High School Outreach Programming by Kansas State

The Kansas State University Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship offers an annual state-wide high school competition, the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge, to help inspire and support youth entrepreneurs. The competition features a unique format and rubric, the mock board room, designed to recognize and reward the entrepreneurial spirit instead of focusing only on the business idea pitched. This year the program featured 50+ regional competitions with over 1,000 student competitors that culminated in a state championship, hosted at our institution, with over 70 high school teams competing for $75,000 in cash prizes. The competition is in its ninth year and has multiple public and private partners who provide a variety of resources and support to the initiative. In this session, we will share an overview of how the program was started, lessons learned, and best practices for those interested in developing programs to connect with high school students.

Presented by Chad Jackson

  • Kansas State started college pitch competition in 2013 and invited other universities
  • Open high school track a few years later
  • Hypothesis: supply chain model to develop better raw materials in high school to come to K State
  • Grew massively with 54 regional competitions last year and 1200 high school students participating
  • K State hosts championship in April to give out $75K in prize money
  • #1 GOAL = Recruitment to get in front of high school students and get them on campus
  • #2 GOAL = To inspire and support youth entrepreneurship as a career option and pathway
  • 5 Pieces of Advice
  • 1) Be clear about goals and success metrics
        • Align the competition structure and funding structure
        • Mock boardroom was much better
  • 3) Be clear about the judging criteria from the very beginning
        • External judges always debate 
  • 3) Be clear about the rules and make no exceptions
        • Received a ton of HS student requests/questions/exceptions
        • Pull out the rule book on day of, so be clear about your policies
        • Our policy is that we don’t accept school-run businesses
  • 4) Develop relationships directly with the HS teachers
        • One of the best things that has come out of this program for us
        • Connection to be able to refer students directly to us next year and every year
        • We send them all kinds of materials
        • We give them purple plaques to put on their wall
        • Want them to deck out the classroom with K State paraphernalia
        • We provide them with this free guide for students
        • Value = great story to tell to administrators and school board
        • It’s not just business teachers – English, History, 
  • 5) Ensure adequate staffing
        • This takes significantly more time than university entrepreneurship
        • Entrepreneurship Challenge Wedding – called by his staff because lots of logistics
        • Lot of communication and coordination
        • Dealing with minors + parents
        • 16 year old is not as good at communication
  • To be successful, you need partners!
    • Partners like Network Kansas
      • Funders who support entrepreneurial programs in the community
      • Wanted to advance their existing programming to do something new on the youth side
      • They administer these local competitions and have sanctioning process for standards
      • Recruit and promote at local level
    • Partners like Kansas Smithsonic Foundation
      • Financial supporter to run the program
      • Want their name part of it and notoriety of their charitable works
    • Students have 2 ways to enter state competition
      • 1) They can win 1 of the 54 local competitions
      • 2) 15 wildcard teams
        • Could come from part of state without a local competition
        • 2nd place team very competitive
        • 100-150 students
      • Requirements
        • 3 page exec summary
        • 2 min video
        • Goventuredash.com – developed by Network Kansas as part of system
      • Give 30-40 page feasibility document that we give for free to HS
      • Market it to those who are doing competiitons to support the classroom activities and students who want to get into it
        • Get them to provide name/email to recruit students from there later
        • $250 prize to any HS student who completes it, submits
    • Primarily individual students with teams up to 4
    • Event Day – 3 ways for HS students to compete
      • 1) Mock Boardroom
        • Details below
      • 2) Trade Show
        • Everyone’s favorite part of the day with their booth
        • Prototypes and samples
        • Judges walk through
        • Audience favorite award voting
        • Judges get to talk directly with the students
        • 2 hours of the day
      • 3) Intra-school community competition
        • Chance for students to network with one another
        • Share idea about button with school logo for students with Chad
        • Trading card game and pitch your idea to get cards from students
        • Competing with a different team
        • Networking and chance to win money
    • 2 huge pivots 4 years ago
  • 1) Moved away from investor pitches and moved toward the mock boardroom
      • Why?
      • Investor pitch – tech usually wins
      • Limited experience and limited ability of HS student to come up with something really sophisticated
      • Wanted to emphasize the idea that you can have a nugget of idea
      • Focus on entrepreneurial characteristics, not just the business
      • 3 page exec summary = 20%
      • Mock boardroom = 80% final score
        • 48 hours before, students get a list of critical thinking questions for the students about competition, scenarios, etc. 
        • Think about responses in advance
        • On the day of, 2 min elevator pitch, and then jump into answering those questions
        • Get scored on evaluating the responses to questions
      • Criteria
        • Realistic responses?
        • Justification?
        • Specificity?
        • Originality?
        • Not based on being a unicorn or launching ASAP
        • Focus on critical thinking and entrepreneurial characteristics
          • Didn’t want students who came in with a less sophisticated idea to be de-motivating experience
          • Want it to be a positive experience
    • 2) Eliminated placing
      • Similar to debate or band tournaments
      • Instead of 1st, 2nd, 3rd
      • Judges scoring puts them into different groups/categories based on overall score
      • In real world, coffee shop vs. dog groomer are not competing, so let’s not force HS students to compete like that
      • Simply let the rankings and leaderboard fall where it may
      • Exceptional – top tier
      • Second group
      • Don’t know how many will go in each group on a given year until analyzing the response
      • “We are giving out $75K and have no idea how we are going to do it until that day”
  • Unique Challenges
    • Goals of the institution is aligned with the goals of the sponsors, partners, and participants
      • Ongoing effort
      • University wants recruitment
      • Economic development partner wants to support youth entrepreneurship
      • Financial partner wants to be recognized and seen as charitable in community
      • It’s important that early on you talk to each partner to align goals and expectations
    • Recruitment ROI
      • Can continue to do better with #1 goal
      • ~20% of students who compete
      • Of which 15% come into business school
      • And 5% come into entrepreneurship program
      • Wish those numbers were higher
      • We are building a brand that is known across all the HS, so teachers recommend K State 
      • Participants may be junior/sophomore/freshman, so not enrolling right away
      • Don’t oversell the recruitment initiatives on the day of
  • Q&A
  • We do HS competitions in Canada and struggle with finding the teachers. What’s your approach to finding teachers?
    • Relied on the economic development partners to help make it happen
    • Got out the word through our main partner
      • Shared it with the chambers of commerce (who love this)
      • Want to share it with politicians and media because great story
    • Viral word of mouth with press out and on the news
  • What’s in the guide?
    • Idea generation
    • Assessing feasibility
    • Feasibility planning process
    • Activities for idea generation and walk them through the 3 page summary
    • Series of activities that they can complete
    • Must complete extra activities to qualify for 
  • Scholarship money?
    • Texas schools only give out scholarship money to get students to enroll
  • Time of year?
    • Do it in April to give students/teachers the school year to work on ideas, compete, qualify, and prepare for finals
  • $75K for 70ish student teams who all get $500+ if make the finals

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