A kitchen device that allows you to bake bread at home, created by two Chicago professors, won first prize at University of Illinois at Chicago’s venture competition this week.
Fourneau Bread Oven, a bread baking device that fits inside a home oven, won the top prize of $3,000.
Fourneau is cofounded by husband-and-wife duo Ted Burdett, an MBA student and professor of design at UIC, and Sharon Burdett, a professor of design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Their cast iron device, approximately 14.8 inches long by 4.7 inches tall, is designed to fit inside a home oven: Bakers simply mix their own dough, preheat the oven with the Fourneau inside and slide the loaf inside the device with a bread peel. The cast iron design cooks the bread evenly, and the enclosed device traps the steam to create a crispy crust.
Inspired by the couple’s own challenges baking at home, they originally launched the Fourneau Bread Oven on Kickstarter last spring, and raised $165,798 (well over their $90,000 goal). In addition to fulfilling Kickstarter orders, they’ve sold over 1,000 devices directly from their website. The Fourneau oven retails for $225.
Both designers by trade (they’re also co-owners of product design studio Strand Design), the Fourneau founders entered the competition and participated in UIC workshops and entrepreneurship classes in order to hone their business as they geared up to expand.
“Doing a Kickstarter can just be doing a project,” said Ted. “To get perspective on how to grow a company past project stage, figure out what the decisions are that you need to make to scale up and make the project into a sustainable business–that’s why we did this [competition].”
Given the success of their original Kickstarter and subsequent direct orders, they’re now in the process of releasing “Fourneau 2.0” a newly-designed version of the product with a handle and other features for expanded bread-making, which they’ll launch on Kickstarter later this spring. Their eventual goal is to expand to different types of ovens, including commercial and pizza ovens, as well as design baking accessories. They hope to make Fourneau into a $6 million in revenue per year business within a few years.
“I think two years ago our goal was to make a great product and I think now our objective is to make a great business,” said Sharon.
But the Fourneau Bread Oven wasn’t the only winner at the competition, which has been running for 12 years. 42 teams were selected for the competition, with over 100 students from nine different colleges participating.
Here are the winners of the UIC Startup Challenge 2017:
1st place ($3,000): Fourneau Bread Oven, a kitchen device that allows users to bake bread at home in their own oven.
2nd place ($2,000): Tongue Ventures, a startup creating a medical device that allows for disabled patients to communicate more effectively using their tongue as a medium.
Finalists ($500 each):
- Quint Essential Life Skills, a social services startup that empowers parents in order to help kids’ academic performance.
- Urban Oasis, an event planning startup that caters to busy couples who want to efficiently plan affordable weddings.
- ShoeBoxOne, a collectible shoe display box, with LED lights and the ability to monitor temperature and humidity.
- Enzyme By Design, a drug designed to be a safer method of treating Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Elevator Pitch–Judge’s Choice ($500): Clutch for Life, a startup that allows inmates to earn fair wages by producing luxury handbags and other leather goods.
Elevator Pitch–Fan Favorite ($500): Expresso, a campus coffee delivery service for students.
Track Level Prizes ($250 each) *early-stage, concept-level ventures
- Expresso, a campus coffee delivery service for students.
- Ferna’s Toolbox, a startup creating educational STEM toys and games for girls in grades K-5
- PerfAmp, a sports analytics startup that determines a team’s likelihood of winning and future performance.
Product Prize (Mobile Friendly Award from Motorola Mobility): SutureSelf, a healthcare tracker focused on the gap between physician and patient.
Membership Prize (a one month membership to mHUB Chicago): Tongue Ventures, a startup creating a medical device that allows for disabled patients to communicate more effectively using their tongue as a medium.