Entrepreneurs in the Big Horn Basin will soon be able to tap into new opportunities created by IMPACT 307.
The organization operates a network of entrepreneurial incubators throughout the state. Originally, the incubators were in Casper, Laramie and Sheridan. With funding from the federal CARES Act and Gov. Mark Gordon’s Wyoming Innovation Partnership, the program has been expanding into other parts of the state.
The WIP program was part of Gordon’s goal of diversifying the state’s economy and creating some economic stability, something the state’s mineral extraction industries have not been able to offer. Expanding entrepreneurial opportunities in Wyoming is a part of that vision.
This month, IMPACT 307 hired John Wetzel, Powell’s mayor, as the business counselor to help with its expansion into the Big Horn Basin.
Among other programs, the incubators offer startup challenge programs, which provide seed money to help people with business ideas move from the dream to the action phase.
Scot Rendall, director of IMPACT 307, said the kinds of businesses that win the competitive challenges are those with “growth-oriented” business concepts. They have the potential to expand, ship products and services out of the state, create new jobs and improve the local community’s economy.
“We don’t usually work with mom and pop, local lifestyle businesses,” Rendall explained.
As an example of the type of business that wins the challenges, Outter Limits was one of three businesses that won the Sheridan Startup Challenge last year. The company was the idea of a coal miner who wanted to build a backpack cooler that was durable, kept food cold and was easy to lug around.
“He had beat up and abused every type of cooler that was available on the market. And none of them held up to the wear and tear of being bounced around in heavy equipment, or food wouldn’t stay cool all day long,” Rendall said.
Currently, IMPACT 307 has several startup challenge programs operating around Wyoming, and officials hope over the next year to increase that to 10 or 11, including one in the Basin.
Rendall said the program is also partnering with Northwest College to put together an entrepreneurial boot camp, which will give people with business ideas the tools they need to move their ideas forward. It will also act as a precursor to the startup challenge program, which is expected to begin accepting applications sometime around spring 2023.
Wetzel will be helping to put these programs together, facilitate the organization’s expansion into the area and raise support money.
“So we’re extremely fortunate to have someone of his caliber and background and experience to help us out. We’re looking forward to some good things from him,” Rendall said.