Wind River Startup Challenge hosts 2023 Pitch Day for Native entrepreneurs

    (Wind River Reservation, WY) — Native entrepreneurs from the Wind River Reservation have been working for six months to bring their business ideas to life. Support these business leaders on Tuesday, May 16 at 5 pm for the 2023 Wind River Startup Challenge Pitch Day as they present their business ideas for an opportunity to receive seed funding up to $20,000! Pitch Day will be held at the Frank B. Wise Business Center in Fort Washakie with free food and past winners set up selling their goods and services. 

    Pitch Day will feature presentations from 2023 Wind River Startup Challenge participants who have received business counseling and mentorship through the program. Presentations will outline the business venture and will allow for Q&A from a panel of judges from the Wind River community. 

    Participants in the Wind River Startup Challenge must be an enrolled Northern Arapaho or Eastern Shoshone, or teams must be at least 50% owned, operated, or led by a Tribal member. 


    7 entrepreneurs from the Wind River Reservation will be pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges:

    • Courtney Smith: 2 Indigenous Hands is a retail craft supply store to be located in Riverton, WY that will carry a modern collection of supplies for beaders, quilters and other artisans. They will also support indigenous artisans by selling their work in the retail shop.
    • RV Hereford, Jr: Concrete Kingz is a concrete service. From sidewalks and slabs to footers and foundations. Concrete Kingz is there to conquer all your concrete needs.
    • Robin Manderson: Fire and Ice is a mobile concession business selling treats such as snow cones and piccadilly at community events. They specialize in creative and custom flavor combinations and fun, fresh, homemade ingredients and toppings.
    • Ted Thayer: RezLaw is a Native owned legal aid provider offering legal advice, services, and representation for criminal cases on the Wind River Reservation.
    • Lisa Redman: Red Wolf Designs is a custom quilting business that provides unique and professionally crafted quilts for special occasions, gifts and ceremonies. They offer a wide range of designs, color combinations and fabric for each customer’s specific needs.
    • Pat White, Jr.: Located in Ethete, Wyoming, White Eagle Tire Service is the place for friendly, affordable, and professional tire repair. 
    • Jacoby Hereford Sr.: Offering home cooked flavor with fast food convenience, Warm Valley Smoke Wagon brings smoked brisket to Fremont County (and beyond) through their mobile food trailer. 
    • Kacy Makeshine and Deynse Ute: Indigi-Meals Pro offers delicious, nutritious, ready to eat meals delivered to your home or office with fresh new options every week.

    In partnership with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, the Wind River Startup Challenge (WRSC) seeks to stimulate entrepreneurship on the Wind River Reservation and provide the opportunity for tribal members to acquire funding to launch native-owned businesses. Now completing its third year, the WRSC began as a joint endeavor of the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the University of Wyoming Office for Research and Economic Development. Learn more about these partners and programs below. 

    To date, 14 Native-led business ventures have been supported through the WRSC with $105,000 of seed funding awarded: 

    • Brittney’s Baristas by Brittney Niedo
    • Native Precision by Shay Jimerson
    • Ootsie Ohant by Jessica Swallow
    • Tree Keepers by Jaren Brown and Ryan Axthelm
    • Goose’s Kitchen by Leslie Spoonhunter
    • Dancing Rain Consulting by Harmony Spoonhunter
    • Timber Beast by Eugene Coulston
    • Native FX by Eustace Day
    • The Monahooboo Hut by Hannah Nicol
    • Wildflower Salon by Stephanie C’Hair
    • Heavy Hand Fencing by Kevin Goggles
    • Red’s Recon by Red and LaTara LeBeau
    • Intertribal Wellness by Denyse Bergie and Mike Ute
    • Taylor B’s T’s by Taylor Bell

    The WRSC has just secured five years of funding thanks to the generous support of EPSCoR. The 2023 program has offered participants eight workshops to develop business skills and acumen, three months of one on one business coaching, multiple networking events, and regional media opportunities.


    To learn more about the Wind River Startup Challenge, visit or attend the event on May 16 at 5 pm. For any questions or comments, or if you would like to be involved but are unable to attend, contact Crista Valentino at [email protected] or (307) 363-2791.

    About the Wind River Startup Challenge:

    The Wind River Start-Up Challenge (WRSC) began as a joint endeavor of the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the University of Wyoming Office for Research and Economic Development. The Wind River Start-Up Challenge is for new ventures created and managed by tribal members and includes new ventures launched by licensing university technology. Tribal members are expected to have a primary role in developing the business and must intend to operate the business in the Wind River Community Area. For its first three years, WRSC has been a collaboration between Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal members, Central Wyoming College, the Wind River Development Fund, and several University of Wyoming units: IMPACT 307, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Wyoming EPSCoR, and the High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI). Funding for this challenge comes from National Science Foundation-funded Wyoming EPSCoR, a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business program, and Microsoft.


    About the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research:

    Wyoming EPSCoR is a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support researchers, students, and institutions in Wyoming by building a robust and diverse research education infrastructure in the state while supporting and facilitating pathways to STEM.


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