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest

The 2024 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest, an initiative aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter, and Tioga Counties, has announced its finalists. After rigorous evaluation, six outstanding contenders have emerged, each presenting groundbreaking solutions in diverse fields.

Discover more on YouTube: We invite you to explore our exclusive YouTube playlist where each finalist delves deeper into their BIG IDEA. These videos provide an in-depth look at the passion and innovation driving their projects, offering a unique behind-the-scenes perspective. Visit to watch the finalists share their stories and visions for the future.

The finalists are:

Brite-Liter, founded by Benjamin Kranz (Hughesville, PA): Brite-Liter introduces a revolutionary tool to enhance literacy retention without the use of blue-light emitting screens. Their high-light projector stimulates cognitive responses, increasing engagement and retention, thus offering a valuable resource for parents and educators alike.

Good Things Growing, founded by Joshua Zucal (Emporium, PA): Good Things Growing focuses on biochar production, presenting a dynamic solution for soil remediation and holistic health enhancement. Their innovative approach harnesses the potential of biochar to sequester carbon, improve soil quality, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Otzzy, founded by Tim Emerick (Renovo, PA): This family-run business has developed an interactive tap-to-play interface app, revolutionizing personalized keepsake gifts. Otzzy’s innovative platform allows users to seamlessly embed cherished videos or heartfelt messages into a range of physical products, bridging the gap between the digital and physical realms.

Roambler, founded by Katie Caputo (Duboistown, PA): Roambler revolutionizes experiential tourism in Pennsylvania by seamlessly connecting adventure seekers with local guides and hosts. Operating as a marketplace platform, Roambler bridges the gap between service providers and consumers in the peer-to-peer web-based economy, streamlining transactions, managing payments, and offering essential communication tools. With a scalable platform, Roambler aims to become the go-to destination for unforgettable guided experiences, making it easier than ever for adventurers to explore the Keystone State.

Thompson Farms, founded by Rob Thompson (Coudersport, PA): Thompson Farms proposes a sustainable solution with its wool pellet production, addressing the need for locally sourced, organic soil amendments. Their innovative process promises multiple regenerative byproducts, including bio-oil and wood vinegar, providing essential nutrients while revitalizing rural economies.

Woodland Biomass Innovations, founded by Luca Pandolf (Wellsboro, PA): This team aims to transform biomass into sustainable liquid fuels, offering unparalleled efficiency in the conversion process. Their project, currently in the engineering phase, holds promise for reducing carbon emissions while promoting economic development in the region.

Each finalist brings a unique vision and commitment to innovation, reflecting the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of the region. As they prepare to compete for up to $50,000 in prize money and additional support, the PA Wilds Big Idea Contest celebrates their creativity and dedication to making a positive impact. 

“We are thrilled to announce the finalists of the Big Idea Contest,” said Cathy Von Birgelen, at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA. “More than sixty individuals downloaded applications, and the challenging task for the evaluation panel was to select six finalists from the pool of many high-quality applications. We’re excited to hear more from each finalist at the final pitch event on June 13.”

LaKeshia Knarr, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director at PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, added, “These visionary entrepreneurs exemplify the spirit of innovation and demonstrate the potential for transformative change in our rural communities here in the Pennsylvania Wilds. We congratulate them on their achievements and look forward to supporting their continued success.”

The finalists will now advance to the next stage of the competition, where they will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and compete for the top prizes. The winners will be announced at the contest finale, where attendees can also participate in selecting the People’s Choice Award recipient. For more information about the Big Idea Contest and to stay updated on the finalists’ progress, visit

The 2024 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest is a partnership between PA WILDS Center for Entrepreneurship, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, with funding support provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). 


Special thanks to sponsors The Appalachian Regional Commission, Northwest Bank, Penn State Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), and the Small Business Development Centers of Clarion University, Gannon University, and Penn State.



About the BIG IDEA Contests: Since the start of the BIG IDEA contests, more than $3 million in cash prizes have been awarded throughout Ben Franklin’s 32-county footprint in central and northern Pennsylvania. The contest offers start-ups and entrepreneurs some much-needed seed funding, as well as business training, pitch experience, and industry contacts – often more valuable than the prize money itself. 

About Ben Franklin Technology Partners: The largest seed investor in our region, Ben Franklin Technology Partners (an initiative of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development and funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority) has been providing investment capital, business support services, and operational assistance to emerging tech-startups and small manufacturers for nearly 40 years. Learn more at   

About the PA Wilds: The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region and its 2+ million acres of public lands as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment, retain population and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of more than 575 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit To learn more about the WCO, visit Explore the PA Wilds at Find regionally made products at

For more information, contact Karly Scala at [email protected] 

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