Milwaukee business Triciclo Peru LLC on Saturday won WiSys Technology Foundation Inc.’s Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s Cream City Labs in downtown Milwaukee.
WiSys is a nonprofit that helps bring ideas from University of Wisconsin System faculty, staff, students and alumni to market.
Triciclo Peru makes Peruvian empanadas, which husband-wife team Mario Diaz Herrera and Amy Narr sell around Milwaukee with a trailer on a tricycle. They met when Narr was serving in the Peace Corps in Peru, where Diaz Herrera is from, and established the business in Milwaukee in 2017.
Triciclo plans to open an empanada bar in early summer at 3801 W. Vliet St., and recently earned a contract to sell its food at Humboldt Park’s beer garden this summer. As a result, Narr said the company plans to hire its first seven or so employees soon.
At the pitch competition, Triciclo made a seven-minute pitch using the Business Model Canvas. Narr and Diaz Herrera pitched a high-level future goal of launching a new line of vegan and gluten-free empanadas called Pachamama, Narr said.
“Pachamama is a brand for that line that we would offer frozen in specialty supermarkets or via delivery,” Narr said. “The reality of it is that we’re focused on our restaurant right now, so in the restaurant we will offer these products for take and bake and see how that goes.”
The idea developed from customer demand, she said.
Narr and Diaz Herrera beat out 12 other teams to win a $2,500 cash price and a trip to compete for up to $40,000 at the International Business Model Competition in Provo, Utah on May 9 and 10. And they also will be eligible for up to $25,000 in funding from the UW Extension’s Ideadvance Seed Fund.
“It really motivated us to keep doing what we’re doing,” Narr said. “It was a pleasant surprise and it’s something that just shows that people are believing in us.”
Triciclo also last year took second place and the Audience Choice award at the Rev-Up MKE small business competition.
Also in the Big Idea Tournament, Caleb Dykema, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville student, took second place and $1,500 for his 1Swipe full whiteboard or blackboard eraser invention. And OmniSpeakers, a team of students from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, came in third place and received $750. Hunter Driscoll, Sam Struebing, Brendon Kranz and Dan Pomeroy created a 4-in-1 portable Bluetooth speaker system.
“The Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament highlighted some of the state’s best and brightest students and the future drivers of our state’s innovation economy,” said Karl Gouverneur, vice president of digital workplace, corporate solutions and head of digital innovation at Northwestern Mutual. “The ideas showcased by Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera the other students who participated in this weekend’s event speaks highly of the future entrepreneurial talent found in the University of Wisconsin System.”