Trailhead a boon to startup businesses, innovators

Ken Levy//March 22, 2023

Trailhead a boon to startup businesses, innovators

Ken Levy//March 22, 2023

Business newbies, entrepreneurs, students and others looking to make their mark in the local business scene have an invaluable ally in Trailhead Boise.

The  501(c)3 nonprofit supports community entrepreneurs and businesses by helping startups to launch, providing workshops, mentorships and job creation opportunities designed to help entrepreneurs make a place for themselves in the Boise-area business arena and beyond.

Trailhead staff, participants and Perkins Coie partners gather during a recent Boise Pitch Night competition offered by Trailhead. Courtesy photo

Trailhead does this with educational programs designed to assist everyone from entrepreneurs and students to innovators and makers. Joined by their business partners, including Perkins Coie, the Idaho STEM Action Center, Verizon, Key Bank and Idaho Digital Learning Academy, they offer such programs as You Lead Idaho. This program offers high school students a remote dual college credit course through IDLA, offering entrepreneurship, business, marketing and finance training. Following this opportunity, student teams pitch for scholarship funds.

Pitch competitions are perhaps their most well-known programs. These provide incentives for business newbies, students and others to garner cash awards designed to boost their business dreams. 

The largest of these, Boise Entrepreneur Week, is the Gem State’s biggest community driven event focused on entrepreneurship. Typically held in the fall, the event gathers high school and college students from throughout the state, to pitch their business ideas, solutions to real-world business problems, and innovations to a panel of judges. 

The five-day event includes workshops and talks, and recruitment sessions. The event focuses on how to start and grow businesses, with educational tracks and challenges centered around technology, medical technology, food industry, housing innovations, the future of business and funding issues. Competition winners receive cash awards to further their ideas and help birth new business ventures.

Overall, Trailhead has awarded more than $670,000 to startup companies.

Tiam Rastegar, Trailhead CEO and executive director. Courtesy photo

“Pitch competitions are the only vehicle for distributing prize money,” said Tiam Rastegar, Trailhead CEO and executive director, and co-chair of Boise Entrepreneur Week with Nick Crabbs, partner and chief community officer  of Vynyl. “Our programs are funded through sponsorship contributions.”

Trailhead sponsors include Micron, Simplot, Salesforce, Vynyl, Alturas, Albertsons, the City of Boise, Capital City Development Corporation, InTimeTec, Power Engineers, Recall InfoLink, Bank of Idaho, Kount, Scoggin Capital, tackle.io, Boise State University and the University of Idaho, Idaho Commerce, Zions Bank, and more.

BEW began in 2017, Rastegar said, and “while BEW is our biggest event and program of the year for Trailhead, it is only one of many concepts.”

Other competitions include the quarterly Boise Pitch Night, which focuses on local and regional startups actively fundraising in the community. The goal is to connect these startups with investors, angel funders, Trailhead members and the community.

The Trailmix competition is designed for early-stage food product businesses/consumer packaged goods, held during BEW. Pitch selectees get mentorship and guidance, media attention, promotion on social media, and product display opportunities. Winners get cash prizes and other in-kind awards including shelf space at Albertsons.

Trailhead also offers Lunch and Learns, providing member business partners to offer mentorships, professional insights, business plan tools, networking opportunities and myriad other success ideas.

Entrepreneurs can take their concepts to a three-week Trailhead series dubbed Idea, Set, Go! They can verbalize their ideas with opportunities to receive feedback, identifying their market and figure their next steps to bring their ideas to fruition.

“Trailhead features a collaborative and inclusive coworking space, that we then wrap with educational programing, mentorship and experiential learning programs,” Rastegar said.

The organization’s membership is comprised of more than 350 inventors, creators and businesses. Members get access to their downtown Boise offices, with internet and printing services among others, depending on the plan they select.

“Our vision is to democratize access to entrepreneurship, and our mission is to help entrepreneurs succeed,” he said.