BY SCOTT KERBS firstname.lastname@example.org
3 local entrepreneurs edge closer into business
ST. GEORGE – Three finalists for the Southern Utah Concept to Company Contest were announced Thursday, as local entrepreneurs presented their technology-based business ideas to a panel of judges.
The contest, sponsored by Grow Utah Ventures, Zions Bank, USTAR, SEED Dixie and other local organizations, began months ago as more than 70 prospective entrepreneurs submitted their proposals with hopes of winning the grand prize of $10,000 in funds and an additional $10,000 in support services from economic development groups.
The three concepts selected from a group of eight semi-finalists include CoolCab, a cooling system for freight cabs designed to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions; Easyloadpro.com, an online auction Web site geared toward the shipping industry; and Flixify.com, a Web site offering digital scrapbook training for women.
Bill Pratt, director of USTAR outreach activities in Southern Utah, said he was impressed with the concepts submitted, expecting many to develop into successful businesses.
“I think any one of the ideas could be a good business for Southern Utah,” he said of the eight technology concepts presented to contest judges Thursday. “The whole purpose of this (contest) is to smoke out those ideas that are dormant.”
All three finalists will receive cash and services to help foster their innovative designs, said SEED Dixie Director Jill Elliss, with the grand prize winner announced next week at the Washington County Economic Summit.
Elliss said she and other members of the local business community worked closely with many of the entrepreneurs, helping them refine their ideas and craft concise 15 minute presentations to impress a panel of judges comprised of business owners, economic development specialists and other members of Southern Utah’s business community.
“They are innovative,” Elliss said of the three finalists. “They saw a problem and they presented a solution. Any of them can be successful, and I believe they will.”
Len Erickson, Director of the Dixie Business Alliance’s Small Business Development Center, said many of concepts presented could blossom into profitable businesses, offering high paying jobs in the technology sector.
“They are all excellent concepts and can be financially viable,” he said.
Jared Loosli and Bill Gordon, the minds behind CoolCab Cooling System conveyed their excitement after their concept was selected as a finalist.
Loosli said he and Gordon spent two years designing their product, eventually creating a cooling system for freight truck cabs using cold air from refrigerated trailers commonly used in the trucking industry.
The creators sought to reduce fuel costs as standard air conditioning units require the truck’s engine to continue running, This becomes problematic during summer months, Loosli said, as drivers generally spend extended periods of time parked in truck stops and other areas with their engines running in order to keep the cab cooled.
Using cold air from a refrigerated trailer to maintain an ideal temperature in the cab, Loosli said the CoolCab offers savings of $2,000 a year in fuel costs for each truck fitted with the system.
“It also reduces emissions dramatically,” he said.
Loosli said the St. George-based company is expected to release their product sometime in 2010.
“It will help the industry,” he said.
The concept submitted by finalist Kirk Harris was also related to the trucking industry, as he created an idea for a freight auction Web site.
“The people who are shipping would auction off the loads,” Harris said. “It is like eBay for the freight industry.
After the Flixify.com proposal was selected as a contest finalist, co-owner Jeff Poulton said he was pleased to see his efforts receive validation from the local business community.
Poulton said the prize money would help to expedite the launch of a Web site designed to help women create unique digital scrapbooks.
He said the market for scrapbook-related tutorials is rife with demand, and believes his concept will succeed in offering a unique video scrapbook training experience for women.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words and a video is worth a million,” he said.
Poulton said the contest offers a gesture of support to entrepreneurs in the technology industry as SEED Dixie works to diversify the local economy.