Facing the challenge

Impact 307 and other organizations look to help entrepreneurs with Carbon County Start-Up Challenge.

All businesses have a similar beginning, starting as an idea which can spark a plan. As of 2020, there were 31.7 million small businesses in the United States, 68,641 of those are located in Wyoming.

The Business Innovation Hub, with the help of Impact 307, is working to increase that number. I just opened earlier this year. The Business Innovation Hub not only serves as the main office of the Rawlins Downtown Development Authority and executive director Pam Thayer, but as a resource for fledgling and established businesses helping them connect with local and state organizations.

Though the Business Innovation Hub is available year round, a program which could help anyone in Carbon County kickstart their business idea, is coming to a close. The Rawlins Downtown Development Authority, in conjunction with Impact 307 and the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), recently introduced the Carbon County Start-Up Challenge.

The challenge is open to “Any Carbon County resident who has a business idea. We’re targeting innovating scalable businesses, but innovation can take a lot of different forms,” said Meghan Kerley, business counselor for Impact 307.

Applications won’t be accepted for much longer, with the October 9 deadline fast approaching. With only a few days remaining before the deadline, those with a business idea may be wondering if it is even worth entering the start-up challenge.

“We have a lot of people who come into the start-up challenge who’ve never even thought about doing a business. We will help people through that early, early stage of thinking through the problem they’re trying to solve and how they’re going to solve it and what they’re going to do,” said Kerley. “We do have people who come into the start-up challenges who have their ideas a lot more fully fleshed out.”

Two examples of how individuals can use both the start-up challenge and the Business Innovation Hub at different stages are Michelle Montoya and Don Woolley.

Montoya is still in the idea stage of her business. She hopes she can fill the gaps left by the closure of Rose’s Lariat and the Cloverleaf Restaurant in Rawlins. The menu is planned and Montoya wants to start with the low-overhead of a food truck before transitioning to a brick-and-mortar business. What she’s still working on, however, is the branding.

Woolley, meanwhile, is a little further ahead than Montoya.

Woolley wants to help non-profits through planned giving programs.

“The two problems that I solve is, one–68 percent of Americans don’t have a will. Everybody knows they need one, everybody procrastinates and it doesn’t get done. The ways you can cut down on some of that procrastination, at least for some people, is to make it convenient and easy–provide it online,” said Woolley. “Most planned giving programs, just have language you can insert into your will or they’ll send you a will planning pamphlet. The gap for planned giving programs is the gap between good intentions and getting it done and an online will helps get it done.”

Montoya admitted she was hesitant to apply for the Carbon County Start-Up Challenge prior to attending the September 29 meet-and-greet at the Business Innovation Hub.

“I actually felt like there’s probably other people out there who have their stuff more together who would get this. I didn’t want to put a bunch of energy into (it) while I’m trying to get my business plan together,” said Montoya. “I want to start it right and that means even down to what the food truck looks like.”

With a variety of business ideas at different stages, the partners involved with the Business Innovation Hub are suited to help anyone at any point in their journey.

“Here at the Business Innovation Hub, having Jim (Drever, WSBDC) and Pam (Thayer) and me from all these different organizations can kind of work with these different companies in slightly different ways,” said Kerley. “Impact 307 doesn’t work with traditional retail or traditional restaurants, but we work with companies solving problems who are innovative but WSBDC kind of works with everybody.”

According to Drever, the Wyoming Small Business Development Center can offer a variety of services to small businesses which would normally add to the overhead.

“We have a market research center which consists of a bunch of very expensive databases and a couple of full-time researchers. Every single business, if you are solving a problem or have a need for somebody,” said Drever. “They are already fulfilling that need somehow, the competition, how is what you are doing better than what that competition is?”

Not only does the WSBDC provide market research, it can train businesses to use Quickbooks and provide cybersecurity. Thayer said she likes to tell potential entrepreneurs that these services come at the low cost of free.

The Business Innovation Hub can additionally connect people with the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, Wyoming Workforce Services, Carbon County Higher Education Center and the Carbon County Library System.

“The Hub is the connection. We’re the front door,” said Thayer.

Having a central location, said Drever, is a benefit to Carbon County-based entrepreneurs.

“It shouldn’t be your responsibility to know who does what–every program that’s out there,” said Drever. “You should be able to talk to any one of us.”

Applications for the Carbon County Start-Up Challenge are due by October 9. Semi-finalists will be selected and interviewed on October 13 and finalists will be selected and announced on October 14.

From then until December 8, the Business Innovation Hub will work with finalists on their business proposals.

For more information, visit https://impact307.org/start-up-challenges/carbon-county-start-up-challenge/.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard