Entrepreneurs Find Support in Uinta County, Wyoming, Through Jumpstart Evanston and IMPACT 307
26 Oct 2022
“I cannot overstate the importance of entrepreneurship in economic development. Small businesses create 65 percent of all new jobs in the U.S., and small businesses represent over 90 percent of the business population. All major employers started as a small business. Why can’t Evanston create the next prominent manufacturer or tech company? Before being bought by Wood Group, Elkhorn Construction was one of the largest companies in Wyoming, and it was owned and operated by an Evanston family. We want to help create the next Elkhorn, Dustbusters, Ellingford Bros, or Cook Sanders.” – Rocco O’Neill, Evanston Community Development Director
Local entrepreneurs are benefitting from the data-driven mindset of Southwestern Wyoming leaders. When a target market study for the region brought evidence to light that support for entrepreneurs was lacking, Jumpstart Evanston was organized by Rocco O’Neill, Evanston Community Development Director, Brent Hatch, Uinta County Economic Development Commission Chair, Becky Davis, First Bank Community Reinvestment Act Coordinator, Ben Bell, First Bank Regional Market Manager, and Mieke Madrid, Evanston Community Relations Grant Writer.
Modeled after a program in Star Valley, the group worked to replicate that success in Evanston. “Jumpstart Evanston was created back in 2019 as a means of promoting entrepreneurship in Evanston,” said O’Neill. “There are three main legs to the proverbial economic development barstool: 1. entrepreneurship and innovation, 2. tourism and recreation, 3. business recruitment, retention, and expansion.”
Now in its fourth year, Jumpstart Evanston, a nonprofit, has helped scores of entrepreneurs by providing free education and resources to help them start and grow their businesses. This past spring, 5 Mile Meats, Keys-On Powersports, and Dad's Ice Cream won grants from the Pitch Day competition, where entrepreneurs present their business plans. Coaching is available to the participants.
“Our focus is to drive all types of entrepreneurship but also to hone in on innovative new businesses with growth potential,” said O’Neill. “Evanston has a tremendous workforce and an incredibly resourceful, intelligent population, and our schools consistently perform at the top of the State metrics. These elements lend themselves to creating an incredibly vibrant entrepreneur base in our community.”
“This year’s program will begin on January 18th, 2023, and continue weekly until March 1st,” said O’Neill. “The Jumpstart Evanston Bootcamp exists to connect local entrepreneurs with resources in the community, as well as provide a basic business education. At the end of the program, participants can apply for up to $10,000 to get their business off the ground. We’ve partnered with IMPACT 307 to bring the Jumpstart Innovation Launchpad program to Uinta and Lincoln Counties, which expands upon our Jumpstart Evanston program.”
Jumpstart Evanston’s free 7-week Entrepreneur Boot Camp includes:
- January 18 Orientation
- January 25 Writing a Business Plan
- February 1 Accounting
- February 8 Legal Concepts
- February 15 Raising Capital
- February 22 Marketing
- March 1 Growing Your Business
Jumpstart Evanston isn’t the only resource, either. As O’Neill mentioned, entrepreneurs can find additional assistance through The University of Wyoming’s IMPACT 307 program. IMPACT 307 is developing the Jumpstart Innovation Launchpad in collaboration with leaders in Uinta and Lincoln Counties. The Jumpstart Innovation Launchpad is a new seed funding competition which will be open for all of Uinta and Lincoln Counties. Companies in scope will be innovative and scalable or will benefit the local economic ecosystems. Besides the Jumpstart Innovation Launchpad, entrepreneurs of startups can receive mentorship from IMPACT 307. Those interested should contact Monica Patten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-466-3963. IMPACT 307 also holds a number of events to help entrepreneurs, which can be found at https://impact307.org/events/.
“IMPACT 307 is a program of the University of Wyoming that catalyzes the creation of new companies with a focus on the innovative and scalable,” said Fred Schmechel with IMPACT 307. “We’ve been working with our friend Rocco for years, so there is actually quite a bit of alignment already between Jumpstart Evanston and us. Both programs are for individuals who are set on solving a problem rather than setting their sights on a particular solution, regardless of what the evidence around them suggests.”
“Wyoming is our home, and we love it, and we have a long history of being very innovative, but some of the things that make us love this place are the same things that create a belief in our young people that there is no opportunity here,” continued Schmechel. “The remoteness and our small numbers of people are very appealing to us, but unless we redirect our innovative efforts into companies that are appealing for our young people, we’ll keep losing them to other opportunities in other states.”
Efforts are developing to bring Uinta County entrepreneurs local access to the University of Wyoming IMPACT 307 in collaboration with Western Wyoming Community College.
“All of this is building up a support system for local entrepreneurs to be successful in their hometowns,” said Schmechel. “We can and should continue our efforts to bring companies to our towns, just like every other community in America does, but when we focus on growing from within and enabling the people of Wyoming to make their own opportunities, we maintain what we love about this place. Our ultimate goal here at UW is to enable an entrepreneurial support system that actually works.”
“We’ve been talking a lot about the need for economic diversification in Wyoming since we were founded as a state in 1890, and frankly, we talked about it a lot before then,” said Schmechel. “IMPACT is the first program I have seen in Wyoming that focuses on telling our young people that they have a support system that wants to see them thrive here. We’ve helped launch more than 250 companies in our 16-year existence, and that pace is rapidly accelerating. Something has changed in Wyoming and our understanding of entrepreneurship, and we hope to see more of it!”
Evanston, Wyoming, Economic Development is experienced in forging new frontiers, and our sights are set on entrepreneurs. We are on track for the future with a proactive and dynamic business climate, a dedicated and diverse workforce, and a heartfelt, small-town attitude! Consider this your invitation to visit our thriving community and find out how we can assist you in locating or expanding your business here. Our experienced staff is prepared to assist site selectors and business executives through the relocation process and to direct entrepreneurs to the resources they need. Contact us today! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.