Last night three local business competition finalists addressed a full room at the Frank B. Wise Business Center in Ft. Washakie. They each shared compelling visions for businesses that they had started in Fremont County and that they believed would continue to flourish. Each participant walked the audience through the business problem that they aimed to solve. With detailed financial analysis, market research and passion, each filled the room (including several local politicians and other local influencers) with the optimism that Fremont County can be a seat of innovation and industry as the state works to diversify its economy.
Building the community’s first shark tank
Responsible for Fremont County’s business competition Pitch Day event was Lander resident and SBDC employee Sarah Hamlin. She approached local business people to contribute towards prize money; provide complimentary consulting services to the competitors and form a panel of judges. Initially, there were over 10 aspiring entrepreneurs that submitted entries, with the final three pitching to last nights audience. The finalists were:
Lifebox by Overwatch – John and Ron Cunningham
Lifebox is a safety system designed to deter active shooters by providing access to less-lethal devices in the classroom.
Slow Goat Farm – Lindsey Washkoviak and Ben Elzay
A working dairy farm with an on-site creamery producing farmstead artisanal cheeses.
Talon – Mary Murray
A virtual reality and 3-D animation training program seeking to provide more effective safety instruction to Oil and Gas workers.
Planting a seed funding
The panel of judges tasked with funding the most business-ready proposition was Cy Lee (Executive Director, Wind River Development Fund), Rebecca Briesmaster (Regional Director for the Wyoming Business Council), Jason Kintzler (CEO and President of Pitchengine), Michelle Mazur (Owner, Elevate Rehab), and Tony Tolstedt (City Administrator, City of Riverton). They challenged presenters with questions about how they would specifically use the funding; how they would address the competitive environment of their industry, and; production costs.
We’re confident that all of these businesses will grow and be successful. Unfortunately, we can only select one. – Jason Kintzler, Panelist
Have you herd? Goats are ‘totes adorbs’
When the judges emerged from their deliberations, Slow Goat Farm and their model for local artisan cheese manufacturing had been selected as the recipient of the seed funding prize. While all three business models exhibited the opportunity for scalable growth, the judges felt that an existing revenue stream and a clear path to business sustainability swung their votes to the local food producers.
The sentiment expressed by attendees about the positive energy in the room surrounding business startups and economic growth had many optimistic about business in Fremont County.