IMPACT Park County Announces Start-Up Challenge Finalists

March 15, 2023

IMPACT Park County, the Big Horn Basin’s business incubator, has announced five finalists for the 2023 Park County Start-Up Challenge entrepreneur competition.

Each finalist will present at the Park County Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night, scheduled at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. Each finalist will have an opportunity to win business funding from the seed fund established for the event.

IMPACT 307 is a business development program of the University of Wyoming. It is a not-for-profit business incubator system that provides startup and early-stage companies with the expertise, networks and tools necessary for the development of successful businesses. It is administered by UW’s Office of Research and Economic Development. IMPACT Park County is funded through the Wyoming Innovation Partnership, created to modernize and focus Wyoming’s efforts on developing a resilient workforce and economy.

The following is a brief summary of each finalist, including the company name, the entrepreneur(s) and the business idea:

— Branden’s WorkShop, founded by Branden Christiansen. He is the developer of an innovative, electronically activated bipod for shooting sports.

— High Plains Gear, founded by Rhys and Kitt Haugen, is a startup company specializing in quality, durable and comfortable upland game bird vests and accessories.

— Hyland Nursing Services, founded by Brittney and David Hyland, provides home health, skilled nursing and companion care in Park and Big Horn counties.

— Paintrock Senior Mobile Dental, founded by Dr. Larry Akin and Maurine Akin, is a mobile dentistry service focused on providing dental care to patients residing in long-term residential care facilities.

— Wild J Pyrographics, founded by Jesse Johnsey, creates custom artwork and boxes for concealment of firearms, jewelry and valuables with a radio frequency identification (RFID)-activated closure.

A group of local judges narrowed the competition down to eight semifinalists who had the opportunity to present their ideas and meet the judges in person. Five finalists were then selected by the panel for Pitch Night.

The finalists will spend the next three weeks working with IMPACT 307 to continue to develop their plans and respond to judges’ questions and feedback provided during the semifinal round. Besides the possibility of securing seed funding, Pitch Night will allow the businesses to showcase and promote their ideas to a live audience. Community members are invited to attend the final presentations.

“Beyond the Park County Start-Up Challenge, it is exciting to have 35 business ideas and people interested in launching new businesses in the Big Horn Basin and Park County,” says John Wetzel, business counselor for IMPACT Park County. “Whether applicants progressed to the finals or not, IMPACT 307 can help each entrepreneur develop their plans and highlight resources that may be available to them.”

The Park County Start-Up Challenge is made possible by donations from the following organizations: Paul Stock Foundation, Edward Jones Investments, First Bank of Wyoming, Yellowstone Motors, Pinnacle Bank, Bairco Construction, Sletten Construction, REV Realty, Big Horn Federal Bank, the law firm of Bonner Crandall Beckett, Bank of Powell and UW.

For more information, call Wetzel at (307) 272-0085 or email

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