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Organizations announce 5 finalists for Gillette inaugural start-up challenge

Energy Capital Economic Development and IMPACT 307, announced the finalists for the 2023 Energy Capital Start-Up Challenge entrepreneur competition.

Dana Miller, an Energy Capital Economic Development board member, at an October business bootcamp at Area 59, which four of the five finalists attended. (Energy Capital Economic Development)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Energy Capital Economic Development and IMPACT 307, Wyoming’s business incubator network, announced today the finalists for the 2023 Energy Capital Start-Up Challenge entrepreneur competition.

Each finalist will present at the Energy Capital Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night, which is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Gillette College Presentation Hall, 300 W. Sinclair St., Gillette, according to a news release. The finalists can win business funding from a $50,000 seed fund for the event. There is no charge for the public to attend the event.

The Energy Capital Start-Up Challenge, in this first year, attracted 36 applicants who represent a wide variety of business ideas that seek to operate in Gillette and the northeast Wyoming region, according to the release. A panel of area entrepreneurs and local professional service providers judged the applications and identified nine for a semifinal round that took place Nov. 10. The panel selected the five finalists, who will spend the next month working with IMPACT 307 and Energy Capital Economic Development to bolster their plans and respond to judge questions and feedback from the semifinal round.

IMPACT 307, which conducts 10 other start-up competitions across Wyoming, partnered with Energy Capital Economic Development and the Gillette FUEL business incubator program to bring the competition to northeast Wyoming.

Energy Capital Economic Development seeks to stimulate and facilitate a diverse economy through business retention, expansion and recruitment. It runs the FUEL Business Incubator Program, which helps entrepreneurs start and run small businesses. Impact 307 is a startup business development program of the University of Wyoming, under the Research and Economic Development Division. It is part of the state’s business resource network.

The release provided the following summaries of each finalist:

  • Wind Turbine Blade Recycling, Cameron Anderson and Jess Anderson: Developing a company that will recycle wind turbine blades that have reached end-of-life and produce usable materials as an alternative to landfill disposal.
  • Baldacci Guitars, Conner Baldacci: Startup manufacturer of high-quality, custom electric guitars that allow guitar players and tour artists to achieve a range of sounds without having to swap out different guitars.
  • Rather Be Fishing Tackle, Ray Bergeman: Developer of a fishing device that helps attract fish and get them feeding, increasing the chances of getting bites and catching more fish during outings.
  • Ag Innovations, Shondah and Randall Otwell: Creator of a low-power water rippling product that keeps stock tank water open for livestock in extreme winter temperatures to support the ranching and agriculture industries.
  • Inflatrix, Mark Thoreson: Developer of a high-tech polymer inflatable device used by dentists to make the placement of dental fillings simpler, more efficient and more comfortable.

IMPACT 307 Director Scot Rendall said the program plans to make the challenge an annual event.

“Our local judge panel was pleased with the number of quality business ideas and plans submitted,” said Energy Capital Economic Development board member Dana Miller, who is helping organize the challenge’s activities. “As these new ventures launch, there will be solid benefits to our area’s economy.”

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