Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Graphic

Ellsworth KS – Grow Ellsworth County, in association with the Network Kansas E-Community Partnership, and in coordination with USD 327, hosted the 2nd Annual Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) on February 20, 2023 at the Ellsworth Junior Senior High School.  Nine individuals and seven teams presented their business concepts with a written business plan, a 2-minute “elevator pitch”, a 4-6 minute presentation, and an exhibit to judges for a chance to win cash prizes.  Students in grades 7-12 are eligible to participate in this elective experience.

The winning concepts were:

1st Prize:  Layton Leiker with Leiker Lures

2nd Prize:  Donley Business Ventures, LLC with Thaddeus, Cruz, and Owen Donley

3rd Prize: Josie Kueser with Elkhorn Silver

Best Trade Show:  Jodi Donley with Jodi’s Sweet Treats

Best Marketing:  Paxton Huseman with Paxtons’Flags

People’s Choice:  Tucker Holt with Holt’s Small Engine Repair

Best Ag Business (sponsored by Ellsworth County Kansas Farm Bureau):  Layton Leiker

Students received prize money totaling $3350 courtesy of Network Kansas, Ellsworth County Kansas Farm Bureau, and Grow Ellsworth County.

“This year’s competition was filled with students full of passion, energy, and confidence.  It is an amazing experience to watch them blossom and learn lifelong useful skills.  We had a wide age range of participants this year, which is encouraging for the future of this competition.  I am proud of each one of them,” said Stacie Schmidt, event coordinator and Executive Director of Grow Ellsworth County.

In addition to prizes and recognition, the first-place finisher has the opportunity to compete in the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge at Kansas State University in Manhattan.  This event will include the top young entrepreneurs from across the state. All students are also eligible to earn a spot at the state contest by entering the Kansas YEC wild card competition.

The students’ performances were judged by local entrepreneurs and public sector partners.  Students were provided mentors for support throughout the process. 

For more information, contact Stacie Schmidt at 785-472-9204 or  For more information about NetWork Kansas or the E-Community Partnership, visit

Grow Ellsworth County serves as the lead agency to drive economic health and prosperity to Ellsworth County.