The Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge 2021 - Fostering enterprise, rewarding innovation!

The Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge 2021 - Fostering enterprise, rewarding innovation! Main Photo

20 Apr 2022


Initiated in 2017 and administered by the University of Texas Permian Basin, the Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge has since been an annual event that functions to identify and nurture new businesses in Midland through a rigorous process of business plan creation, market research, and financial training. Every year, businesses are selected as winners of the Challenge by an independent panel of judges comprised of local business owners, bankers, and prominent community members. This year, $500,000 dollars were awarded to the winning entrepreneurs, representing a diverse range of businesses and industries.

We spoke to some of the winners of this year’s Challenge:

Lauren Johnston, owner of a restaurant and bar in downtown Midland - Lost Books, (formed in November 2020 and finally opened in May 2021) is excited about the big changes happening, seeing the restaurant grow in just one year. On asked how the funds would be helpful to the business, Lauren says - “ Due to the generosity of those involved in funding this challenge, Lost Books will be able to double in size, by adding more seating areas, as well as create a commercial-grade kitchen allowing us to offer a menu to the community it hasn’t seen before!”

Tyler Brawley, owner of Typickle Pickles is a local pickle manufacturer, and the creator of a variety of pickled products using okra, onions, garlic, cucumber, and jalapenos.  Tyler started the company in January 2020 with a few jars of jalapeno pickles that just flew off the shelves. Soon, he was inundated with calls from people asking for his product. He had to soon shift production, from his kitchen to the kitchen at the Mulberry Café. Brawley started selling to restaurants and local vendors, and eventually became a regular feature at the Midland Downtown Farmers Market.

How has winning the Challenge helped Typickle Pickles? Brawley says, “These funds have been a tremendous win for us! We shall use the funds to build a commercial kitchen and warehouse for production. We are also going to use the money to build a very small retail space at the production facility. We will be located adjacent to Rosa’s on North Big Spring Street, next to Midland Meat Co. and Gerardo’s Casita. We are very excited to get going with the production of Typickle Pickles!”

Courtney Luoma graduated from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and with Summa Cum  Laude honors. Serving as a registered nurse for the past 10 years, Courtney is currently in the process of opening The Birth Center of Midland, LLC -, the only free-standing birth center in the Permian Basin. Passionate about promoting the health benefits of normal physiological childbirth, Courtney states, “...the Birth Center of Midland is an out-of-hospital birthing facility located within minutes of Midland Memorial Hospital. It will offer safe, low-intervention, humanizing care in the hands of a Certified Nurse Midwife and Registered Nurses who are qualified and equipped to provide emergency services when needed. Most families are interested in a home-like experience but desire the safety and security of being near a hospital should complications arise.”

The Birth Center of Midland entered the Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge and won $100k in support from the Midland Development Corporation. Courtney’s role at the birth center will be to serve as the Director of Clinical Operations, ensuring that healthcare standards are met and optimized, and streamlining clinical functions. As the owner, she will be responsible for all oversight of the facility and the business. Courtney says, “...we anticipate 5 births per month in the first year and plan to reach our goal capacity of 20 births per month by the 4th year. We estimate the birth center will create six employment opportunities by the end of the 3rd year.  As out-of-hospital birth demand continues to increase, The Birth Center will be poised to meet that demand”.

Magrym Consulting is another winner of the Challenge. A minority-owned civil engineering consulting firm located in Midland, Texas, Magrym was founded in May of 2018 to serve clients in the Permian Basin. Claudius Sanchez Czyzewska, owner, stated that the intention was to use the MEC funds to recruit the right team members to help grow the business at Magrym. He stated, “Magrym currently serves the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin.  Our business goals include expanding our services and diversifying the markets we serve. We would like to recruit and maintain engineering professionals in the Midland community and surrounding areas.”

Stacy Livingston, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Midland AF, is one of the winners of the Challenge this year. Stacy states that Midland AF was inspired by her move to Midland in January 2019. “It was clear that the general impression of Midland was that it was a place that lacked amenities, things to do, and general quality of life. I set out to find out for myself by visiting local businesses, and changing perceptions by creating an Instagram about Midland – and thus Midland AF was born.”

According to Livingston, the funds from winning the Challenge will prove to be very helpful to the business. “Everything we’ve accomplished thus far has been personally financed, utilizing a cross-functional team to my existing digital marketing agency, Livlen Media. Having this grant will allow us to concentrate our efforts and focus on scalable opportunities (such as our app) to allow us to grow and make an amplified impact in the community. It also affords us the opportunity to work on a much faster timeline and partner with more skilled developers than we were working with at the beginning of the app development process.”

For the winners of the Challenge, the support of the Midland community plays a major role in the success of their individual businesses. 

Lauren Johnston, Lost Books added, “Lost Books has really big plans for future events! Like many successful businesses, we are continuously adapting to the growing community in downtown Midland. We will be here for many years to come and look forward to serving our community by offering something truly unique to the area.” 

For Tyler Brawley, “......the future goals are to maintain our local production levels. We would love to reach out to the community and hire them to grow our vegetables. We are here to provide local products and delicious pickles to our restaurants and retailers. We plan to produce 3 & 5-gallon buckets along with 16 and 24-oz jars in packs of twelve, very soon.”

As for Stacy Livingston, the goals for Midland AF and the Midland community are closely tied. “We want to continue to create a great digital resource for transplants, locals, and visitors to experience all of the great things that Midland has to offer while growing our in-person community through events. We’d like to grow our staff in order to support further diversification of our offerings as well, focused on hiring locally first.”

Promoting business expansion and job creation through an established business climate and a strong community, the Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge fosters enterprise and innovation, helping to grow Midland’s economic stability and quality of life. Are you a new business or expanding one? Click here to learn more about the Midland Entrepreneurial Challenge.