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Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Damon Kirchmeier, left, Bill Payne, Ronald White and John Richards listen to an entrepreneur's presentation.

A former tree-trimmer armed with little more than a novel idea walked away with $100,000 Thursday after selling investors on a dump truck that operates without hydraulics or electricity.

Chris Culp, president and owner of D.A.M. Truck Tools, a Cedar City-based company, was nearly at a loss for words after being named the winner of an entrepreneurial competition at the Governor's Economic Summit.

"This is incredible," Culp told an audience of about 900 people. "I'm a handyman. I thank you all, and I thank God."

But the credit for Culp's $100,000 prize really belongs to the angels.

Angel investors are typically private individuals who invest in new startups. The investments generally are in the range of several thousand dollars, but they can exceed more than $1 million and are usually smaller deals compared to those made by venture capitalists.

Culp's plan was chosen out of 110 initial entries. The 110 applicants were narrowed to five companies, each of which had six minutes to pitch a business plan to a panel of 10 angel investors.

Ronald White, chairman of Olympus Angels — the largest group of angel investors in the state — said Culp will need more than $100,000 to get his business off the ground. And Utah's angel network will be the catalyst to make it happen.

"This guy was just overwhelmed that he won," White said. "There's a network here in the state that is growing in richness and vibrancy. We'll make sure that he gets hooked in there so he gets all the assistance he needs, whether it's manufacturing or money or legal."

White said he was impressed by all five finalists and said it was likely each one would receive some type of angel funding.

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The successful entrepreneur, according to White, differs from the successful business executive in one fundamental way.

"The manager at an established company says, 'Tell me how much my budget is and I can tell you what I can accomplish,"' White said. "Whereas the entrepreneur starts with the inverse vision. He says, 'Tell me what the opportunity is and I'll go find the money."'

Culp said the idea behind his dump truck attachment came to him while watching someone unload planters from the back of a pickup.

"He had a platform with some little wheels on it, and he rolled it out of the back of his truck and it tilted and hung up on the bumper and stuff slid off from it," Culp said. "I went over to Home Base, bought a sheet of plywood, put four wheels under it and created the Dump-a-Matic. I'm a fool. I live, sleep and breathe this thing."


E-mail: danderton@desnews.com