MODESTO — When Crolie Lindsay decided to make a walking stick, he was not thinking solid wood.
He made it from an aluminum tube and filled it with a compass, a flashlight and other gear that could prove useful to a stranded hiker.
The Modesto resident has entered the invention in the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, an eight-county competition with $24,000 in prizes for business ideas.
Lindsay is among 17 quarterfinalists chosen from 50 entrants in the fourth annual contest, put on in Stockton by the San Joaquin Angels investment group and several partners.
"You hear stories all the time about people unexpectedly getting stranded or hurt on hikes," said Lindsay, a semiretired civil engineer who had help on the project from his brother, Rod Lindsay of Chowchilla.
Other residents of Stanislaus County have entered ideas such as soup in a tea bag, an enhanced batting tee for young ballplayers and a website promoting U.S.-made products.
The Lindsays would like to put the winnings from the contest into further development of the walking stick, which includes finding a manufacturer and retailers. They figure it would sell for $79 to $129.
The brothers stuffed their prototype with a rayon sleeping bag, 50 feet of rope, a knife, a lighter, a small saw, first-aid supplies, a whistle, a fishing hook and line, and more.
They hope the final version will weigh no more than 3 pounds a practical goal, given the advancements in material science that have made outdoor gear lightweight.
They call the product the Exodus Rod Survival Staff, an allusion to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. The stick won't part the Red Sea, but the brothers said it could help a hiker cross a shallow stream.
Future buyers could choose which things to put in the stick, such as medications. It also could complement the cell phones and GPS devices carried by outdoors enthusiasts these days.
Another quarterfinalist, Stephen Rodenburg of Turlock, entered a batting tee with a ball tethered to it. He got the idea while coaching his son, Brennan, in T-ball, which is for players not ready to face pitching.
"Because it's tethered, you don't have to chase the ball," said Rodenburg, who works as a physical therapy assistant.
The product actually has a pair of tees, allowing two kids to take batting practice at a time.
"I'm just hoping for exposure (from the contest)," said Rodenburg, who named his venture On Deck Industries and has started to explore manufacturing options.
The contest organizers include Mark Plovnick, president of San Joaquin Angels and director of economic development at University of the Pacific.
"These aspiring entrepreneurs have now taken the first steps to starting their own business in our region," he said in a news release, "and we hope the competition will encourage them to continue to pursue their vision."
Last year's winner was Modestan John Paoluccio Jr., whose Manhole Odor Eliminator beat 60 other entries.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.
HOW IT WORKS
The 2013 San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge is for people with business ideas in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador and Alpine counties.
A panel of judges and the audience will vote to narrow the field at a pair of gatherings in Stockton.
First up Feb. 27 are the 17 quarterfinalists, who will give two-minute presentations.
The eight semifinalists will return March 20 for more detailed presentations.
The same night, the four finalists will be tested on decision-making in a simulated business situation.
The grand prize winner will receive $7,000 in cash and $14,000 in business services, such as accounting, legal advice and marketing. The runner-up will get $3,000 in cash and $4,000 in services.
HOW TO ATTEND
Each gathering will be from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Stockton Golf & Country Club, 3800 W. Country Club Blvd. The cost is $15 in advance or $20 at the door, which includes food and soft drinks. The dress code is business casual (no denim). More information is at www.sjchallenge.com.
2012: John Paoluccio Jr., a Modesto engineer, for a device that controls odors from sewer manholes
2011: Amalia's Cocina of Denair for a line of natural Mexican sauces. One of the owners, Jamie Norwood, is a quarterfinalist this year with an online buy-U.S. directory called Dig U.S. Out.
2010: Dwight Richards of Stockton for a device that helps truckers adjust their trailer axles to balance the loads
The challenge is put on by the San Joaquin Angels investment group with help from banks, other businesses, economic development agencies and the University of the Pacific.