Local start-up businesses invited to compete for $50K

Applications for the 2023 Park County Start-Up Challenge, offering up to $50,000 for the best new business ideas, are now open.

Hosted by the University of Wyoming’s Impact 307 program, the competition opens to the public on April 6 with a pitch night before a panel of judges and an audience at Cody’s Wynona Thompson Auditorium. Applicants should be in the pre-seed, founding or early operational phase.

Finalists will work closely with Impact 307 staff to develop their businesses in their local areas. They acquire business process knowledge as they go through the stages of competition.

“Regardless of the outcome of the competition, each finalist will be better prepared to start and grow their business while improving their chances of success and the local economy,” the organizers promise.

John Wetzel of Impact Park County, Impact 307’s local governing body, is conducting the competition. He encourages local businesses to apply.

“If people have a business they want to start, or have started, but are making less than $150,000 and want to apply for Startup Challenge funding, this is the right time,” he said.

The application is a single page, Wetzel said. From the participants, the group chooses the finalists to perform in the live pitch session, which should look similar to Shark Tank and similar television shows.

Impact 307 specializes in supporting Wyoming businesses and uses the competition to give the program a spotlight.

“We are already working with customers. But now is the time to apply for up to $50,000 in seed funding,” Wetzel said.

The program is funded by the university under Governor Mark Gordon’s Wyoming Innovation Partnership. The program has about a dozen staff, ranging from management consultants to senior directors and assistants in advertising and grant reporting. Wetzel, who also serves as Powell’s mayor, began working as a business consultant in July.

He actively seeks innovative and growth-oriented entrepreneurs interested in establishing businesses in the Big Horn Basin.

“Anyone across the basin can definitely apply and we’re working with them,” he said. “Have you got a great idea? Let’s start talking. Go out and apply.”

Financial grants can be used for engineering, marketing, research or even patent attorneys. Wetzel said the money awarded to pitch night winners is just the beginning of the process and deliberation will continue as businesses get off the ground.

“We want to work closely with these companies to make sure they bring money into Wyoming to stay in Wyoming,” he said.

Impact 307 has been in operation for approximately 18 years and began as a Wyoming Technology Business Center. Bright Agrotech of Laramie is one of the program’s success stories: the company has grown from humble beginnings to more than 200 employees.

“The whole goal is to have successful startups,” Wetzel said.

For information—or to apply for the Park County Start-up Challenge—go to www.impact307.org/park-county-2. Northwest College and Forward Cody are also supporting the effort, with applications due by Friday, February 24th.

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