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Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Series Successful Event Spotlight: Neosho County

By NetWork Kansas

Neosho 5

In November 2019, Neosho County hosted their first annual YEC Series event. For the past seven years, teacher Sherri Bagshaw had been working on her own to host a similar competition. After being approached by the E-Community team, Bagshaw worked to tweak her existing competition to fit into the YEC Series format. This successful competition featured 48 students comprising of 27 businesses. Bagshaw teaches two classes, and all of her students were required to participate for a grade. The event was also open to the rest of the student body.

Key components:

·       Involving the community

·       Organizing each element and sticking to the set timeline

·       Getting students to think outside of the box

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This event was well attended by community members, which Bagshaw credits to several things. 1) Before the event, a front page article was featured in the local newspaper. 2) Students are required to print 10 invitation cards each and pass them out to community members (parents don’t count). If the invitee attends the event and turns in their invitation, the student earns extra credit (five points for each card, up to 50 points). 3) Local sponsors support a $50 gift card prize for both the best tradeshow and the best elevator pitch. 4) The school district puts a large emphasis on partnering with businesses and industry in the community. Bagshaw invites local entrepreneurs to judge the event in person. Executive summary judges come from outside the community.

The competition included a preliminary round which sent nine finalists to a second round. All students competed in the tradeshow and elevator pitch portions on the night of the event regardless of whether or not they made it as a finalist. Dinner was provided for all of the judges that assisted with the evening event and the classroom preliminary. The Chanute High School Culinary Arts students prepared and served the meal. The community foundation matched prizes offered by the E-Community and the local college provided several small scholarships as prizes too.

Neosho YEC 4

Bagshaw said that the most important element of planning a competition is getting all requirements organized and sticking to your timeline. Check points for students along the way is also helpful. Each year she gives her competition a loose theme. This year it was “easier and/or safer products.” Students are encouraged to think outside of the “typical” business ideas, such as restaurants or food products. These are not prohibited, but if they choose them, they must work through making the labelling and packaging unique, as well as research licensing. In addition, students work through their financials with emphasis on repaying their loans.

Neosho County’s first event as part of the YEC Series was incredibly well attended with many students and community members involved. We look forward to seeing their competition develop throughout the coming years!