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The Kentucky Innovation Network (KIN) at Eastern Kentucky University helped 15 teams of Lee County High School students prepare for the Lieutenant Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge pitch competition. Out of 700 teams across Kentucky, one from Lee County High School placed first in the recent competition in Pikeville.

Lee County High School students Michael Ackerman, Morgan Phillips, Jacob Osborne and Matthew Riley took home the win for their business concept, Simply Tiny Inc. As pitched in the completion, the founders, in collaboration with students from Lee County Area Technology Center in Beattyville, would use construction of tiny homes to serve as the primary revenue source for the business.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge is a business pitch competition open to Kentucky high school students in grades 9-12 from public, private or home-school groups. Through a partnership with the KIN and Junior Achievement, the event aims to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and provide real-life multifaceted business experiences to students across the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky Innovation Network at Eastern Kentucky University is a part of a unique and dynamic partnership that facilitates the development of start-ups, and assists growth-oriented businesses. It is managed as a partnership involving the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, and EKU.

Last fall, Lee County Schools Superintendent Jim Evans contacted the Network about incorporating entrepreneurship in the high school curriculum. KIN Director Kristel Smith and Assistant Director Stephanie Purvis pitched the Lieutenant Governor’s Entrepreneurship Challenge opportunity to approximately 200 Lee County High School students. From there, 15 teams participated and developed their ideas through entrepreneurship coaching with the business model canvas, provided by Smith and Purvis. Each team created a comprehensive written business plan, prototype of their product or service, and prepared a PowerPoint and verbal presentation to pitch at the competition.

“Kristel and Stephanie are preparing students across EKU’s service region for success in college and to compete in a global economy,” said Dr. Tom Martin, executive director of the Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Technology at EKU. “They provide the next generation of Kentuckians with the knowledge, skill, and ability to create a job and set their own trajectory, versus getting a job determined by someone else.”

Smith said: "We are ecstatic to have winners from the region, and are equally happy that the participants challenged themselves and achieved beyond their own expectations. Students who had never presented in a public forum before delivered pitches persuasively. Students who had never committed to this level of a project before saw it through. Others, who thought they couldn’t develop a prototype or an idea, made concepts come to fruition through processes such as the business model canvas and business plan development. Ultimately, all of the students who participated in the LGEC process have accomplished a significant amount.”

Evans and Lee County High School Principal Debra Smith proactively rallied community leaders for support. In addition to the Kentucky Innovation Network, EKU Regional Outreach Agent Fawna Playforth, Lee County Economic Development Director Dedra Brandenburg, Lee County Youth Career Connection Coordinator Jeanette Brandenburg, former Youth Service Center Director Pam Cornelius and the local adviser, Rebecca Mullins, all played vital roles in helping the Lee County students prepare for the LGEC.

For more information about the Kentucky Innovation Network, visit www.kyinnovation.eku.eduor call 859-622-8571.