Real experience, real judges, Cat Tank


Cat Tank Team photo and ad provided by Cat Tank

Hunter Rhea, Staff Reporter

Students prepared to pitch their new business ideas to a tank of business professionals in their very own version of Shark Tank called Cat Tank which will take place on May 19. Instead of the show’s famous ‘Mr. Wonderful Kevin O’Leary,’ CWU students pitch their ideas to Mr. Wildcat.

The competition will feature not only CWU students, but contestants from Yakima Valley College, Wenatchee Valley College and Ellensburg High School. The four competitors who are deemed the ‘most outstanding’ will win. Prior to the competition, four separate workshops will take place in SURC 137B. The qualifying round will be May 16 and final pitches on May 19.

Senior Accounting and Marketing major Miguel Gomez created Cat Tank, a student-run competition which features startup companies, business ideas, inventions and networking. While hosting workshops, CWU students can be mentored and build each other’s ideas off the ground to make an idea tangible.

“The goal of Cat Tank is to create an experience for students to meet executives from high-level positions from companies across Washington state,” Gomez said.  

According to Gomez, Cat Tank is a big commitment but a challenge he wanted to take on. In his entrepreneurship class taught by CWU Professor Rob Ogburn, the WSU entrepreneurship competition was proposed to students. 

“Cat Tank has a great team that builds each other up, and, as a mentor, he believes the future of this competition is in good hands,” Gomez said 

Gomez said he believes in breaking the nine-to-five job flow and showing people there’s much more to life after college. 

“People come here and get a degree after four years, and they don’t know what to do with it at the end of the day,” Gomez said. “They go to work a nine-to-five and it was a way of breaking that chain, breaking down that wall, showing people that there’s more to life.”

Cat Tank is run under the college of business by Gomez, President Bobi Vladimir, a sophomore computer science major, and Vice President Mariana Payne, a business administration major.

The competition and workshops are open to everyone, not just those in the College of Business. Vladimir’s goal as the president of Cat Tank is to help other students succeed.

“My job as President of Cat Tank is providing students with information packets so they will have an extra step and explanation of how the whole presentation is done and everything from the rubric,” Vladimir said.

Gomez takes on a leadership role as the founder of the program by mentoring students in Cat Tank.

“While making sure everyone on the team is in the right place at the right time… my job is to also mentor everybody and to grow the next generation of leaders for this competition while overseeing everything on a day-to-day basis,” Gomez said. 

Given the opportunity to meet representatives from organizations across the state, Gomez creates partnerships with sponsors such as CenterFuse, an Ellensburg nonprofit organization for business development. CenterFuse is now the main sponsor that invests prize money to the contestant who wins the competition. Gomez said contestants from all majors can compete for a chance to win $3,000, donated by CenterFuse. 

“Cat Tank draws in multiple companies to the Ellensburg region. CenterFuse allows Cat Tank leaders to get executives from Fortune 100 companies’ Venture Capitals,” Vladimir said. “[What] the contestants are really gaining from this whole experience is connecting with those people.”

With events hosted by Cat Tank, the competition draws in experienced and successful business professionals who won’t hesitate to give advice. 

“Even if you have just 10 minutes with those people, you gain so much valuable information… you start thinking about business in a different way, they give you feedback that you can incorporate into your own business,” Gomez said.

To prepare for life after college, Payne, who is also a student-athlete on the CWU women’s volleyball team, said that student-athletes should take on this competition.

 “I am a really big advocate for female athletes, because a lot of us don’t really know what to do outside of our sport aside from school,” Payne said. 

Payne said most athletes do not realize that life outside of CWU is different compared to the practice and school schedules they get used to in college.

“You have this opportunity to do something with your life and people like Gomez provide this opportunity and make this competition possible,” Payne said. 

Payne continues to reach out to student-athletes warning them about how different the world will be outside of college.  

“I think having this opportunity for them is just amazing and for all students of other majors too, not just business,” Payne said.