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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Young entrepreneurs' efforts rewarded with cash, recognition

Updated: Apr 11, 2023


Laney Umphenour, center, and Rees Chapman, right, explain the business plan for their company, LR Western Jewelry, to Jennifer Leach and two other judges. The pair won first place in the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in Pleasanton on Tuesday, March 7. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)


PLEASANTON – Six Pleasanton High School students walked away from Tuesday’s Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge with a total of $1,850 in prize money, and all 11 students came away with a better understanding on how to start a business.


Laney Umphenour and Rees Chapman received the top prize of $1,000 in the competition for their entry: LR Western Jewelry. Dressed in business attire that included beaded necklaces and bracelets they crafted, the two entrepreneurs were able to convince the judges of their business plan, which includes sales on social media and at craft shows.


Second place and $500 went to Doniphan “D.J.” Meik and his Productive Produce business idea. Meik’s business plan included teaching people how to grow their own produce and how to preserve their harvest. His plan also included selling fresh produce that he grows.


D.J. Meik, holding the certificate, won second place in the challenge. Shaun West, from left, Jennifer Leach and Josh Baldwin were judges in the challenge. (Destiny Fletcher/Special to the Journal)


T.A.T. Custom Welding received $350 for its third-place entry. Taryn Ogden, Ana Crisman, and Talon Hamilton are the partners in this business venture. Their business plan includes providing a welding service plus making artistic works, including a turtle fashioned from disc from a farm implement and metal flowers.

“Metal flowers last forever,” Hamilton said in promoting the company’s product.


“NetWork Kansas and Linn County E-Community Foundation sponsored the prize money,” said Linn County Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower. “First place will go to the state competition at K-State on April 20, and second and third places are going to compete for a wild card spot at state.”

Judges for the event included Hightower; Josh Baldwin, Jennifer Leach and Elaine Jaeger from the county’s Economic Development Committee, Linn County Public Works Administrator Shaun West and Janet Miller. Miller is the NetWork Kansas manager of rural entrepreneurship for the southeast region, which includes Linn County.

Talan Hamilton, from left, Ana Crisman, and Taryn Ogden's T.A.T. Custom Welding placed third in the event. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)


The contest was judged on three areas: an executive summary that contestants turned in two weeks prior to the event, a four-minute presentation and their trade show booth, said Hightower. Those three areas were weighted the same. The focus of the rubrics was on financials and marketing.

Other entries included:

  • Smooth Brew Coffee Shop by Emersyn Cayton – A coffee shop in Pleasanton

  • MASA (Make America Sweet Again) by Levi Hardy – A cookie-making business

  • Firestar Birdbaths by Blake Hibbs – using clay pots to make birdbaths to sell at garden shops

  • Lime Lemonade by Hunter Lusso – Selling a freshly made mixed citrus drink

  • Meekly Milk by Benson Meik – Selling Grade B milk from his Jersey cow


Most of the students came from PHS teacher Destiny Fletchers Entrepreneur class. However, Fletcher said the contest was open to all students in the school and that two of the presenters were not in the class.


Participants in the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge include, front row from left, Benson Meik, Emersyn Cayton, Rees Chapman, Laney Umphenour, Taryn Ogden, Talan Hamilton, Ana Crismas; back row, Blake Gibbs, Hunter Lusso, D.J. Meik, Levi Hardy, and teacher Destiny Fletcher. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

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