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E-Community Students Compete in the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge State Championship

By: NetWork Kansas

KEC Tradeshow 2018

MANHATTAN — The Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge (KEC) State Championship, hosted by the Kansas State University Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship, and sponsored by the Kansas Masonic Foundation, took place on April 24th and awarded high school entrepreneurs with over $18,000 in prize money. This statewide competition featured high school and middle school students from 35 Entrepreneurship (E-) Communities across Kansas.

Forty-four businesses consisting of 61 students presented their business concepts. Forty of these businesses hailed from E-Communities. Student teams submitted a written executive summary and presented a formal 4-minute presentation to judges in the initial round of the competition. Twenty-six businesses also participated in an optional trade show. The four businesses selected as finalists then went on to make their formal presentations again, followed by a question and answer session, to another panel of judges.

“Students from across the state not only competed but used the opportunity at KEC to learn from each other and inspire each other to be better in the future. I heard a few students comment on how they would improve their displays, their pitches, and even next steps they would take to make their businesses reality moving forward,” said Simone Elder, Manager of Western Region E-Communities with NetWork Kansas.

KEC all winners_2018

The winning concepts were:

1st Prize $5,000: Nicholas Flores, Kestrel Aerial, LLC (Wichita e2e E-Community); 2nd prize $4,000: Bridget Stanton, Bridge Digital Marketing (Riley County E-Community); 3rd prize $3,000: Sarah Clausen, Caitlin Low, and Wyntr Jacobs, Live Oriental (Cherokee County E-Community); 4th prize $2,000: Cole Srajer and Max Svoboda, Cole’s Cards (Marion County E-Community).

“The YEC Competition was surrounded with knowledgeable people that were willing to give me feedback and suggestions as to how to improve my business. They also provided connections, ideas, and support,” said Nicholas Flores. Flores won his local Wichita YEC event and went on to win first place at the KEC.

Honorable Mentions ($1,000 prize each) included:

Aidan Trent, FarmDrone (Ford County E-Community); Nicolas Cammarn, First Place Protein (Lyon County E-Community); Jade Artzer, Made by Jade (Sherman County E-Community); Meganne Nihart, Sweet Meg’s (Cowley County E-Community).

The goal of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) Series is to expose Kansas middle school and high school students to entrepreneurship and give them hands-on experience. Students that competed in their local YEC Series event automatically qualified for the KEC State Championship. Fourteen wildcard applications were also selected to compete through an executive summary open review.

"This program empowers our students to critically think about the needs in our area for new services or products. It builds connections students make with Republic County Economic Development resources before they start considering career opportunities outside our county. Not only does it help us encourage those students to be ‘rural by choice’ someday but it improves skills that make them better employees, civic leaders, and volunteers," said Luke Mahin, Republic County Economic Development Director.

The 2017-2018 YEC Series consisted of 31 local level competitions and over 700 student participants, which culminated in the KEC State Championship on Monday, April 24 at Kansas State University. The event was organized by K-State with sponsorship from the Kansas Masons. The YEC Series is in its fifth year and continues to grow each season.

For more information, contact Amara Kniep, Product Manager of E-Community Programs at NetWork Kansas, at 316-425-7059 or For more information about NetWork Kansas or the E-Community Partnership, visit