SHERIDAN – RJ Bungert has spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the best way to transport his lunch. You’ve spent so much time thinking about this topic, in fact, Bungert’s luxury lunch box company Outter Limits is now a finalist in the 2021 Sheridan Start-Up Challenge.
Like many stories in Northeast Wyoming, the story of Bungert’s new and improved lunch box began in the Campbell County mining basins. Bungert spent 10 years operating heavy equipment for coal mines, working 12 to 14 hours and traversing miles of rough terrain every day. The long days required Bungert to bring a hearty lunch and entertainment (a newspaper, tablet, or other activity to do during downtime) to work.
A lunch storage problem quickly became apparent: None of the lunch boxes, Bungert said, could withstand the wear and tear of traveling with him through the coal mines. Bungert accidentally shredded three to four lunch boxes each year. The single receptacle in most lunch boxes, combined with the rugged terrain of the coalfield, crushed their meals and rendered the ice packs ineffective. Neither lunch box had enough storage space to hold Bungert’s daily entertainment. He opened his worn out lunch box every day to see bruised fruit, soggy sandwiches, and nothing to amuse himself with.
Unhappy with this pattern of buying and buying lunch boxes only to have his lunch destroyed, Bungert began experimenting with building his own lunch box. This is how the Outter Limits bag came about, a water-resistant backpack with a removable hot or cold food storage center and a rubber base to resist wear and tear.
The Outter Limits lunch box looks like a ruggedized backpack. Inside, however, the bag stores what Bungert calls the vault, or a customizable container for storing hot or cold food. Bag pockets, insulated liner and dome carry food and beverages at the desired temperature. The bag’s padded lid, when supported by the dome, also doubles as a carry-on seat.
Bungert expects to release a second version of the bag in spring 2022. The new version will be fully waterproof, rather than just waterproof, and will include an improved bag liner.
Bungert entered its Outter Limits exchange in the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge 2021, led by the Sheridan branch of IMPACT 307, a state-owned business incubator operated through the University of Wyoming.
Skye Heeren, Deputy Director of IMPACT Sheridan, IMPACT 307’s local field office, identified Bungert’s business as a competitor to the Startup Challenge. The Outter Limits bag, Heeren said, was field tested by Bungert and has great potential to expand beyond Wyoming, across the region and nation.
Although Outter Limits production facilities are located in Gillette, the Sheridan 2021 Start-up Challenge accepted registrations from companies in Johnson and Campbell counties. Heeren said IMPACT 307 hopes to host a Gillette Start-Up Challenge in May 2022.
The judges for the Start-Up Challenge selected Bungert’s Outter Limits as one of six finalists, out of 40 applicants. This year’s three winners, who will be selected at the WYO Center for Education and Performing Arts at Pitch Night next week, will divide the $ 100,000 seed capital based on the financial needs of their businesses.
Bungert hopes the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge will help Outter Limits increase name recognition. If Outter Limits wins the challenge, Bungert said, it plans to use the startup capital to offset some of the costs it has invested in the business and continue to build the new version of the lunchbox.
Going forward, Bungert hopes to expand Outter Limits bag production while maintaining local production and creating more jobs in Northeast Wyoming.
“With this idea, I feel like we can create so many different products…” said Bungert. “If we can do what we hope to do with this, it could create a lot of jobs for America.”
The winner of the Sheridan Start-up Challenge will be chosen at a public Pitch Night event, hosted by WYO, on November 10 at 5:30 p.m.