The University of Wyoming’s IMPACT 307 business incubator program, in coordination with Central Wyoming College and other local partners, has launched the third annual Wind River Startup Challenge (WRSC).
The WRSC will award funding to new and emerging Native-owned businesses within the Wind River community. The challenge is accepting applications until midnight Sunday, Nov. 14. To apply, visit the WRSC website at www.windriverstartupchallenge.com.
Enrolled Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal members are eligible to participate in the WRSC, which will wrap up in May 2022 at the Final Pitch Day event. This platform seeks to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Wind River community by supporting entrepreneurs through startup funding.
“This is a rare opportunity for local entrepreneurs to receive startup funding that is debt-free,” says Meghan Kerley, business counselor for IMPACT-Laramie. “Many of the past winners applied with an interesting idea they wanted to develop, and they were able to win between $1,000 to $10,000 in funding.”
The WRSC will follow similar regional challenges, in which participants receive free advising for their businesses along with one-on-one support in preparation for the Final Pitch Day event.
“We are really inspired by the previous winners and how they are working to make a meaningful difference here in Wyoming,” says Fred Schmechel, interim director of IMPACT-Laramie. “You may not fully realize the effect just one new business has on a local economy but, in our experience, the impact is immeasurable.”
Previous winners of the Wind River Startup Challenge are Taylor Bell, Taylor B’s Tees; Denyse Bergie and Mike Ute, Intertribal Wellness; Stephanie C’Hair, Wildflower Salon; Eugene Coulston, Timber Beast; Eustace Day, Native FX Art and Designs; Kevin Goggles, Heavyhand Fencing LLC; Letara and Red Lebeau, Reds Recon; Hannah Nicol, The Monahooboo Hut; Harmony Spoonhunter, Dancing Rain Consulting; and Leslie Spoonhunter, Goose’s Kitchen.
“It has been amazing to work with these entrepreneurs as they figure out and develop their business models to see how they can affect the community and the state,” Kerley says. “And we are excited to see what this year’s challenge brings.”
The WRSC is a partnership among Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribal members, Central Wyoming College and UW, including the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network, the Wyoming Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), the High Plains American Indian Research Institute and IMPACT 307.
To contact a business adviser, those interested can call IMPACT 307 at (307) 766-6395 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.