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Published February 24, 2020
The University of Wyoming’s Wind River Startup Challenge (WRSC) has garnered significant interest, with more than 40 Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho entrepreneurs participating in the first workshop in mid-January.
“I was encouraged to see the turnout, and I’m hopeful for our Wind River community,” says James Trosper, director of UW’s High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI). “If each of those people who attended the first workshop starts a business, it will change things overnight.”
This challenge offers a $25,000 seed fund supported through the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). This seed funding will give Native-owned and -managed startups the business capital needed to launch.
“Entrepreneurship is driven by homegrown solutions,” says David Bohling, the director of UW’s Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC). “Seed funding can enable the launch of new ideas into meaningful and beneficial ventures. Seed funding through WRSC is a grant, meaning it does not have to be paid back. Instead, we look forward to seeing that modest financial leverage translate to benefits for the entire community through the work of the entrepreneur.”
In collaboration with HPAIRI, Central Wyoming College (CWC) and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Riverton, another workshop is set for Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 6-8 p.m. at the Frank B. Wise Building in Fort Washakie. The workshop is designed to support entrepreneurship in the Wind River community regardless of eligibility or participation in the challenge.
The deadline to apply for the challenge has been extended to Sunday, March 1, at 11:59 p.m.
“We want to give everyone the opportunity to ask questions and receive individualized counsel,” says Veronica Donahue, an intern at the WTBC. “Two additional weeks gives applicants extra time to finalize their submissions.”
The application can be found online at www.windriverstartupchallenge.com or at the SBDC in Riverton.
Following submission of applications March 1, semifinalist teams will be selected and interviewed. A final “pitch day” will be held in May, with an independent judging panel deciding on award funding amounts to winning teams.
Interested parties are encouraged to meet with business counselors before submitting proposals.
“The enormous potential and enthusiasm for this project have made discussions with tribal entrepreneurs very rewarding and fun,” says Kyle Trumble, a CWC instructor and business counselor. “I look forward to the upcoming workshops and continuing to learn how our entrepreneurial ecosystem can support Native-owned startups in new ways. This is just as big, if not bigger, of a learning opportunity as it is a teaching opportunity for me.”
Entrepreneurs across the state can receive free support in the form of business counseling from the SBDC and the WTBC. These organizations are part of the Wyoming Business Resource Network, which assists all businesses -- big and small -- throughout the state.