Winners of Start-Up Challenge plan next steps

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SHERIDAN — Five finalists vied for $5,000 on Pitch Night for the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge organized by the Wyoming Technology Business Center. Spencer Kuzara’s Spark Payments, Chelsea Paulus’ Connect Speech Therapy and Chad Reckard’s ThermMaker all made the cut, earning the money and pro bono legal advice from Davis and Cannon of Sheridan. The three winners will also be eligible to apply for additional funding through a $50,000 seed fund established for the event.

Last week, businesses explained how each prepared for Pitch Night. With the event behind them, Reckard, Paulus and Kuzara can push forward with development and implementation of their business ideas.

Reckard created ThermMaker, a large, automated fluid heater for use in oil and gas development. Paulus plans to operate an in-home speech therapy practice, and Kuzara is still perfecting Spark Payments, a payment processing company designed to provide a frictionless way for businesses to accept payments in digital currency.

Each of the three finalists answered questions regarding their next steps.

 Chad Reckard, ThermMaker

The Sheridan Press: How did Pitch Night go in your opinion?

Chad Reckard: It was fun, but it is always a little uncomfortable to put yourself out there like that. The other competitors were very supportive though, and it was comforting to know at least four other people were dealing with the same feelings.

Press: What was the most challenging aspect of being involved in the Start-Up Challenge? Easiest?

Reckard: My company is based on a technology, and I didn’t actually know if the technology would work until the night before the pitch. My fabricators did a wonderful job, though, and the prototype ended up exceeding expectations. The easiest: Watching the last two presentations and knowing it was out of my hands at that point.

Press: For what will you use the funds received?

Reckard: With the basic technology proved out, the money will go toward the patent process. That portion should go relatively quickly.

Press: What are your next steps for the business?

Reckard: Finish up the patent process and construct a demonstrator. Getting to a point where potential customers can actually see it function is a critical milestone.

Press: How can the community help your business grow?

Reckard: The process involves lots of hours and periods when no apparent progress is being made. It can be stressful and frustrating at times. Even something as simple as someone on the street noticing and giving encouragement is very helpful.

Press: Are you ready for clients yet?

Reckard: Not quite yet, but that moment isn’t too far away.

 

Chelsea Paulus, Connect Speech Therapy

The Sheridan Press: How did Pitch Night go in your opinion?

Chelsea Paulus: I thought Pitch Night went beautifully. Scot (Rendall) and Gini (Horner), of the WTBC made sure everything was organized, and they helped me to feel prepared and confident. I was very pleased with the turnout. I thought we had a lot of community support. My favorite part of the night was chatting with community members during the reception. It was so wonderful to hear people’s personal stories and anecdotes related to speech therapy experiences. The judges did a phenomenal job. They asked important critical questions, but made me feel supported in the process. Many thanks to all of them for volunteering their time.

Press: What was the most challenging aspect of being involved in the Start-Up Challenge? Easiest?

Paulus: It is quite easy for me to talk about my business. I am very passionate about what I do, and I strongly believe this is a needed service in Wyoming. By the same token, standing on stage to share my passion with the community and open myself up to criticism was an extremely challenging task. So, I suppose those 15 minutes on stage were both the easiest and the most challenging aspects.

Press: For what will you use the funds received?

Paulus: The funds will primarily go toward marketing efforts. In addition, I will be purchasing some evaluation tools, which are more expensive than you may think, often upwards of $500 for one assessment.

Press: What are your next steps for the business?

Paulus: My next step is mapping out a more detailed budget so that I can apply for additional funding through the WTBC seed fund. After that, marketing is the name of the game. I hope that focused marketing efforts will grow my client base quickly so that I can begin to recruit other talented speech-language pathologists to Wyoming.

Press: How can the community help your business grow?

Paulus: One in 12 children need speech therapy, but we have very few providers in Wyoming, so please spread the word. If you’re connected to educators, nurses, physicians or parent groups, please let them know that I am here to help. If you’re not sure what exactly a speech-language pathologist can help with, don’t be afraid to call or email. I am happy to share information about what I do.

Press: Are you ready for clients yet?

Paulus: Absolutely! I have been building a small client base for five months now, and I am ready to expand. Local clients can take advantage of in-home or virtual therapy, and those outside of Sheridan County can get started with virtual sessions.

 

Spencer Kuzara, Spark Payments

The Sheridan Press: How did Pitch Night go in your opinion?

Spencer Kuzara: I think that Pitch Night went well for everyone involved. There were five really great ideas and five awesome presentations. Personally, I feel that I could have conveyed some parts of my idea a bit better, but it seemed to work.

Press: What was the most challenging aspect of being involved in the Start-Up Challenge? Easiest?

Kuzara: The most challenging aspect of the Start-Up Challenge for me was making time; making time to create the presentation and practice speaking while also working on the actual project….that was challenging. The easiest part was working with Scot and Gini at the WTBC. They were very flexible with my schedule and really easy to work with.

Press: For what will you use the funds received?

Kuzara: My plan is to use the majority of the funds on marketing/branding, with the rest being split between operational costs and development of a hardware component to Spark.

Press: What are your next steps for the business?

Kuzara: The next steps for me is to get the name trademarked, and if it’s already taken, to come up with a new name and branding. In the meantime, I will just continue to add features to the Spark app.

Press: How can the community help your business grow?

Kuzara: Once I get to a certain point, I’ll need businesses to begin accepting digital payments through Spark. So businesses of Sheridan, Wyoming: Get ready.

Press: Are you ready for clients yet?

Kuzara: At this point, I have a working product. I wouldn’t consider it quite ready for primetime yet, but if anyone is interested in giving it a go, try it out. (Hint: I’m still working on the sign-up process).

By |Nov. 13, 2018|

About the Author:

Ashleigh Fox joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as the public safety and city government reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles, CA. Before working in Sheridan, she worked as a sports editor for the Sidney Herald in Sidney, Montana. Email Ashleigh at: ashleigh.fox@thesheridanpress.com

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