By Brandon Mattingly
Special to the NKyTribune
Some day, you may be able to purchase a Walk Easy, Slice Slide or Cord Keeper at one of your local stores, and if you do, you’ll have a group of Kentucky high school students to thank.
Those are just a few of the innovative products created by students at this year’s Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs program that were showcased this at the Lexington Venture Club.
The 2015 Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs recently concluded its three-week session with final presentations. Student groups pitched their ideas to a panel of judges who provided feedback on how to further their business models.
As a result of those presentations, five of the 16 teams – Walk Easy, Slice Slide, Cord Keeper, Loco Locs and Varsity Exchange – were selected to move on to present their business ideas. Walk Easy took home the $750 first-place prize, with second place and $250 going to Slice Slide. The winners were chosen by an audience vote.
The Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs (GSE) is an authentic entrepreneurship experience and is open to all students in 9th through 11th grade, regardless of GPA, with participants being chosen through a competitive application process. The three-week session focuses not just on how to get a business off the ground, but how to ensure its long-term success.
Students said weeks of preparation and working closely with successful entrepreneurs and business leaders will increase their chances of turning their business ideas into reality.
“I’ve learned that there’s a lot that goes into a business,” said Nathan Rummel, a rising junior at Eastern High School in Louisville and member of the team Performance Central. “It’s not just making a product and hoping that people buy it. It’s advertising, it’s marketing and it’s figuring out who the segments are that you’re trying to sell to.”
“You get to actually go out and experience different businesses and see how they operate,” said Dylan Kruse, a student from Dixie Heights High School in Kenton County and TurboRobo team member. “They lay out the process of how to start a business step by step and it really helps us know where to start.”
The progress made by students involved in the GSE program also caught the attention of those who know what it takes to build a successful company in the Commonwealth.
“It’s amazing that at their age they’re learning to think critically and understanding how businesses work,” said Randall Stevens, owner of ArchVision (a Lexington-based software company) and a judge for the competition. “They know a lot more than I did at that age, so it’s great that they’re able to get this experience.”
The businesses that were chosen to move on to Lexington to pitch their ideas were:
* Walk Easy – Product addresses problems with the lack of nerve sensitivity in the feet of patients suffering from neuropathy. A scanner takes the image of the bottom of the foot and identifies any abrasions, as well as notifies the patient’s physician with updates via email.
* Slice Slide – Cutting board with adjustable attachments for storage containers allows for a mess-free option for food preparation.
* Cord Keeper – Product offers an affordable solution to damaged phone charger cords by sliding over the damaged area and shrinking when heated to securely stay in place.
* Loco Locs – Custom formulated hair care products based on consumer hair type, environment and other factors.
* Varsity Exchange – Website provides a platform for athletes, parents and coaches to buy and sell athletic equipment without facing high consignment and service fees.
“What I love about this program is that not only does it provide guidance to students on how to start their own business, but it familiarizes them with the ins and outs of the daily operations of a business,” said Mandy Lambert, commissioner of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Department for Business Development. “As beneficial as developing their own business model is for these students, what they take away from conversations with some of Kentucky’s most successful business leaders is even more likely to be what allows them to flourish as they take the next step in starting their careers.”
The Kentucky Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs is a program formed in 2012 through a partnership including the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC), Kentucky Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the Governor’s office. Applications are completed online at KentuckyGSE.com. The application period for summer 2016 will run from Oct. 19 through Dec. 21, 2015.
GSE is offered by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and made possible by the sponsorship and support of the Cabinet for Economic Development, the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the James Graham Brown Foundation, HardScuffle, Inc., Chrysalis Ventures, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Commerce Lexington, Halliburton, James R. Boyd and many others.
Also providing resources to GSE is the Kentucky Innovation Network, an initiative of the Cabinet’s Office of Entrepreneurship. The goals of the Office of Entrepreneurship are to develop an entrepreneurial climate in Kentucky, provide guidance and support to startups and assist existing small businesses with growth opportunities.
To learn how the Kentucky Innovation Network is helping create and grow Kentucky’s small businesses, visit www.kyinnovation.com.