Entries open for inaugural start-up challenge

Aspiring entrepreneurs from across Park County will have the chance to compete for start-up funds from a $50,000 seed fund this spring.

IMPACT 307, a nonprofit business incubator program of the University of Wyoming, is launching its first annual “Start-Up Challenge” in Park County this year, said John Wetzel, a business counselor with IMPACT 307.

“This might be an opportunity for someone to quit their day job and pursue their passions,” he said. “It’s not easy to launch a startup, but these funds will definitely help some people get off to a good start.”

While this is the first Start-Up Challenge in Park County, IMPACT 307 has held similar competitions across the state for years, Wetzel said. On the other side of the Bighorns in Sheridan, the competition has served as the launchpad for dozens of innovative businesses including a company that creates hearing protection for dentists, a nursery that raises natural grasses for soil reclamation projects and a company that produces a horse massage tool, Wetzel said.

“We really welcome all the ideas we can get,” he said.

From now until Feb. 24, aspiring Park County entrepreneurs can submit a short, free application for the contest, Wetzel said. The application, available at www.impact307.org, asks contestants to describe their business idea, the market they plan to serve and why they believe customers will choose their product.

Wetzel said he hopes to get 50 or more applications. Those applications will then be reviewed by a panel of community judges and narrowed to a semifinalist field of between 10 and 20.

The semifinalists will work with Wetzel to further develop their business plans, and six finalists will advance to the final round known as “Pitch Night,” he said. This live event, scheduled for April 6, will give contestants a chance to pitch their ideas to the judges, and the three contestants with the best pitches will share the seed money.

Throughout the months-long process, Wetzel will provide business advice to contestants.

“One of the benefits to local entrepreneurs is the chance to work with myself and IMPACT 307,” Wetzel said. “I’ll help them develop their elevator pitch and put a good business plan together. I’ll also help them identify potential sources of grant funding for their ideas. So even if you’re not a winner in this contest, you have a chance to do a lot of the foundational work needed to launch a business.”

IMPACT 307 is still building its seed fund, and welcomes donations and sponsorships from local businesses, Wetzel said. For more information on how to contribute, or for questions about the startup challenge, contact Wetzel at 272-0085 or jwetzel2@uwyo.edu.

IMPACT 307 is a program of the University of Wyoming’s Office of Research and Economic Development. It is a nonprofit incubator that provides start-up and early-stage companies with the expertise, networks and tools necessary for the development of successful businesses.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard