Skip to Navigation

Recent News

Kinsel Shelf System wins the 2016 Idea Challenge!

Posted by Eau Claire Area EDC on December 12th, 2016

The Kinsel System, a modular shelf system invented by Dennis Kinsel, won the 2016 Idea Challenge Grand prize of $5,000 towards reimbursable business expenses. Dennis presented with the other five finalists in the Idea Challenge earlier today in front of a panel of judges.

The Idea Challenge was launched by the Eau Claire Area EDC in 2007 to meet the need of local entrepreneurs who requiring assistance in making their ideas a reality.

Christina Wasson, Marketing Manager of the EDC explained, “Eau Claire’s entrepreneurial community has amazing ideas, commendable drive, and the resilience needed to pursue their dreams – and every year it is an honor to work with these individuals through the Idea Challenge.”

The five Idea Challenge finalists that presented for the $5000 Grand Prize – in no particular order – are as follows:

  • Dennis Kinsel with the Kinsel Furniture System
  • K.C. Noble with Tiny Noble Homes – customizable and affordable tiny homes
  • Kathy Stevens with N7 Café – nitrogen infused coffee
  • Marty Zens with the Eau Chippewa! Tinman Competition – a triathlon
  • Lawrence and Nick Scherrer with IceBark – an alternative to ice melt

Individuals who want to discover more about the innovative shelf system can learn more online at

Previous businesses that received assistance through the Idea Challenge include Chip Magnet Salsa – which has now grown and offers not only salsa but chips and sauces, Earthbound Enviromental which has brought the ability to recycle organic waste for both our residents and businesses, and last year’s winner of Idea Challenge – Gorilla Dumpster Bags – who continues to thrive in our community and offers an environmentally friendly, cost-effective alternative to the traditional steel dumpsters.

The Idea Challenge is an annual contest, sponsored by Northwestern Bank, open to any individual or company with an idea for a new product or service (shown: Gerald Jacobson, President of Northwestern Bank). The EDC accepts applications for The Idea Challenge year round and is currently accepting applications for 2017.

Apply online now at

Ideas submitted to The Idea Challenge by individuals and companies are reviewed by a group of technical assistance providers, called The Idea Challenge Partners, to help determine if it is a feasible concept. Any idea that has potential will be given individual attention to help advance it to the marketplace.

Want to see more? Click on the images below!

The top five ideas submitted are eligible to win money and additional business support. These awards are made possible through a generous sponsorship by Northwestern Bank. All ideas remain the property of the applicant unless otherwise agreed upon by all parties.