First Park County start-up pitch night funds new entrepreneurs

Brandon Christiansen had an idea that he couldn’t let go. The more he thought about it the more he was convinced it was possible. So he started a small business called Brandon’s Workshop in his Cody home.

His idea was for an ingenious electrically activated bipod rest for shooting sports he named the Epod. He studied engineering at the University of Wyoming and Casper College, so he knew it wasn’t too much of a stretch to give the idea a shot.

He was joined by his father, Rob, and cousin Sam Cooper in building several prototypes. But there were a few bumps in the road. On one prototype, when it finally came time to fire it up, he instead ruined it and had to go back to the drawing board.

“I had it all working great and then put the battery in backwards and blew it up,” he said. “Things just don’t always go as well you hope.”

Their initial target market is long range shooters, including competitive shooters, hunters, recreational shooters, law enforcement and for military applications. The Epod drew the attention of Accu-Tac, which controls about 20% of all bipod sales.

Christiansen, who rebranded the company as Point Blank Tech, will work with the company to produce the Epod, using some of their parts, but assembling them with their own mechanical and computer parts here in Wyoming.

Thursday night the company also received a big boost from Impact Park County, winning a fat check during the new program’s first Park County Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night. Three local start-ups each received a $3,000 check and will now vie for the bulk of the group’s $50,000 fund. Point Blank Tech also won the audience choice award, worth an additional $1,000.

Hosted by the University of Wyoming program Impact 307, the competition was held in front of a panel of five judges and a lively audience at Coe Auditorium in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Also winning a check and further help from Impact Park County were Brittney and David Hyland, who are in the process of opening Hyland Nursing Services in Powell, and Rhys and Kitt Haugen, who own High Plains Gear, which is building American made upland game bird vests and accessories.

“It’s so great how many resources are in the community for startups,” David Hyland said after winning the check.

The couple moved to Powell from Washington in 2021 looking for a “forever home,” Brittney Hyland said. They have been working part-time and spending tens of thousands from their savings since arriving to get the company off the ground.

They will soon be the only nationally accredited home health, skilled nursing and companion care company in Park and Big Horn counties. But the application process means they have to do pro-bono work for their first 10 customers and pay nearly $10,000 in application fees.

The Impact Park County check will also help them with payroll. They hired a Certified Nurse Assistant, who they have to pay out of their own pockets until fully certified and up and running. They know their service will be needed as more Baby Boomers enter the market each year.

“It’s pretty eye opening, seeing the projected numbers of the population in that 65 and older age group increasing and what kind of care is going to be needed down the road,” Brittney said in an interview after the competition.

The Park County Start-Up Challenge seeks to catalyze innovative and scalable Wyoming startup businesses and provide the opportunity to apply for seed money to take the business past concept stage and into the real-world through initial sales.

IMPACT Park County is an expansion of IMPACT 307’s Incubator Program, a result of a $2.4 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant to the University of Wyoming from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, as well as funding from the Wyoming Innovation Partnership.

Powell Mayor John Wetzel was selected last summer to join IMPACT 307 as the business counselor to serve Park County. He provides business advisory services to “innovative, growth-oriented entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses in the Park County and Big Horn Basin areas of Wyoming,” according to a press release in July. He spent a large portion of his career in Cody working as a general manager for the Buyer’s Guide, a weekly newspaper advertising circular before the company closed in early 2022.

“This has been a lot of fun, hard, difficult, but cool work with a lot of great people,” Wetzel said of his new job.

The start-up challenge started with 35 applicants before choosing five finalists for the competition. Entrepreneurs who would like help from Impact Park County don’t need to be part of the competition to get assistance from the group.

“We want to work with those businesses closely to make sure they’re going to be bringing money into Wyoming to stay in Wyoming,” Wetzel said.

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