One of the things I periodically hear when discussing IMPACT 307 and incubation of businesses in Wyoming is: “It’s difficult to scale up businesses, particularly tech businesses, in a rural state.”
I am currently reading “The Rise of the Rest — How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream” by Steve Case, the founder of AOL. It’s an interesting read, and it’s led me to believe there’s a lot more “can do” potential in Wyoming than many people believe is possible.
In the book, Case recounts the story of a Nebraska woman who had a degree in human resources and family science and worked in an insurance company. This individual never aspired to be an entrepreneur.
However, she came upon a problem that was greatly vexing her family. Her husband’s grandmother was placed in an elder care facility and the family experienced great difficulty in tracking what was happening to her. Communication from the facility was poor and bills were presented for things they knew nothing about.
After several exasperating experiences, this woman determined there must be a better way to manage details of a family member in such a facility. She began doing research around creating an app that would help both families and facility staff stay connected.
She knew nothing about creating software and had no previous experience with senior living facilities. But she had a great idea about how a simple app could be created that would significantly improve resident and facility staff communications and record-keeping functions. With some research, she found a local software company willing to take on small projects, and development of the app was initiated.
The entrepreneur ended up winning a local Nebraska version of our Sheridan Start-Up Challenge. Funding from the competition was used to build the brand and proliferate awareness of the solution. Three years later, the app was in over 700 senior care facilities in 40 states.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit senior living centers particularly hard, the app was a literal lifesaver, and sales of the solution increased exponentially. Ultimately, the app was merged into a private equity company that had other offerings in the senior living market. A Nebraska entrepreneur achieved great success and helped thousands of people.
Case states that this startup business success story “is just one example of how entrepreneurs are nimbly responding to changing demographics by creating breakthrough industries such as health care technology.”
Is this type of entrepreneurial success story possible in Sheridan? Yes! IMPACT 307, as a unit of the University of Wyoming, has many resources to tap into and refer. Sheridan College has a software development program that trains skilled coders, many of whom choose to reside in our community. And we have a number of local professional service providers to meet every functional need.
Sheridan has a proven entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s relative remoteness is not a barrier. We encourage all folks who identify a problem or an unmet need in our area to explore their untapped entrepreneurial spirit and take action on a new business idea.
Scot Rendall is director of IMPACT 307 in Sheridan.