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NKY Students Win Awards at State School for Entrepreneurs

The Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs (GSE), an agency within the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC), hosted its annual Demo Day at Northern Kentucky University on July 13. Teams of Kentucky high school students developed business models, designed prototypes and pitched 18 startup ideas to an audience of more than 400 people.

More than 300 high school students applied to participate in the GSE program that ran from June 23 – July 13, but only 72 students were selected from this highly competitive application process. During the rigorous three-week residential program, 72 governor scholars learned firsthand about the opportunities, benefits and challenges of launching a business concept from the idea phase to pitching it to potential investors.

“The Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs is igniting passion in young minds for developing and implementing business ideas right here in Kentucky,” said Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Derrick K. Ramsey. “Students leave the program with a newfound understanding and love of entrepreneurship, as well as an innovator’s eye and a founder’s grit.”

Out of 18 innovative startup ideas for a service or product, three teams of teen entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of judges earning bragging rights and cash prizes.

The 2019 Demo Day finalists were as follows:

First Place – Pawject SOS with team members Grace Kramer, Campbell County High School; Kurt Zurad, Larry A. Ryle High School; Kayla Murphy, McCracken County High School; and David Ashley, Bethlehem High School in Nelson County, won $1,000 with a durable, GPS tracking collar attachment that helps track lost or missing pets through an app.

Second Place – BounceBack with team members Aidan Sheridan-Rabideau, Aafreen Shaik and Angelina Atieh, all of duPont Manual High School in Jefferson County; and Anneli White, Martha Layne Collins High School in Shelby County, won $750 with a sonar technology app, which monitors, tracks, and combats anxiety and panic attacks.

Third Place – Bare Water Co. with team members Isabel Wolter, Sacred Heart Academy in Jefferson County; Jack DuPlessis, DuPont Manual High School in Jefferson County; Eli Buchholz, homeschool; and Riley Hamm, Beechwood High School, won $500 for a brand that focuses on transitioning from plastic water bottles to filling aluminum cans with water, complete with a re-sealable aluminum top, making the product infinitely recyclable.

Panelists included Jonathan Webb, CEO of AppHarvest; Ramel “Smooth” Bradley; former UK basketball player and Community Director of AppHarvest; Rebecca Wheeling, CEO of Schedule It; and Meg Rush, Digital Management Consultant.

Through GSE, teens toured 15 startups and businesses, networked with more than 40 seasoned entrepreneurs, and dedicated over 240 hours to developing their business models. Businesses from across the Commonwealth including Toyota MMK, Forest Giant, El Toro, Awesome Inc., Base 110, and CVG Airport, welcomed the young entrepreneurs sharing the challenges and successes of their businesses in candid conversations, while allowing unparalleled access to the inner workings of day to day business.

“We could not have had a successful GSE without the generous business people and entrepreneurs who opened their companies to our participants,” said Natasha Sams, Director of GSE. “It has been amazing to watch the growth of the students through this challenging program that encourages Kentucky students to take risks, and address failure as a positive lesson on the path to success. Entrepreneurs leave the program with not only the real-world tools to start a business, but a network of contacts from around the Commonwealth who can help them succeed.”

GSE provides more than $2.7 million in scholarship funding opportunities to Kentucky high school students each year. Through partnerships with entities such as the EWDC, the Cabinet for Economic Development, the Marksbury Family Foundation and the Parker Family Fund, GSE is free for selected entrepreneurs.

Since 2013, more than 350 student entrepreneurs have received GSE scholarship funding. GSE students gain access to a host of scholarships to colleges and universities in Kentucky. Alumni have launched eight companies, filed multiple patents, and hundreds of young, talented individuals are engaging in Kentucky’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Applications for the 2020 Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs will open in November. To learn more about GSE scholarship opportunities, visit www.KentuckyGSE.com.

-Staff report