By: Bailee Henry
Senior Project Manager, E-Community Programs
Growing up in rural Kansas, I had the opportunity to participate in many facets of high school life, including almost every club that my school had to offer. Although my favorite was Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), my involvement in all those clubs helped me to come out of my shell, gain experience public speaking and learn valuable interpersonal skills. Extracurricular activities in high school and college taught me the importance of common traits like confidence, communication and eye contact.
Now, I am an adult, and member of the workforce richer for the experiences I had during my youth. I have experienced firsthand the benefit of extracurricular activities. I love my job (and the wonderful people I get to work with) but, even better, I now oversee the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) Series – a program that helps to teach young people the same valuable traits I previously mentioned.
NetWork Kansas launched the 2022-2023 YEC Series in August, opening applications for Kansas communities to host local YEC events. A YEC event starts with a community champion taking the lead to sanction and organize a YEC event, with the goal of providing hands-on entrepreneurial experience for a communitys youth.
Typically for students, local events involve writing a business plan/executive summary, sharing their idea at a tradeshow booth (imagine a science fair display about a business concept), and making a formal presentation. On a given day, students compete with their business idea for the chance to win prize money and advance to compete at the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge (KEC), a championship for the best young entrepreneurs in the state. Students are judged by a mix of local entrepreneurs, mentors and community leaders who attend the event and provide valuable feedback. While the events look different between communities, the outcome is still the same: a better future for Kansas as young people learn valuable skills.
My favorite part of working for NetWork Kansas over the last year has been the ability to meet these young entrepreneurs. They are so creative, confident, unique and, most importantly, inspiring. To read about one YEC participant with a dream and Two Little Goats, visit: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/stories/2022/09/kansas-profile-two-little-goats-soap.html
This year, the KEC will be held in the Kansas State University Student Union on April 20, 2023. This competition is hosted by the K-State Center for Entrepreneurship, in partnership with the Kansas Masonic Foundation and NetWork Kansas. This year, the KEC will feature more than $60,000 in prizes for aspiring high school entrepreneurs.
Why does it matter? The better question is why doesnt it matter? More than 1,000 students took part in the YEC series this last year, creating real or entirely conceptual businesses. That means more than 1,000 students learned about business plans, financials, and entrepreneurship in general AND gained those valuable skills I mentioned earlier. It REALLY matters because as the world was being put on hold due to COVID-19, YEC participation continued to grow!
Wow! The future is looking bright in Kansas!
By investing time, energy, and money into the youth of Kansas, we are also investing in the future of Kansas, and that is why youth entrepreneurship matters!
For more information on the YEC Series or to learn how you can get involved, please reach out to myself at [email protected].
About NetWork Kansas:
NetWork Kansas was established as a component of the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 to further entrepreneurship and small business growth as a priority for economic and community development in the State of Kansas. Backed by more than 500 partners statewide, the NetWork Kansas service promotes an entrepreneurial environment by connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the expertise, education and economic resources they need in order to succeed.
NetWork Kansas facilitates the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem within participating communities through the E-Community Partnership. Contributing factors to successful development include availability of financial capital, support by local leadership and development of educational resources. All of these factors combine to increase entrepreneurial activity in participating towns, leading to increased startup activity, business expansion, job creation and more.
For more information about the Entrepreneurship (E-) Community Partnership, visit www.networkkansas.com/ecommunities or call 877.521.8600.