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Dunn wins cash prize in virtual contest

Courtney Blankenship
St. John News
Ian Dunn of St. John, Kansas is at home in the machine shed, where he likely came up with an idea to bale straw for others. His entrepreneurial entry in a virtual contest won him $250 in prize money. More than 140 youth across Kansas entered the 2020 competition.

Ian Dunn, a St. John native and incoming freshman, earned second place in the middle school category of the first-ever statewide Kansas Youth Virtual Entrepreneurship Challenge for his ‘Straw Baling Service’ project idea.

The event was made possible in a partnership between Camp Destination Innovation and Network Kansas, and it was designed to give youth ages 14-18 the opportunity to win cash prizes by brainstorming creative entrepreneurial ideas and pitching those ideas in video recordings submitted from April 27 to May 11.

Students in elementary, middle school, and high school were eligible to compete in the three age divisions of the virtual competition. Over 140 participants around the state of Kansas took part in the competition with 75 moving on to compete for cash prizes.

Dunn was in a three-way tie for 2nd place, taking home $250 in prize money.

“I will use it for if any of my machinery breaks down while I’m doing this---or, if none of my machinery breaks down, and I don’t have any repair costs, I will use it for college,” Dunn said.

After learning about the competition when his mom saw it on Facebook, Dunn immediately started planning his project and putting together a business proposal to pitch in his video recording. After planning out his 3 to 5 minute presentation, the pitch was filmed, edited, and submitted for review.

“I got this idea because my dad had an alfalfa hay buyer that he had a connection with, and he was interested in buying wheat straw,” Dunn said. “So, that’s where I got the idea to sell wheat straw to the buyer.”

The plan involved buying straw in the field after wheat harvest, renting a tractor and baler, doing the work of baling the straw, picking it up out of the field, and loading it out to ship to the customer.

To visually represent the costs of loading out the hay for the video pitch, Dunn created a short video clip showing the process of hooking a flatbed trailer to the semi, taking it to another corner of the farm, and using a tractor to load bales of hay onto the trailer.

Though participants are not required to actually carry out their proposed projects after pitching their ideas, Dunn said he does plan to work on and carry out his project. In the future, he would like to attend Kansas State University to pursue an agriculture-related degree.

The following list of state project winners and their cash prizes was released last week:

Elementary- 1st place $300; 2nd place $150; 3rd $100

1st place: Boom Boards, Isaac Bloom, 5th grade, Hays

2nd place: Virtual Care, Edyn Thompson, 4th grade, Kansas City

3rd place: Bella's Home-Made Dog Treats, Hadley Holmes, 1st grade, Riverton

Middle School- 1st place $500; 2nd place $250; 3rd place $150

1st place: Jabby Jerky, Gabby Poels, 6th grade, Phillipsburg

Three students tied for 2nd place:

Mow it Forward, Quinton Heath, 7th grade, Great Bend

Ian's Straw Baling Service, Ian Dunn, 8th grade, St. John

Lauren's Treat, Lauren Seachris, 8th grade, Dodge City

High school- 1st place $1000; 2nd place: $350; 3rd place 250

1st place: Finding Freedom, Lovette Mba, Wichita

2nd place: Craving Crushers, Jersey Kaiser, 12th grade Plainville

3rd place: T&H Sports Counseling, Halle Hartner, 10th grade & Tate Lapo, 12th grade, Belleville

Special bonus prizes:

First to Submit: Dawn Till Dusk

Most Creative: Auto Pizza

Best energy in a Video: Wild and Free

People's choice: Tiana's Sweet Drop Off's

The virtual competition was held through NetWork Kansas’ new VentureDash tool. VentureDash is an online entrepreneurship competition management system designed to streamline the facilitation of entrepreneurship fairs and business plan competitions held throughout the state. The system was created by Moonbase Labs based out of Wichita.