SHERIDAN — The five finalists in the Wyoming Technology Business Center’s Sheridan Start-up Challenge are prepping for a pitch day set for May 23, when the finalists will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges during a public event.
Of the five finalists, three will be awarded $5,000. Those three will also be provided space in the WTBC incubator and have access to a $50,000 seed fund.
Over the next few weeks, The Press will take a closer look at each of the finalists.
This week, we heard from Old Army Records founders Kevin O’Dell & Jim Powers. The interview has been edited for length.
What sparked the idea for this business?
In 2004, we completed the only formal archaeological survey of Fetterman Battlefield. We had the names of the casualties, but little background information on the 76 enlisted men. There is a dearth of information on the day-to-day lives and details on the individual soldier and that this problem existed across the board for the published sources dealing with the 19th century U.S. military, commonly known as “the Old Army.” Some of the well-known published information was based on supposition and, quite frankly, wrong. So, in the process of trying to correct the errors and increase the well of knowledge we found we had gathered a considerable amount of data and realized it would be as valuable to genealogists, authors, researchers, and site interpreters, as it is to us. So, the next step was to put it in a web-based format.
How long have you been working on the idea?
Twelve years, although we’ve really increased our efforts over the past 16 months.
What is the product or service your
business will provide?
We are offering a web page, oldarmyrecords.com, that features a comprehensive, yet easily searchable database, containing personal names, subjects, events and places relative to the 19th century U.S. military.
To date, we have indexed more than 13,000 names and compiled information on more than 1,000 places, subjects and events dealing with the Old Army. The records provide a rich, and often colorful, glimpse into the everyday life of a soldier and civilian contractor. Our database links facets of a military career to an individual solder. These include documents about crime and punishment, promotions and demotions, wounds and medical treatment, and daily work activities (military “jobs”); most of this information is not readily available anywhere else.
What challenges have you experienced?
What challenges do you see coming?
Our most daunting challenge has been how to reduce the cost, both in time and dollars, of gathering the records for the database. We are currently exploring partnerships with federal agencies and colleges and universities that will drastically reduce costs but increase efficiency. The next challenge was developing the database to be effective in a web format. Fortunately, we’ve hired a knowledgeable consultant to help us and we will be rolling out the website soon. One of our biggest challenges moving forward, as with any startup business, is getting the market to notice our product.
What advice would you give to other
entrepreneurs considering taking the leap into starting a new business?
Go for it! If you have a passion for something that you are interested in why not do something about it. Find the problem. If your solution works, the customers will come.