Column: Sheridan Start-Up Challenge welcomes new ideas

By Scot Rendall | IMPACT 307 — Sheridan Aug 5, 2023

As August arrives and Sheridan transitions to late summer, it means we’re ready for another edition of the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge.

2023 will be the seventh annual event, and if results from the first six are any indication, our area is on the cusp of another contingent of innovative new business ideas and startup companies that will contribute to our great community.

This will be my sixth time leading the effort on behalf of IMPACT 307, our state’s startup business incubator network. For those not familiar with the challenge, we seek to stimulate the creation of Wyoming growth-oriented businesses by encouraging entrepreneurs with new business ideas to enter a business plan competition, with the opportunity to win seed capital to fuel their business ambitions.

The first phase of the process involves submission of an online application where entrepreneurs describe their business idea, the market they are wanting to address, the competitive landscape and the unique qualities of their offering that show how they plan to acquire customers with their product or service and earn revenue.

The application period will officially open Aug. 14, and applications are accepted through Sept. 18. Once the application period is closed, a panel of local Sheridan entrepreneurs serve as challenge judges and select approximately 10 of the most promising ideas offered up for a semifinal round of presentations, where the judges have an opportunity to meet the applicants and ask questions about their plans.

Out of the semifinals, the top five to six finalists emerge, and the last phase of the challenge is a month of preparation time before formally presenting business plans at our community “Pitch Night” and a chance to win seed capital.

Once again this year, the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge will have $100,000 in seed capital available to the three winners that will be selected by the judges at Pitch Night. The funding can be a great boost in efforts to launch and grow a new business. Additional value is realized by the ongoing advising with IMPACT 307 and other connections made available through the Business Resource Network.

Applicants to the challenge must fall into one of three categories. The first category is “pre-venture” stage — the entrepreneur has an idea or business concept and wants to pursue feasibility and market validation. A second set of applicants may be at the “start-up/pre-revenue” phase — they have a product or service ready to go and want to begin customer acquisition and revenue generation. Finally, the challenge accepts “early ramp stage” businesses that currently have under $150,000 of annual sales but want to pursue ideas that would significantly accelerate company growth.

All Start-Up Challenge applicants, whether they progress in the competition or not, can receive free advisory services from IMPACT 307 and the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, which is a valued partner organization to IMPACT. All previous applicants that were not named a winner of the challenge are free to reapply, and if they’ve continued to hone their ideas, their chances of progressing typically increase.

Mark your calendars now — our 2023 finalists will showcase their ideas at Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night, scheduled for Nov. 1 at the WYO Theater.

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