Posted Sep 6, 2023
Application closes September 20
GOSHEN COUNTY – Have a business, product or service idea, fill out the five short questions to compete in the second annual Goshen County Start-Up Challenge (GCSC). This challenge gives local entrepreneurs a chance to gain startup funding, business connections and extra support.
“There are about 10 [start-up challenges held] statewide in different regions, and they’re designed to get entrepreneurs out of the woodwork,” Brian Young, the assistant director of Impact 307, told the Telegram. “This challenge is used to get them funding and mentorship to help diversify Wyoming’s economy by starting new businesses.”
Impact 307, a University of Wyoming program, focuses on supporting innovation-driven businesses committed to growing and strengthening Wyoming’s entrepreneurial community, according to impact307.org. This company, formally known as the WTBC, has historically been known to have helped 215 businesses be launched. Over half of those businesses were from local startup challenges.
Young said the program focuses on innovative and high-growth type companies, typically product ideas and manufacturing companies. They prefer companies that have the ability to scale or grow quickly and add primary jobs to local communities.
Any Goshen County resident who is interested in participating in the challenge can fill out the application at https://impact307.org/goshen-county-start-up-challenge/. The application is made up of five questions and the applicant’s background information. However, all applicants must have the intent to start and continue the business in Goshen County.
After verifying the applicant is a Goshen County resident and has a background in the industry or product idea they have, the applicant will explain the problem they’re trying to solve, identify their ideal customer and who they have talked to previously about their idea. According to Young, each answer is only expected to be a few sentences long and the entire process should only take about 10 to 15 minutes.
“For example, I created this new farm implement because people were having trouble with XYZ, so this is my solution,” Young said.
After the applications are received, they make sure each business proposal is for high-growth innovative type companies. Ideas for retail establishments, like a coffee shop, are not the type of business they are looking for in this type of contest. From those applications, they select eight to 10 semi-finalists who will put together a quick little pitch presentation.
“I help them for about six weeks to create a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the business or product idea,” Young said. “We do some market research and sometimes surveys to ask people their thoughts on changes that could be made to the product or whether they would purchase it.”
From the semi-finalists, the local judges will select five finalists who will make their pitch to a live audience. Three of the finalists are named winners and then the judges will allocate various funding amounts to each winner. Young said last year they had $40,000 available to give to those companies.
“I then work with them for many, many months,” Young explained. “I am still working with the three winners from last year. They work with me and other resources within the state to get the companies off the ground and really rolling.”
“[Applicants] don’t really have to know how to start a business,” he continued. “I have 20 plus years’ experience with startup companies in my own working for other startup companies and venture capital investments. [The other members of the team have similar backgrounds.] We provide the mentorship within our group to get applicants from an idea to over that first hurdle.”
The application is completely free, as is all other services proved by Impact 307. The application deadline is Sept. 20. The “Bootcamp for Finalists” will begin on Oct. 6 and “Pitch Day” will be held on Nov. 9 at the Eastern Wyoming College (EWC).
The judges for the competition are all local people known within the community. Last year’s judges included individuals like Kurt Sittner, EWC President Dr. Jeffry Hawes and banker Scott Prusia.
According to Young, the local judges are a crucial part of the process as they are the most familiar with the area and what it takes for a business to succeed. They are also important resources for the finalists.
While the idea for the startup challenge is similar to the popular TV show called “Shark Tank,” Young stressed that it is not the same. Shark Tank is more cutthroat than this competition. The judges on the show are sometimes very antagonistic or really tearing the business apart.
The judges for GCSC are more mentors and helpful. These judges want to encourage economic growth not discourage it. Even if the applicant is not selected as a finalist, they do not want to discourage them from working on their idea in other ways.
“Wyoming is a great entrepreneurial state,” Young said. “People have ideas, but they often don’t know how to get the help they need. Funding help is the one thing that is the biggest hurdle.”
“Most can’t or don’t want to throw their own $10,000, $20,000 or $50,000 into the idea,” he continued. “That’s what these competitions are designed to do. To help provide them with the expertise to help and to get them the funding.”
Young said the goal of the program is to provide the necessary resources to help local entrepreneurs. The other overall goal is to help diversify the state’s economy by creating new businesses.
“Two out of the three winners that we had last year from the challenge were related to hemp,” Young said. “So, [these winners] helped create a new industry that basically didn’t exist before in Wyoming.”
A few of the major local sponsors for the program are the Goshen Economic Development, EWC and the EWC Foundation, local banks and TDS. The sponsors help provide the seed money for the finalists to start their businesses.
If anyone is interested in becoming a sponsor or has any questions about the challenge, they can contact Brian at 720-365-6694.