Entrepreneurs benefit from Rise and Thrive


With the goal of helping local business owners get a lift in building their brands, the Innovation Hub in Vernal is holding its third annual Rise and Thrive Business Speed-Pitch Competition this month.

Lori Haslem, manager of the Innovation Hub, was the first to bring the idea of a business pitch competition to life three years ago. It had been discussed among the Uintah County Economic Development committee but hadn’t yet come to fruition.

When Haslem brought it up they said she should take it on and make it happen.

The competition awards monetary prizes as well as prizes from Strata Networks, UBTech, V6 Media and Evans Family Media.

“I didn’t have any kind of model to follow, so I created my own with ideas from other pitch competitions all over the U.S.,” Haslem said. “Over the years I have learned a lot and made necessary changes to the rules and the program guidelines.”

The mission of the competition is to develop new businesses within the Uintah Basin and diversify the economy. The 2021 winners were Trisha Sorenson; Whitney and Colby Murray; and Tiffany Jackson.

Since winning the competition, Sorenson built and opened Market on Main, which has been thriving ever since.

Last year’s competition included a student division alongside the regular business division. The participants, and winners, of last year’s competition had business ideas ranging from a cookie business to an equine facility to a shoe resale business.

The standard category winner last year was Elite Equine.

“Winning this competition has really accelerated our business plan,” said Paula Henline, one of the co-founders of Elite Equine.

“Within a week we had equipment on its way, we got elite equipment so that we can offer the best to our clients,” added Kylee Henderson, co-founder of Elite Equine.

They added that since winning the competition and opening their business they’ve built a waiting list and have been busy since.

This year, the competition has added a third division. There will be a start-up division, a culinary division, and a student division. Three winners will be awarded in each category.

Haslem says that the competition has enhanced the business community within the Uintah Basin.

“It has given entrepreneurs seed money to bring their business to fruition,” she said. “One of the most difficult issues for start-up businesses is getting financing. Most banks won’t loan to business owners until they have established traction for at least a year or two.”

Haslem shared her favorite part of holding the competition these last few years.

“Mentoring the business owners through the process has been my favorite part,” Haslem said. “I am always excited about the creative ideas that come before us. There is nothing more rewarding to me than watching the entrepreneurs grow in confidence, create their dream, follow the necessary steps of starting a business, and being successful.”

To learn more about the competition visit https://vernalinnovationhub.com/events/rise-and-thrive.