For three years, the Meade County School District has utilized a $1 million donation from Sun Tan City co-founder and Meade County High School alumnus Rick Kueber and his family to provide up to $10,000 in capital to an applicant with an idea for a new business in the community or a new dimension to an already existing program. The 2021 Small Business Challenge, which was held earlier this month, gave four applicants the opportunity to show that investing in their business or idea would produce a positive impact on the community.
“The entrepreneurial spirit can be found everywhere,” said Kueber, who along with co-founding Sun Tan City is a leading Planet Fitness franchisee with 50 clubs in six states including Kentucky. “We’re excited to help the next generation of hard-working business owners start pursuing their dreams with a program that gives them the tools they’ll need every day to be a success.”
The donation also allowed the district to focus on entrepreneurial spirit in different pathways at MCHS and provided additional technology and innovation support for Meade County students.
“This donation allowed the school system to teach entrepreneurship across all pathways, not just within the entrepreneurship pathway,” said Marc Adams of the Meade County School District.
Applicants must be Meade County residents to apply and have a plan for long-term sustainability. Within a three-month timeframe, they must submit letters of intent, abstracts for their projects, and pitch their idea to a panel of judges selected by the school district. Pitches were judged on five criteria: innovative idea, proof of a market, demonstration of competitive advantage, proof of long-term sustainability and response to questions.
“The thought behind the process is to take entrepreneurs through a business planning process,” said Adams. “…It’s really the learning process that we’re funding here.”
This year, the five applicants were Ariona Haggard with A’s Boutique, Levi Wheatley with Magnify Media, Kimberly Phillips with Kimberly Phillips Clothier, Trista Phelps with the Doe Valley Farmers Market, and Tracy and Anthony Whitaker with Main Street Creamery. All participants walked away with an investment of some kind to support their idea, including cash infusions, Meade County Chamber of Commerce memberships and programs, and educational opportunities for them to learn more about their business.
Meade County High School offers an entrepreneurship class, and students in that class go through a similar process where they come up with a business or an idea that solves a problem. Adams says their goal is to communicate the potential for a cash infusion to students in the hopes to increase student participation in future years.
“Getting [students] to take that extra step to do this simple three-month process has been a barrier,” he says. “Real dollars are available; this is guaranteed money that will go into our community.”