Undaunted by the global pandemic, four alumni of the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs (GSE) launched small businesses throughout Kentucky last year. Recognizing need and seeing opportunity, these innovators took risks and solved problems.
Their businesses are building a better Kentucky economy and helping reverse a trend that’s seen the number of new companies in the U.S. drop 44% since 1978. While entrepreneurs ages 20-34 have declined from 34% in 1997 to 25% currently, according to the Kauffman Foundation and the Brookings Institution, GSE is committed to reversing these trends in Kentucky. And it’s working.
“Team Kentucky focuses support on entrepreneurs who will build a stronger, better economy for the commonwealth’s future. Their innovative and entrepreneurial efforts are creating an ecosystem in Kentucky that can attract talent and investors,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “These GSE alumni and their continued commitment to the ecosystem highlight the strength of Kentucky’s next generation of entrepreneurs and provide the state additional momentum for the future of startups in the commonwealth. Theirs is the kind of initiative and courage that exemplifies Team Kentucky.”
Anneli White, a 2019 GSE alum from Martha Layne Collins High School in Shelby County, launched Anneli White Designs last year. Anneli knew that even amid the pandemic, the time was right to chase her dream of selling custom designed notecards, stickers, apparel and more.
“During the summer, I received 240-plus hours of collegiate-level entrepreneurship training, heard from business owners and startups from across the region, and gained a family of coaches and friends who believed in me at Kentucky’s prestigious business boot camp – GSE. It was there where my business dreams were confirmed and I began planning for my business’ future,” she said.
Riley Mayberry, a 2020 GSE alum from Louisville Collegiate School in Jefferson County, brought a long-time vision to fruition with the launch of Riley's Pantry – Snacks for Diabetics, a monthly subscription service that curates snacks for Type 1 diabetics.
“Launching a business takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but I also learned that it is achievable,” Mayberry said. “Before GSE I felt like launching a business was this insurmountable thing that only certain people could do, but my experience launching Riley’s Pantry taught me anyone can do it if they put in the work.”
In Kenton County, Paige Neuhaus founded Prints by Paige, a business focused on crafting custom gifts.
“Due to the support I received during and after GSE, I knew the only thing holding me back from launching a business was myself, and not a pandemic. Because if there is one thing that stuck with me at GSE it would be that entrepreneurs embrace problems, not hide from them,” said Neuhaus, a 2020 GSE alum from Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, Ky. “There comes a time where you have to stop planning for the worst and start doing your best. You’ll most likely encounter obstacles or failures, but let those guide you and not discourage you.”
Cam Lasley, a 2017 GSE alum from LaRue County High School, recognized a need in his rural county: access to high speed, affordable internet service. He founded Telecast Communications.
“I launched my company in 2020 when COVID-19 hit our state the hardest because everyone needs access to reliable, high-speed broadband,” he said. “With the massive increase in families working from home, the demand for bandwidth and access to the internet skyrocketed. Old DSL service just wasn't cutting it anymore, so we built our own Internet service provider company, Telecast Communications.”
Since 2013, the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs has served entrepreneurially minded teens throughout Kentucky. While all participants gain vital entrepreneurial skills through the program to use as they enter the workplace or continue into higher education, 15-plus new businesses have already been launched by GSE alumni. Others have filed for patents and developed new ideas and relationships that sow the seeds for more business formation. Dozens of alumni have chosen to enroll in entrepreneurial programs at Kentucky universities and attribute this decision to the inspiration they received by attending GSE in high school.
“While the three-week GSE experience is transformative and deeply impactful for our teens, their journey with our organization truly begins after the residential experience,” said Tasha Sams, executive director of Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs. “We continue to mentor our entrepreneurs, to connect them with our statewide entrepreneurial partners, and to inspire them to pursue entrepreneurship. Now, more than ever, young entrepreneurs are needed to help sustain and rebuild Kentucky’s economy, and GSE is where that journey starts for them.”
Parents, educators, entrepreneurs and teens who believe grit, a growth mindset and creativity in problem solving tell as much about a young person as good grades and test scores, can learn more about the Governor’s School of Entrepreneurs at www.KentuckyGSE.com.
Thanks to strong partnerships with entities including the Kentucky Workforce and Education Development Cabinet, the Cabinet for Economic Development, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky and numerous public and private supporters like The Marksbury Family Foundation, and Nate Morris of Rubicon Global, GSE is completely free for selected entrepreneurs. Alumni of GSE gain access to a host of scholarship opportunities, high school class credit and a statewide network of entrepreneurial support.