Customizable bracelets for children. An app for craft beer lovers to find festivals, ale trails and brewery loyalty programs. A vacation rental platform for homeowners.
New businesses are percolating in the Tetons, and on Thursday afternoon a panel of judges and a general audience will learn about six of them at the Center Theater.
The occasion is Silicon Couloir’s sixth annual Pitch Day. Among those looking on as the moguls in the making compete for a $5,000 judges award and $2,500 audience favorite prize will be Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
“It’s important to the governor to support local entrepreneurs in their business development efforts,” Mead’s communications director, David Bush, said in an email. “Starting, running and growing businesses — entrepreneurship — is key as Wyoming seeks to further diversify its economy.”
The doors open at 4. Mead will speak at 4:45, and presentations begin at 5. Everyone is invited to come watch the action and stay for a reception after. It’s all free, and some members of the audience might walk away feeling motivated to start a business themselves.
“Watching their friends and peers is really inspiring,” said Scott Fitzgerald, executive director of Pitch Day organizer Silicon Couloir. “It can help others in the audience take their first step or their next step in their own entrepreneurial journey.”
One by one the entrepreneurs will give eight-minute talks that they have honed through weeks of coaching (see sidebar). They want to win the cash, gain presentation experience and make connections that could take their businesses to the next level.
“The goal is, whether they raise funding or not at this event, they’ll be very prepared to go out and approach investors,” said Liza Millet, Silicon Couloir founder and board member, and Start Up Intensive co-founder and program director.
That’s what Max Ludington has in mind now that he and business partner Harish Prather have tested their Loyale craft beer app in Santa Barbara, California.
“We would like to scale the company out to new locations, new communities, so we are at a state right now where we’re trying to attract funding to push that growth,” Ludington said. “It’s great to get feedback from the Pitch Day coaches and help to craft that presentation.”
Sam LaCasse has a catalog ready for the launch of Wrap-n-Snaps bracelets, which children can individualize using interchangeable parts decorated with animals, emojis, sports images and more.
Years ago, as a teacher at C-Bar-V, LaCasse saw “firsthand that kids need outlets to express their diverse passions.”
He graduated from business school at the University of Colorado, Leeds, in 2016. In 2015 he did the Start Up Intensive, a mini-MBA program offered by Silicon Couloir and Central Wyoming College.
“I thought the Start Up Intensive would be a great program for me to really focus on building and starting this company,” said LaCasse, who just moved back to Jackson.
He’s one of several Pitch Day participants who are Start Up graduates.
“Every year a dozen or so new businesses are launched through that program,” Fitzgerald said. “We have a sense of who’s out there. But every year we’re surprised by the business ideas we didn’t know were out there that come forward through the Pitch Day process.”
Helping local companies get off the ground or take their next step in growth is only one goal of Pitch Day, Fitzgerald said. Creating better-paying jobs in Jackson Hole is another.
“The idea is to provide meaningful career paths and higher wages so people can stay put and live in the community long term,” Fitzgerald said.