New ideas and economic success are just part of what the Business Plan Competition brings to the region

Grass Sticks originated from the Yampa Valley Center for Entrepreneurship Community Business Plan Competition in 2015.
photo courtesy

When Andrew Pickler created a bamboo ski pole in his garage in 2014, he knew it was a great idea, but the founder said it was the lessons he learned from developing a business plan the following year that built the foundation for Grass Sticks’ success.

This is where he developed a plan that not only found success when it won the Yampa Valley Center for Entrepreneurship’s Community Business Plan competition in 2015, but also shaped the company’s roadmap to reach its goals in the following years.

“I firmly believe it played a big part,” Pickler said of the competition. “Obviously the prize money was a huge help – at the time it was $10,000 – so that was a great start, but more importantly, the competition forced me to sit down and write a business plan, a financial plan, and a forecast for everything.”

Randy Rudassiks, director of the Yampa Valley Center for Entrepreneurship, said Root County residents who want to follow in the footsteps of the Grass Stick have just over a month to prepare their 10 business plans.The tenth Annual community business plan competition.

The deadline for action plans is 5 PM. October 17. In November, the authors of the best shows will present their plans to a panel of judges and the winners will be announced in December. The first place winner will receive $6,600, and the second place winner will receive $4,400. Rules, arbitration criteria and seminar registration information can be found at

Pickler said the competition also presented him to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a national non-profit organization with members that provides free advisory services and advice to business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.

He said the experience in the competition and the people he got to know as part of the event helped his business grow into what it is today.

“We had to sit down and write a business plan and make financial projections, and it was all something I would have done quite a bit, but I might not have spent nearly the same amount of time had it not been for the competition,” Beckler said. “Most importantly, the Entrepreneurship Center and SCORE provided expert support and advice. Experts and guidance throughout the entire process.”

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Startup Colorado is sponsoring the 2022 competition. The City of Steamboat Springs, Root County, Alpine Bank, THPK, Mountain Valley Bank, Yampa Valley Bank, Root County Economic Development Partnership, and Vectra Bank will sponsor the prize money. Previous winners have been C4 Crypto Advisors, HearO Club, Chill Angel, Grass Sticks, Mountain Pine Manufacturing, Hive 180 and Town Hall Outdoor.

Rodasix said the competition promotes effective planning for new startups, fostering greater funding opportunities and preparing new business for potential challenges. The Entrepreneurship Center offers a variety of seminars and workshops to prepare the contestants for this event. Those events are over, Rudasix said, but he is still available to answer questions and provide feedback and directions through the center.

“There’s about a month left before plans come in,” Rudasics said. “I can still give the free business advice that comes with it, and I can still advise people on what they need to do, what a good plan looks like and show them some examples.”

Competition is important to Steamboat and all of Root County, said John Bristol, executive director of the Root County Economic Development Partnership.

“It’s a great pipeline for those with ideas, and a great pipeline for developing new business,” Bristol said. “This competition, after 10 years of success, has shown successes in entrepreneurship and starting new businesses in the valley.”

He said the event promotes more diversity in local economies, which plays a key role in places like Steamboat, Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig where a diversified economy helps reduce economic shocks. He said the competition is a great way to improve the odds of more companies succeeding, and eventually contribute to local economies.

“This competition gives you this opportunity to get around your idea, and formulate it a little bit better with some feedback from some of the people who have done it before,” Bristol said. “The judges will have a diversity of ideas and a diversity of opinions which makes each plan stronger.”

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