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Sheridan Start-Up Challenge Announces 2020 Winners

Impact 307

Three small businesses have won this year's Sheridan Start-up Challenge.

From the five finalists, Tyler O'Daniel, Jared Koenig, and Jason Hodges were selected to win $5,000 each, access to seed money and other business support.

The annual entrepreneur challenge is hosted by Impact 307, a business incubator group from the University of Wyoming.

Impact 307 Director Scot Rendall said the winners aren't like the typical service businesses that have won in previous years. But they took feedback well and were able to incorporate that ahead of the final presentation.

"These guys rose to the top. They addressed judge questions and concerns and they had financial projections that were credible," he said. "And it's always a tough decision for the judges but there are the ones that come out. And I'm really proud of all of them."

O'Daniel owns GrillGate, "a collapsible propane gas grill designed within the contours of a pick-up truck tailgate and targets the tailgating, outdoor enthusiast, and pick- up truck accessory market."

Koenig's business also creates truck accessories, "a modular, customizable, lightweight, and reconfigurable rack system that fits within the box of a pick-up truck and is intended for the growing overlanding backcountry exploration market."

Hodges makes handcrafted jewelry and props that are targeted towards fantasy cosplayers.

The five finalists presented to judges on a pitch night. Rendall said this year's final presentations had to take place without a public crowd due to the pandemic, but it was streamed virtually.

"I wish we could have had a public event because it's always a celebration of our entrepreneurial culture here in Sheridan, but this was the next best thing given that was not possible this year. But I think it went very well," he said.

O'Daniel additionally won a $750 prize for being selected for the audience choice award.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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