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Tabitha Briscoe

Tabitha Briscoe, a University of Wyoming sophomore studying accounting, stands for a portrait Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at UW's Half Acre Gym climbing wall in Laramie. Briscoe's idea for a lightweight, easy-to-transport crash pad for bouldering won her $12,500 in this year's John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition. (Ryan Dorgan, Star-Tribune)

“I can fix that.”

That’s the attitude that won University of Wyoming sophomore Tabitha Briscoe $12,500 and a one-year lease at the Wyoming Technology Business Center.

Briscoe already had knowledge about and passion for bouldering. Then, staring at a photo of a friend whose crash pad had caused her to get stuck on her back while participating in the activity in Mexico, she had the epiphany – she could come up with a better design.

Now, thanks to the university’s John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition, Briscoe is the proud inventor of a crash pad that collapses to a third the size of others on the market. She’s also the mind behind Cruxx Climbing. Currently she’s selling beanies and T-shirts as well as making chalk bags used in the sport, but that’s only the beginning: She wants to use the proceeds from those efforts to create a full-fledged prototype of the crash pad this summer, then obtain a patent and start selling the items by winter. She’s already thinking of ways to improve the design and make it even more useful.

That’s an incredibly steep trajectory, and it’s one Briscoe should be proud of. But it’s also one Wyoming should be proud of. After all, Briscoe didn’t have to make the journey alone.

Once she became a finalist in the competition, she had the support of advisers from UW’s business school and the Laramie business community. She learned how to identify and fill holes in her business plan, connect with resources in the community and negotiate rates with suppliers. The money will certainly provide a boost, but the training and attention from experts has been essential, Briscoe said.

“To have those resources available, the cash funds are great, but more importantly the free rent space and counseling at the Business Center is going to be the most valuable,” Briscoe told the Star-Tribune.

She’s far from the first beneficiary of the program. Nate Storey, a UW graduate and the founder of Bright Agrotech, recalls the help he had in getting his concept off the ground. Now, his company employs 16 people, almost all fellow UW graduates. His suppliers and distributors are in Laramie – a win for the company and a win for the city. When we help cultivate these companies using local resources, they put down roots and return the benefit to Laramie and the state.

It’s as simple as this:

“These kids have been told you have to leave if you’re ambitious, if you’re intelligent, if you want to do something that makes a difference,” Storey told the Star-Tribune. “This gives people a reason to stay.”

Entrepreneurship is risk-taking, and we applaud the spirit of adventure that leads dreamers like Briscoe and Storey to pursue their passions. With this program, they have the resources and connections they need to get their dreams off the ground. Wyoming is lucky to have these entrepreneurs, and the university and community are wise to nurture their passions.

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