SHERIDAN — The 2020 Sheridan Start-up Challenge is preparing to look different in more ways than one this year.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, IMPACT Sheridan Director Scot Rendall said the live finalist event may have to take place via livestream. He said they are hoping to make a decision around Oct. 1 as to whether the live event will move forward.
They are waiting until October, he said, for the governor’s next update to public health orders and restrictions.
If the event is forced to be livestreamed with no public audience, he said finalists will still present to the judges in a socially distanced environment.
Rendall said they have so far been in close contact with the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center, who told them under the current health orders they would not be able to host the in-person food and drink reception where winners are announced after the presentations.
They also checked in with the Sheridan Holiday Inn, he said, but they would only be able to do a food and drink reception with restrictions.
“They believe they could do a reception in a separate room,” he said. “But they still require masks and social distancing. That doesn’t lend itself to an effective reception.”
Rendall said it’s too early to tell if the pandemic will have any effect on applications received this year, and that they have extended the deadline to receive applications until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 22.
“On one hand, I believe there’s reason to think it’ll be less [applicants] just because things have been so crazy this year,” he said. “On the other hand, the economy has been impacted to a certain extent and if folks ever wanted to consider starting their own business and never had time, I almost think that could produce a few applicants.”
He said they have so far received less than 10 applications, but said they receive about 75% of applications in the last week and about 50% of applications in the final two days.
In addition to the COVID-19 changes, Rendall said the seed funding has been doubled to $100,000, meaning finalists who finish in fourth and fifth this year will actually receive some money. In addition, the winners will be able to draw from a larger pool of money afterward for expenses.
Sheridan Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson said it’s important for the Sheridan economy that this event takes place because it allows people to finally try the business ideas they may have.
“It provides an opportunity, almost an incentive, maybe some encouragement to people who may be tossing around an idea,” she said. “Oftentimes, that’s really important that people get motivation to take something from an idea and know that there are people and experts and knowledge available.”
She said challenges like the startup can be helpful for diversifying the local economy and is a great way for Sheridan to support the creation of more local businesses.
She also said more help will be available for entrepreneurs through the Chamber’s Ignite Conference, which will this year feature a “startup track” to help connect entrepreneurs to helpful information and resources.
For the latest updates from IMPACT Sheridan on decisions regarding the 2020 Sheridan Start-up Challenge, visit the Sheridan Start-Up Facebook page.