Samuel Baker, an economics student with a passion for science, gardening and sustainability, teamed up with a group of friends to create Wriggle Brew, an organic worm tea fertilizer.

The organic worm tea fertilizer is made by soaking worm-accelerated compost in fresh water to absorb valuable nutrients.

“Containing all the vital nutrients for your garden, the resulting leachate is highly effective at encouraging plant growth,” Baker said during his proposal. “Using Wriggle Brew in your garden will guarantee that your plants are endowed with all the necessary macro and micronutrients that may have depleted from your soil. Just a capful of undiluted Wiggle Brew added per plant can rapidly speed plant growth and boost the young immune system.”

What makes this fertilizer so unique? It also doubles as a pesticide.

Baker led Wriggle Brew to the top prize at the Joust New Venture Competition, UCF’s version of Shark Tank. Wriggle Brew beat out three other student businesses April 7 to take home a $15,000 check and over $50,000 in essential business services.

“The struggle that went into getting here is years’ worth,” shared Baker, just moments after his win. “This means everything to me right now.”

In a similar fashion to NBC’s hit show Shark Tank, Baker pitched Wriggle Brew to a panel of judges representing companies such as Echelon Fitness Multimedia, Addition Financial, Voloridge Investment Management, VMD Ventures and VMD Global Health, and ICI Homes.

Baker advanced Wriggle Brew to first place out of 16 semifinalists. His team plans to use the competition winnings to get in front of as many businesses as they can to develop their product further.

“Next steps for me from here will be, first and foremost, a little bit of rest. Then my teammates and I are going to hit the ground running,” Baker says. “My goal is to try to get into as many business opportunities as I can with this win, and hopefully do well with the expectations that have been placed on me.”

The Joust is UCF’s premier startup showcase event, hosted by the UCF College of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and features students of all majors. Competitors present their models for a viable business venture and compete to win money and other resources to pursue their venture. This event celebrates student entrepreneurs, introduces them to community leaders and provides key resources to help launch their ventures.

Before the winner was announced, John Santo `’01, co-founder and CPO of Echelon Fitness Multimedia shared a message with all four contestants.

“If you believe in your product and what you’re doing, don’t let ‘no’ stop you,” Santo says. “Be relentless in what you do. No matter what happens today or tomorrow, that doesn’t determine the success of your business.”

All four finalists in this year’s competition included elements of a social venture — a business idea that aims to incorporate business skills and techniques to solve societal problems. Cameron Ford, director of the UCF Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, called this year’s Joust an incredibly close competition.

“I’m very excited by the strength of each of our competitors’ presentations,” Ford says. “I have never been as proud of a group of students as I am for this year’s Joust competitors.”

The Joust runners-up were Daniel Trimble, Michael Troisi and Ryan Carnovsly with Trosk, a company that aims to provide a range of education on cybersecurity and related topics. They took home $7,500.

Shelsee Joseph earned third place and $5,000 for her company, Curethco, a wellness tea company that aims to inspire consumers to take care of their health with accessible and effective teas.

ToolCharm and the team of Mark Rbuckert and Owen Burns earned $2,500 for their fourth-place finish and their idea to empower support teams to accomplish daily administrative tasks without software development teams.

The students’ venture proposals were assessed by a panel of business executives representing a wide range of corporate partners, local businesses and alumni.

This year’s judges were Linh Dang ’93, chief development officer at Addition Financial, Sean Hayes ’95, Chief Marketing Officer at Voloridge Investment Management, Forough Hosseni ’98, EVP of Information Systems at ICI Homes, Harold Mills ’98, CEO of VMD Ventures and VMD Global Health and Santo, co-founder and CPO of Echelon Fitness Multimedia.

The 2022 Joust New Venture Competition was presented by Echelon Fitness Multimedia. Supporting sponsors included 321 The Agency, BDO, Blezoo, Legal Shield, Insurance Office of America (IOA) and Nperspective LLC.