CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper Start-Up Challenge has benefited multiple innovative entrepreneurs kick start their businesses.
With registration for the 2019 challenge open through Sept. 12, some past winner have shared updates on how their businesses are doing now and gave some tips to those looking to get involved this year.
“It’s going well,” says Matt Kull, owner of Simple Injection. “A lot has happened over the last year.”
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Kull and Simple Injection took first place in the 2018 Casper Start-Up Challenge. The three finalists in each year’s competition receive $5,000 awards as well as access to a pool of $50,000 in start-up seed-funding.
“That was definitely a big boost,” Kull says. “It sped up a lot of the research process. We were able to just buy stuff we needed to test our unit better.”
Kull says Simple Injection went to a conference in Huston recently and were able to link up with a pump manufacturer who is interested in their unique pump controller used to inject chemical additives into oil and gas wells and pipelines.
“That would give us a lot of distribution and kind of propel the business quite a bit,” he says. “That’s kind of the exciting part.”
They have a final version of the product in the last testing stages.
“If all goes well we’re hoping to start selling our product the first of January, 2020,” he says.
The finalists of the challenges also receive free office space at the Wyoming Technology Business Center along with professional mentoring.
“Having a dedicated space there in the business center free of the distractions that you get at home, that really was a huge benefit,” Kull says.
His advice for those applying this year: “Send in a video of the product with your application, that seems to help.”
Ily Nunn is the owner and operator of Nunn Utility Locating, a business she started in 2016. Her business was among three finalists that year, the first for the Casper Start-Up Challenge.
“NU Locating is primarily a private utility locating company, but we also use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for other subsurface investigations which include looking for voids/tunnels, detecting grave sites, nonmetallic utilities, and mapping geological layers,” Nunn says.
Things are going well for her these days.
“Business is good and keeping me busy,” she adds. “A new thing that we have been doing is using GPR to help determine the structural integrity of foundations, concrete slabs and other concrete structures.”
“We can detect slab thickness and also locate re-bar within the slab and determine re-bar spacing. We may also have the opportunity to use the GPR on a few archaeological investigations.”
The prize money, seed-funding and other boons to winning the challenge helped her business get rolling.
“The start up challenge provided NU Locating with the connections that it needed to be able to successfully tackle the start up phase of the business,” Nunn says. “The council with regard to marketing, finances, legal advice etc. was so valuable and of course the grant money was a huge bonus which really helped to provide some financial support during year one.”
“We are local and based right here in Casper, Wy. The future is looking good and we don’t plan on moving our main operations anywhere else. We are right on the cusp of needing to hire a few more technicians so we’ll see what the rest of 2019 brings us.”
Cam Siplon has a background in hunting and firefighting. He started up Wyoming Gear Builders, which was another 2018 Casper Start-Up Challenge finalist.
The idea behind his start-up was to design and make backpack, frames, bags and belts for outdoor use.
“The transition from making them in my basement to true production has been harder than I anticipated,” Siplon says. “But we are making our way through finding production materials, working with factories and maintaining our high quality standards.”
“Its a process but we are getting closer.”
Siplon says Wyoming Gear Builders is working on some new products, but he’s not quite ready to announce what those are.
“The challenge taught me a lot about the complexities of business as I had no experience before,” he says. “I was able to purchase equipment and raw materials to work on new products and figuring out the best way to move them towards production.”
Wyoming Gear Builders plans to continue operating in Casper and are planning to have all of their production done here in the future.
Morris Visual Stress Solutions was among the top finalists in the 2017 challenge.
Catherine Morris says they recently purchased the former Casper Fire Station No. 5 and is working to put a clinic for the business in the back there.
“We are still focused on the same services; offering evaluations and treatment for individuals who have visual stress,” she says. “We just bought a building to for the clinic (former fire station 5) and are busy remodeling it.”
She says that “visual stress” is something not a lot of people know about.
“Most people are not aware of Visual Stress or the impact it has on their physical and mental wellness,” Morris says. “‘Visual Stress’ is a term more commonly used in the UK to describe neurologic symptoms caused or increased by difficulties processing visual information.”
“These difficulties are often a direct result of the brain’s inability to efficiently process all wavelengths of light.”
That is where treatment Morris Visual Stress Solutions is able to provide steps in.
“When an individual is experiencing various symptoms due to an inability to process all wavelengths of light, the treatment to stop or reduce the symptoms is clear: filter the light before it enters their brain, and reduce or eliminate the wavelengths of light their brain struggles with,” Morris says.
There approach is unique in the United States.
“Things are going well,” Morris says. Our clinic is the only one in the nation with these testing equipment and methods.”
The free year of rent at the WTBC was a boon to the business.
“Having a professional office space lends credibility and help establish your business as ‘real,'” Morris says. “People see it as a more serious endeavor instead of a hobby or pastime.”
“Free rent for a year lightens the financial burden of getting started. The accounting advice helped me see numbers better and track them in a way that makes tax season much easier.”
Morris says the future looks “bright, encouraging, hopeful and rewarding.”
They’re planning to stay in Casper for the foreseeable future.
For those thinking about entering the 2019 Casper Start-Up Challenge, Morris has a last bit of advice.
“Give it a shot,” she says. “It’s a lot of work but worth it.”