Three Local Start-Up Companies Win Torch Grants

On October 10, three local start-up companies were each awarded $45,000 Torch Grants at the Spark the Springs event at UCCS. Salt Athletic, Lead Foot Racing and Defender Imports beat out other start-ups in a three-step competition to earn these grants. 

“The research clearly states that startups are one of the greatest job creators in any economic region,” said Tom Duening, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “If we want to foster continued growth in Colorado Springs, we need a robust startup ecosystem.”

The winners started by participating in the Venture Attractor: Scale to $1M Boot-Up Camp, a 16-week virtual entrepreneurship course paired with intense 1:1 mentorship for startup companies in the Sport/Outdoors, Human Performance, and Health Innovation sectors. After completion of the Scale to $1M Boot-Up Camp program, alumni were eligible to participate in the Torch Grants competition where they each have 10 minutes to pitch their venture to a panel of unaffiliated judges. The Top five companies move onto the Torch Grants Finals where the companies again pitch for 10 minutes to a new panel of unaffiliated judges. The top three companies were selected to receive the $45,000 Torch Grants awarded at Spark the Springs.

Background on the Torch Grants:

Torch Grants was an initiative founded by Tom Duening in late 2019 based off of his research into the St. Louis Arch Grants. After building the funding to offer the first Torch Grants, COVID struck and caused Tom to reconsider his next steps. Deciding to pivot, Venture Attractor was created to provide a due diligence and educational platform to the Torch Grants initiative. The first Venture Attractor: Scale to $1M Boot-Up Camp Cohort was in 2021 with the second taking place in early 2022. These cohorts then entered the first ever Torch Grants competition in June of 2022. The Venture Attractor is a university-based research initiative of the El Pomar Institute of Innovation & Commercialization (EPIIC) at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. 

About the winners:

Salt Athletic
Torch Grants Video, Rafael De la Vega interview

We are a sports technology company that focuses on integrating material technology-based solutions to develop premium athletic bags to the highest aesthetic and quality standards. Our first product, the aērcase, is a soccer cleat bag which features our patent-pending technology.

Lead Foot Racing
Torch Grants Video, Jett Johnson interview – 

LeadFoot Racing was created to offer the safest and most affordable way to get into nearly any racing format. To achieve this we have combined a handful of common automotive parts with a custom chassis and a motorcycle to create the greatest experience around! Since 2014, LFR has worked with countless partners to reduce the price people have to pay to get into racing. In this quest, LFR has created the Little Dipper, the ultimate way for someone to have a competitive race car while also learning how to work on it themselves and developing new skills.

Defender Imports
Torch Grants Video, John Rubley interview – 

Defender Imports is a Colorado-based business that specializes in the importation and restoration of classic Land Rover Defenders. As Land Rover enthusiasts, we understand customer needs because we have experienced the highs and lows of buying, selling, modifying and driving classic Land Rovers for over 15 years. Focused on rugged aesthetics and rooted in our love for classic Land Rovers, we embody the adventure and spirit of these iconic vehicles because we know that owning a Defender isn’t just an experience, it’s a lifestyle.