Would-be entrepreneurs and future executives will get their chance to show off their ideas Feb. 22 as part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The YEC provides the opportunity for Ford County middle school and high school students to present their business ideas to a panel of area business leaders, public sector administrators, teachers, peers, and other leadership from the community.

The YEC is presented by the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation in conjunction with the Network Kansas E-Community Partnership. This marks the fifth year for the YEC and the second year for the Ford County competition. In 2017, 454 students from 20 communities across the state participated.

Mollea Wainscott, special events coordinator for the development corporation, said the YEC exposes students to broader horizons than they might envision on their own.

"Entrepreneurship isn't always something they consider when they think about what they want to do with the rest of their lives," Wainscott said. "Having this competition plants that seed."

Students will present their business ideas with an executive summary followed by a four-minute formal presentation. A separate trade show competition will also take place.

The judging criteria allows students to experience how real-world investors and business leaders evaluate potential business ideas. Much of the criteria evaluates the actual market opportunity of an idea - is there a sizable market need and will the students' idea capture that market?

Presenters will also be judged on the viability of their business model and assessed on their management and profitability potential. Finally, the product or service will be evaluated as to how well it focuses on the customer and offers a clear value.

The 2017 winners, Amber and Canyon Laskowsky, presented a aerial drone photography plan to the panel and was able to move on and place at the the state competition.

Canyon further pursued the endeavor by using some of the prize money to become commercially licensed, and the group was subsequently hired by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce to photograph events during Dodge City Days.

Among entries so far registered this year are business plans covering sports nutrition, home staging, bowling life, and lawn care management. Wainscott said last year's competitors presented business plans for saddle-making and leather goods, and social media marketing, among others.  

The students will be competing for $3,500 in prize money at the local contest. First prize is $1,500, and there is an additional $500 award for the business concept with the best rural benefits.

Local winners, plus 15 wildcards will move on to the statewide Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge competition April 24 in Manhattan. Nearly $18,000 in prize money will be awarded at the state contest.

Groups of up to four students can compete. The deadline to register is Feb. 15.

The competition will be held Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. at the Dodge City Community College Little Theater. Wainscott encourages students who aren't in the competition to come and watch, hopefully nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit for future competitions.

"They'll see that it's fun and laid-back," she said. "They don't need to have a full-fledged business. They just need a concept to compete and have fun with the experience."

To contact the writer email sedger@dodgeglobe.com