By James Steindler
Coventure is a nonprofit based in Carbondale that provides coworking space for members, ranging from single day use to permanent desk space. But, according to Administrative Director Teresa Tenbrink, it’s much more than that. “We have a mission to empower and support local communities and businesses on the Western Slope,” she explained during the organization’s 2021 virtual pitch event.
For the past four years, Coventure has put on an annual pitch event for up-and-coming businesses in the region. Presenting entrepreneurs are selected after applying to partake in the event to get exposure for their businesses.
“This year, we wanted to showcase businesses that are tackling big issues during COVID, such as affordable housing and labor shortages,” said the pitch event’s host Diana Peiffer. Presenters could pitch for capital investment, strategic partnerships and “even employees,” Peiffer explained.
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky made an appearance. “We’ve worked really hard on economic development and Coventure has been an important part of that,” he said before wishing the six participants the best of luck.
While there were three judges to ask questions of the six presenters, there were no winners or losers, explained Coventure Executive Director Mike Lowe. “It’s not that kind of shark tank,” Lowe said. “The fact that they made it to the pitch event, that’s the victory, because most of these companies will get some kind of funding or resources to help move the needle.”
Read on for a brief description of each of this year’s presenters.
The first presenter was co-founder and president of Spring Born, Charles Barr. “Spring Born is a fully-automated lettuce production facility in Silt,” explained Barr. It’s an indoor agricultural facility that grows lettuce 365 days a year. The company operates on 255 acres of land that sees traditional ranching uses as well. “We see this greenhouse as an extension of traditional farming and we’re enhancing it with this new greenhouse automation.”
Some of the benefits to growing indoors which Barr outlined are: 1) cleaner produce, 2) 90% less water use compared to outdoor lettuce grows and 3) freshness year-round. “Spring Born will produce 3000 pounds of lettuce every single day. Those 3000 pounds are for this market; they’re produced in this area, they’re consumed in this area and it makes for a very stable source of production for our retail partners.”
More information about Spring Born can be found at: https://springborn.us
Copper Key Tiny Homes
“I’m here because we believe that tiny homes will shift the housing paradigm and help us all with the housing crisis we’re facing today,” said Copper Key Tiny Homes co-founder Emily Hisel.
“Our company is poised to build a first of its kind, pocket tiny home community featuring both tiny homes on foundations as well as land space for those who own a tiny home on wheels,” Hisel stated. “This will allow us to immediately build and rent to the local population while also attracting people from across the country who want a legal place to live in their tiny homes.”
Hisel explained that they have already acquired 15 acres of land for the pilot project adjacent to the city of Rifle. There, they plan to include 184 rental units, a community building and a gazebo. The land is located in unincorporated Garfield County.
More information about this start-up can be found at: https://copperkeytinyhomes.com
This company endeavours to support individuals diagnosed with chronic diseases. “We spend $19 billion every year on wellness and preventive medicine, but patients need support every day which is too expensive one-on-one,” said founder Chris Beebe. “We see this as a massive issue and we’re building NexWell to fix it.”
The application platform is designed with three tiers: 1) a patient paced habit change program, 2) a health-oriented discovery feature “to help patients find the businesses and places that support them” and 3) an optional social community component to connect folks battling the same or similar diseases.
More information can be found at: https://www.nexwellhealth.com
Jupiter and Co.
Heather Bryan is the first woman to design and develop an engraving system. “More importantly,” said Bryan, “I’ve created a franchise and business opportunity that can be duplicated easily as a home-based-business.” This was also the only franchise highlighted during the pitch event.
Bryan developed the company in part due to the pandemic, to enable folks to work from home. More information about Jupiter and Co. can be found online at: https://jupiterengraving.com
Thrijv is another company whose team is concerned with providing people with affordable housing, but with the potential to live off-grid. “Thrijv creates modular prefab off-grid and autonomous dwellings and infill solutions for self-reliant humans,” said co-founder Eric Amyot.
The modules are like Legos and can be added upon as a family or business grows. “The modules include renewable energies such as wind and solar,” Amyot explained, “and sustainable solutions like water recapture. And they also grow their own food to feed their inhabitants.”
More information can be found at: https://thrijv.com/
Mike Ligrani created IronIQ Inc., a supervisory control and data acquisition (more commonly referred to by its acronym: SCADA) software company based out of Grand Junction. “SCADA is used in a lot of mission control industries, such as oil and gas, power quality, power distribution, water treatment, mining — and it’s starting to get a pretty big foothold in green energy and precision agriculture,” explained Ligrani. He stated that most SCADA software is becoming obsolete.
“IronIQ has reinvented the way SCADA software is built. They’ve taken something that has been historically very complicated and now made it accessible to every company,” said pitch-host Peiffer.
For more information about IronIQ Inc., visit: https://iron-iq.com