Column: How start-up challenges spark entrepreneurship | Columnists

Earlier this month, IMPACT Sheridan hosted the fifth annual Sheridan Start-Up Challenge. This year’s event was a great success, and dare I say, our judge panel had the longest deliberation session and the toughest decisions to make since I arrived in Sheridan in 2018. That is a testament to some high-quality presentations made by the five finalists. IMPACT 307, with a U.S. EDA CARES Act grant, is expanding the number of start-up competitions across the state. Our Assistant Director Skye Heeren will be leading the effort to initiate a Gillette Start-Up Challenge in the spring of 2022 and a Park County Start-Up Challenge in the fall of 2022. Other new IMPACT 307 business plan competitions are planned for Fremont County (Lander/Riverton), Goshen County (Torrington) and southwest Wyoming (possibly Sweetwater County and Evanston).

Why are so many start-up competitions planned? We have found that they are the “spark” that gets many aspiring entrepreneurs to act on a business idea that they have devised. Without the spark, folks may stick to their existing occupation or use spare time for other pursuits. A Start-Up Challenge enables a creative individual to capture a potential new business idea by responding to a few simple questions, such as what problem the new idea will address, who the target customer is, how big the market is, what the competition is like and other basic business elements.

If IMPACT 307 can identify entrepreneurs who want to evaluate the merits of an idea, there are more individuals we can serve. If we can get just 25% of the applicants to follow through on initiating a new business, that’s a lot of new start-up activity across Wyoming. When speaking with individuals about the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge, I’ve heard countless times that “we were not previously aware of IMPACT and the advisory services provided.”

As a result, our Sheridan Challenge has become the main recruiting tool for our program. We follow up with all Challenge applicants whether they progress in the competition or not. We can pull in our sister Business Resource Network organization, the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, to explain the resources they offer. The SBDC has great training programs and templates that supplement what our business incubator program can provide.

It’s never too early to plan for next year’s Sheridan Start-Up Challenge, so if you have new business ideas to discuss, please contact us. We’d be happy to set up a meeting and provide assistance with putting a solid business model.

I would like to publicly recognize all five of our 2021 Sheridan Start-Up Challenge finalists: Brittni Schmit of Brit Schmit LLC, RJ Bungert of Outter Limits LLC, Kaya Pehringer of Mitten’s Moisturizer, Jeremiah Attebury of Oyster City Mushroom Farm, and Austin Ledingham and Andrew Leland of SonaPure. Every one of these individuals worked extremely hard throughout the Start-Up Challenge process, and each business would be an asset to our Sheridan area if these entrepreneurs are successful in launching and growing their companies.

Scot Rendall is the Director of IMPACT Sheridan.

Maria Flores

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