KY Innovation Network Center @ EKU plays ‘Shark Tank’ with middle school students

EKU Plays Shark TankOver 100 Conkwright Middle School students from Clark County and their teachers visited EKU’s College of Business and Technology Center on Thurs., Feb. 20, 2014. Hosted by Kentucky Innovation Network Center @ EKU Executive Director Kristel Smith, students joined in on activities simulating their classroom ‘Shark Tank’ project.

The CMS gifted seventh and eighth graders are participating in an entrepreneurial school project called ‘Shark Tank’. The goal for these exceptional middle school students is to invent an actual product using information from each of their core classes (language arts, math, social studies, and science).

Seventh and eighth grade Challengers are Jan Horn (language arts), Stacey McKenzie (math), Travis Marcum (social studies), and Shane Dutton (science). According to the teachers, each student team will prepare a proposal of their created product for presentation to a panel of judges. Participants have complete freedom to develop an idea for an invention or innovation that interests them. Through research, brainstorming, design/prototype, marketing and costing, students learn the dynamics of sound business planning.

Visiting EKU’s College of Business and technology was an invaluable experience to help students with their ‘Shark Tank’ projects. During the presentation, Smith and her assistant Amber Moreland did a ‘Shark Tank’ mini-scenario which allowed the student groups to practice their elevator pitch. Students even received pretend money to spend on each of the projects.

“Having these students on campus is extremely important. It is never too early to begin thinking about college and careers,” said CBT Outreach Coordinator Amanda Lawrence. “If programs like this allow us to spark an interest in these future professionals, we are happy to be a part of that process.”

Gov. Beshear Announces New Kentucky Innovation Network Office in Pikeville

Center to offer free services to entrepreneurs, small businesses in eastern Kentucky

PIKEVILLE Ky. (April 16, 2014) – Governor Steve Beshear today announced a vital resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses in eastern Kentucky.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is establishing a Kentucky Innovation Network office in Pikeville. The office, on the University of Pikeville campus, will provide much-needed assistance to startup companies in the Appalachian region.

Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes and Acting Business Development Commissioner Mandy Lambert joined local leaders, educators and community officials to celebrate the announcement in Pike County.

“By adding the new office in Pikeville, we will be better able to serve the rapidly growing number of entrepreneurs and small businesses in eastern Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear. “Innovation is key to changing the economic landscape in Appalachia and we need to offer small businesses encouragement, guidance and a blueprint for success. I look forward to seeing positive results and hearing more success stories as a result of this new location.”

From assisting startups in assessing an idea, to developing a business plan, to finding grants, loans and capital, the Kentucky Innovation Network helps local companies discover the resources needed to be successful. The Pikeville office will operate in the university’s Community Technology Center and will serve nine counties, including Pike, Martin, Johnson, Floyd, Knott, Letcher, Perry, Breathitt and Magoffin.


“Small businesses are the backbone of a sustainable economy,” said UPIKE President James Hurley. “We are excited to participate in this public-private partnership to extend and offer opportunity for economic development. Eastern Kentucky is full of great entrepreneurial leaders and the innovation center provides the platform for ideas to be developed and cultivated.”


The opening of the new office comes weeks after Gov. Beshear, Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, community leaders and local residents announced their action plan for eastern Kentucky’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Initiative. Among the initiative’s main goals is to increase business recruitment and incubation in the region.


“Starting your own business is a daunting task with many hurdles and financial risks, a combination that keeps some people from following their dreams of operating their own business,” said Congressman Rogers. “This new Kentucky Innovation Network office will help answer questions, provide access to new opportunities and provide entrepreneurs in with the tools they need to launch their businesses and create jobs in eastern Kentucky. When small businesses thrive, our entire economy benefits. I applaud UPIKE for being a key partner in this effort to support job growth in our region.”


“There’s so much business potential in eastern Kentucky, and we need to make sure the state is supporting entrepreneurs as much as possible,” said Secretary Hayes. “This new innovation center will only help grow the entrepreneurial spirit throughout the region.”


“The Kentucky Innovation Network helps entrepreneurs at all stages – whether they’re just starting with an idea or already have an established business,” said Lambert. “With this new office, eastern Kentuckians will now receive the assistance, tools and resources needed to help start and grow their companies.”

With the Pikeville location, the Kentucky Innovation Network provides business assistance to entrepreneurs from 13 locations across the state. Formed in 2002 by the Cabinet for Economic Development, the network serves all 120 counties throughout the Commonwealth from offices in Ashland, Bowling Green, Covington, Elizabethtown, Lexington, London, Louisville, Morehead, Murray, Owensboro, Paducah and Richmond.


Last year, the Kentucky Innovation Network helped support 240 new companies create more than 1,000 new jobs and assist businesses in raising more than $100 million in private investments.

The Office of Entrepreneurship within the Cabinet for Economic Development oversees the Kentucky Innovation Network and other services, programs and initiatives to encourage small business growth see this post. The goal of the office is to create and promote a strong culture of entrepreneurship statewide.


For more information on the Kentucky Innovation Network, visit


Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.