A cross-section of student entrepreneurs from across the state of Kansas are set to win big, Tuesday — if they can level with a room full of sharks at the K-State College of Business.
Testing the power in their pitches, the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge is expected to award student innovators from 65 high schools and the state’s seven major universities up to $75,000 in prize money, explained Bob Shively, executive director of the Kansas Masonic Foundation — presenting partner of the contest which is supported by Network Kansas.
“Most of these young men and women have had to compete in local events to gain a position in the statewide competition,” Shively explained. “The unique and creative business ideas are truly amazing. … Those attending [regularly] leave in awe of these ideas and concepts.”
Funds will be divided among qualifying groups in five high school-level categories: existing business; technology; agriculture; open division; and elevator pitch; and three university level categories: tech; open division; and elevator pitch.
Click here for more on the competition’s structure and a look at what’s up for grabs in each contest.
Their third go at the contest, which has called K-State home for five years, the Masonic Foundation made a five-year, $1 million commitment to innovation, Shively detailed.
“Most of these Masons own businesses themselves or lead companies here in Kansas,” he said. “They want to help these young entrepreneurs better understand the challenges and what it takes to be successful.”
Committed to growing startups and small businesses in order to strengthen the Kansas economy, 21 of the state’s masons will serve as contest judges during the day-long event.
The challenge serves as a show of support for young entrepreneurs with fresh ideas, added Chad Jackson, director of the K-State Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship.
“Our purpose is to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset; a set of skills they can use throughout their career that are as relevant to large companies as they are to startups,” Jackson said. “These skills like critical thinking, creative problem solving, and effective communication are necessary to be successful in business.”
Sharing K-State’s new business building and its resources with students from around the state — especially those looking for a place to call home after high school — is another highlight of the competition, Jackson said.
“We offer a number of truly unique opportunities for students who are looking to advance professionally and we want to be able to share that with as many people as possible,” he said.
A partnership built on a common goal, both K-State and the Masonic Foundation are committed to playing whatever small role they can in the success of student innovators, Jackson noted of the relationship.
“For me, student success is why we do what we do. I’m here to help students be more successful,” he said. “Sometimes that means helping students to find their passion, sometimes it means helping them to launch a new venture, and sometimes it means helping them to find their first job out of college.”
Click here to learn about Bungii: one of Startland’s Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2019. A company born out of the K-State Launch contest in 2015.