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YEC Local Competition Results!


Contact:  Stacie Schmidt

Phone:  785-472-9204



Ellsworth KS – Grow Ellsworth County, in association with the Network Kansas E-Community Partnership, and in coordination with USD 327, hosted the 2nd Annual Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) on February 20, 2023 at the Ellsworth Junior Senior High School.  Nine individuals and seven teams presented their business concepts with a written business plan, a 2-minute “elevator pitch”, a 4-6 minute presentation, and an exhibit to judges for a chance to win cash prizes.  Students in grades 7-12 are eligible to participate in this elective experience.


The winning concepts were:

1st Prize:  Layton Leiker with Leiker Lures

2nd Prize:  Donley Business Ventures, LLC with Thaddeus, Cruz, and Owen Donley

3rd Prize: Josie Kueser with Elkhorn Silver

Best Trade Show:  Jodi Donley with Jodi’s Sweet Treats

Best Marketing:  Paxton Huseman with Paxtons’Flags

People’s Choice:  Tucker Holt with Holt’s Small Engine Repair

Best Ag Business (sponsored by Ellsworth County Kansas Farm Bureau):  Layton Leiker

Students received prize money totaling $3350 courtesy of Network Kansas, Ellsworth County Kansas Farm Bureau, and Grow Ellsworth County.


“This year’s competition was filled with students full of passion, energy, and confidence.  It is an amazing experience to watch them blossom and learn lifelong useful skills.  We had a wide age range of participants this year, which is encouraging for the future of this competition.  I am proud of each one of them,” said Stacie Schmidt, event coordinator and Executive Director of Grow Ellsworth County.


In addition to prizes and recognition, the first-place finisher has the opportunity to compete in the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge at Kansas State University in Manhattan.  This event will include the top young entrepreneurs from across the state. All students are also eligible to earn a spot at the state contest by entering the Kansas YEC wild card competition.


The students’ performances were judged by local entrepreneurs and public sector partners.  Students were provided mentors for support throughout the process. 


For more information, contact Stacie Schmidt at 785-472-9204 or  For more information about NetWork Kansas or the E-Community Partnership, visit


Grow Ellsworth County serves as the lead agency to drive economic health and prosperity to Ellsworth County.

2023 Formal Presentations & Executive Summary 1st Paragraph (in no order)

Josie Kueser, Elkhorn Silver

Elkhorn Silver provides hand-crafted jewelry by Ellsworth, Kansas artisan, Josie Kueser. They utilize only premium metals and natural stones to create one-of-a-kind items. These items currently include, necklaces, earrings, rings, and other jewelry items. Each piece is created entirely by Josie from start to finish. Elkhorn Silver offers high quality products to anyone looking to spice up their accessories or give a unique gift to someone on any special occasion. Consumers who buy Elkhorn Silver jewelry will have peace of mind that they bought a high quality, well made, unique item that could be enjoyed by many generations.

Lane Howard, LH Customs

At LH’s Customs, I make wooden flags in different shapes and sizes. I have made flags that can hang on a wall, and I also have even made one into a table. These flags can be personalized or made to the customers specifications. My mom and dad help me with building and design, when I need it. I want to build quality products that promote patriotism that customers can be proud to display in their home, office, or business. I make them locally out of my family’s garage. There are not any proprietary rights at this time. The “why” behind my drive and effort in each flag is the love I have for this country, and building something beautiful to share with others and in turn spread the love we have for our country as a whole.

Paxton Huseman, Paxton's Flags

In the United States alone, there are around two billion pallets in circulation. The vast majority of these are wooden and are replaced every year. According to the EPA, wood made up 8.7% of all American waste sent to landfills in 2017. This equates to 12,140,000 tons of wood sent to landfills. Wood pallets are around .06% of the total waste sent to landfills in 2017. All of those pallets are still sitting in landfills today. So here at Paxton's Flags we are determined to recycle this waste stream while promoting patriotism. Paxton's Flags is based in Ellsworth, Kansas. When customers purchase one of my pallet flags the have the assurance that they are purchasing a 100% American made product using reclaimed wood.

Layton Leiker, Leiker Lures

Leiker Lures engineers and creates handcrafted, unique fishing lures designed to catch bigger and more elusive fish. I have been hooked on fishing since I was old enough to hold a pole in my hand. As my fishing experience and knowledge progressed, I realized mass produced fishing lures are not effective or efficient at catching fish, especially big fish. These mass produced lures are seen so frequently by fish that these fish are no longer fooled by poorly crafted lures. This is when I decided to solve this dilemma myself by creating my own fishing lures. My lures are hand carved from cedar wood harvested by myself. The lure is then airbrush painted by hand to create unique color patterns that have never been seen before. Each lure is individually tested to ensure an authentic action on the retrieve. The action is one of the most important parts of the lure along with the painted color scheme. What sets me apart from other lures is the handcrafted, uniqueness of each lure and the attention to detail. There are currently no proprietary rights on Leiker Lures.

Jodi Donley, Jodi's Sweet Treats

Jodi’s Sweet Treats sells baked goods such as cake donuts, filled donuts, cupcakes, cookies, and cookies bars. Jodi’s Sweet Treats takes custom orders and occasionally sells products at the local coffee shop. Delivering orders to the customers residence or business is a unique feature of Jodi’s Sweet Treats. Jodi’s Sweet Treats continually tries new flavors and new products to add to the menu based on industry trends and seasons. In today’s hectic lifestyle people don’t have time to bake treats for special occasions, every day, or occasional indulgence. Additionally, people may not enjoy being in the kitchen to bake. Jodi’s Sweet Treats allows customers to order goodies and have them be delivered to their door. When you order from Jodi’s Sweet Treats you get homemade goodies that look pretty and taste delicious.

Thad, Cruz, and Owen Donley, Donley Business Ventures

We are Donley Business Ventures, LLC. Currently, we mow lawns and own a rental property. Our parents have financed the mowers for us, and we have made enough money from the mowing that has allowed us to purchase a house in the last year to turn into a rental property. We purchased the house with cash to avoid paying interest on a mortgage. We hope to earn your business and be able to serve you in the near future.

Tucker Holt, Holt's Small Engine Repair

Holt's Small Engine Repair offers reliable repairs and servicing on small engines and machines. Our services are beneficial to landowners everywhere who do not have the time or the means to properly care for their lawn and garden machines. We specialize in lawn mowers, weed eaters, chainsaws, utility vehicles and more. We offer personal and efficient serving and repairs at a competitive pricing. In the state of Kansas, there is a large need for lawn and garden equipment but very limited shops available that specialize in small engines. Most businesses offer repairs and servicing on a large dealership scale. We are centrally located in Ellsworth, Kansas which allows us to offer services to a large customer base while maintaining the small business feel and personable staffing.

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