Sweetwater County Innovation Launchpad Provides Opportunities for Local Entrepreneurs

The first Sweetwater County Innovation Launchpad (SCIL) is now accepting applications from entrepreneurs through Friday, May 20.

Innovative and scalable startups, as well as early-stage companies with high potential to impact Wyoming’s economic ecosystems, are encouraged to apply here.

IMPACT Sweetwater will provide valuable mentorship to the finalists, helping them prepare for a Pitch Day competition in September. The winning finalists will receive seed funding, tied to milestones, to help start their businesses. IMPACT Sweetwater will continue to mentor the winners as they launch their new businesses.

IMPACT Sweetwater is a collaboration between the University of Wyoming’s IMPACT 307 and Western Wyoming Community College.

“We are excited to partner with Western Wyoming Community College to start a new regional startup challenge in Sweetwater County,” says Fred Schmechel, interim director of IMPACT 307, who notes that IMPACT 307 has helped 210 businesses launch during its history.

The majority of those businesses have been in the past five years from regional startup challenges.

Before this year, regional challenges were at UW, Casper, Sheridan, the Wind River Indian Reservation and southeast Wyoming. A new regional startup challenge recently began in Fremont County.

IMPACT 307 received a $2.4 million federal Economic Development Administration grant to expand programming across the state. Expanded programming will double the number of regional startup challenges across the state, along with increasing staffing for IMPACT 307.

Seed funding for the startup challenges is raised and held locally by community partners external to IMPACT 307. The SCIL seed fund is being raised by Amy Murphy, of Western Wyoming Community College, and Rick Lee, of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce.

According to Murphy, the college’s dean of outreach and workforce development, the opportunity provided by SCIL is truly valuable for the community.

“IMPACT Sweetwater is here to help innovative entrepreneurs. We hope that individuals looking to take their ideas and turn them into reality will participate in this challenge and utilize the expertise of IMPACT 307,” Murphy says. “Our existing businesses have the opportunity to provide donations to ensure the challenge raises the seed funding needed to be successful in assisting entrepreneurs reach their dreams and become successful in launching their businesses. Their success creates economic growth and jobs for our community.”

Applicants are encouraged to reach out to IMPACT Sweetwater for guidance during the application process. For assistance, email Monica Patten, assistant director, at sweetwater@uwyo.edu or call (307) 466-3963.

Events to help applicants prepare for the competition are coming up this month and in May. While the free events are not mandatory for applicants, they could help guide teams to create more successful applications. Question-and-answer sessions will be held by Patten and entrepreneurs who have worked with IMPACT 307. Entrepreneurs include Ty Nieters, CEO of Simply LLC; Brian Deurloo, president/founder of Frog Creek Partners; and Berney Bradley, of InsurXcel.

A boot camp for entrepreneurs, called START 307, is given about once a quarter by IMPACT 307. Lunch and Learn events are held on a regular basis by IMPACT 307. These events can be found on the SCIL application webpage.

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