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Scott County 2018 FAST-TRACK Challenge Winners Announced

Wednesday, January 2, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rhea Sullivan
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The second annual Scott County FAST-TRACK Business Challenge was held on October 25, 2018. This “Shark-Tank” like business challenge featured pitches from five entrepreneurs who competed for over $18,000 in cash and professional services including participation in the Technology Village Business Program.  The FAST-TRACK Challenge received the “Program of the Year” award from EDAM in January, 2018.

Alan Tholkes, President and CEO of Medthera Inc., captured the 1st place honors.  The company, based in Shakopee, MN has developed the first walk therapy station designed to restore health and function for those who cannot stand, walk or have difficulty walking.   The NeuroWalk will be marketed to the 6.5 million people who use a walking assisted device and 2.3 million wheelchair users.   Tholkes stated, “The Fast Track Business Challenge really helped improve my skill at pitching our product and business. I feel more confident in getting others excited about what we have to offer. Also, I made some good connections and the prizes certainly help as well.  The First Stop Shop provided good guidance and resources that helped prepare for the competition. It was a great experience that I would recommend to all entrepreneurs.” (

Second place was presented to Melanie Cole and Vicky DeRouchey of ugo wear LLC., in Prior Lake.  The company offers the first and only compact electronics dry bag, with ugoZIP TM  survival suit waterproof zipper technology.  Melanie Cole, Co-founder ugo wear LLC. shared her thoughts on the competition, “Participating in the Fast Track Challenge wasn’t just good for our business it was good for our soul!  We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and all the people involved with this first class event, bravo Scott County “. (

Third place honors went to Paul and Lisa Atkinson of Atkinson Artisan Foods.  The Prior Lake based company featured their BIG MOUTH pistachios. The healthy alternative to traditional seasoned snacks are now found in over 20 locations.   Paul Atkinson’s BIG MOUTH Pistachios were featured in December 2018 on a KARE 11 segment on “Fun stocking stuffers that support MN companies”.  KARE 11 Fun Stocking Stuffers that support MN Companies  (

The three winners were among five finalists who were selected from a pool of applications submitted in August.  Finalists included Atkinson Artisan Foods, Catboxpro, Gifthorse, Medthera and ugo wear, LLC. 

The panel of judges included Angela Heikes, President and CEO of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) Gaming Enterprise; Mike Derheim, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board at The Nerdery; Charles Shannon, VP of Corporate Development for Equus Holdings; Kristin Haugen, Principal & Managing Attorney at KC Haugen Law, LLC.; and Justin Schultz, District Sales Manager for Wells Fargo’s SBA Lending.

Sponsors of the 2018 FAST-TRACK included the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Scott County Community Development Agency & First Stop Shop, Minnesota Valley Electric Coop’s Operation Round-Up, Wells Fargo Bank, State Bank of Belle Plaine, and Klein Bank.  Professional Service Providers included Argos Risk, KC Haugen Law, LLC., Michael Beach Coaching and Consulting, Technology Village Prior Lake, Open to Business, the New Prague Chamber of Commerce, Prior Lake Chamber of Commerce, Savage Chamber of Commerce and Shakopee Chamber and Visitors Bureau.   Approximately $18,000 in start-up cash and professional services were awarded to the three winners.

The Scott County FAST-TRACK Challenge is a free, annual business competition designed to fast-track start-up and first-stage businesses to success.  This year’s Scott County FAST-TRACK Challenge will take place in October, 2019.  For more information please visit:

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