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2012 ELI Business Concept Competition winning team Jam Good

A plan for an innovative agritourism business drafted by five graduates of The Center for Rural Development’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI) has earned each of the high school students an offer of a Presidential Scholarship from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in Richmond.

The winning students in the 2012 ELI Business Concept Competition are “Jam Good” team members Savanna Noe, Lee County; Rachyl Harmon, Clay County; Ethan Call, Pulaski County; Madison Lee, Casey County; and Kimberly Brown of Knox County.

The students crafted a business concept for a start-up agritourism business where farm-friendly families could pick their favorite seasonal fruits right from the patch and make or purchase fresh, homemade jams and bakery products at the “Jam Good” country store and bakery.

The winning team was announced by Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center, during ELI’s graduation program June 15 at The Center in Somerset.

“The Jam Good team and other ELI team members presented original, creative business concepts that could easily be marketed in our region and other parts of the state,” said Lawson, who served as a judge for the competition. “Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the region’s economy, and based on the talents shown by these budding business leaders and entrepreneurs, our region’s future will be in capable hands.”

2012 ELI Class

A total of 34 high school students from Southern and Eastern Kentucky graduated from this year’s ELI class after attending the weeklong session at The Center. Throughout the week, they worked with TOUR Southern and Eastern Kentucky (TOUR SEKY), an affiliate of The Center, to draft a business concept around a tourism-based business.

Each ELI team drew a business idea at random from a basket and put together a business and marketing plan, including financial planning and customer service, to get that business up and running.

Classroom instruction was provided by Jeff Crowe, president and CEO, and Michelle King, chief financial officer for TOUR SEKY. King wrote the curriculum for the class manual.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase our youth the important economic impact tourism dollars play in our economy,” Crowe said. “TOUR SEKY was able to work closely with these students to assist in their business ventures and encourage them to remain in our region to start new businesses.”

The week culminated with the program’s Business Concept Competition, in which seven ELI student teams pitched their plans to a panel of regional business leaders. The teams delivered eight-minute presentations to the judges, who portrayed business lenders.

“The Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute of 2012 gave participants a real-world look into the process of starting a business. It is encouraging to see these young aspiring leaders of our region already driven to achieving success in their lives.”
Delaney Stephens, youth programs coordinator and community liaison


Additional business concepts proposed by ELI teams included:

  • “Adrenaline Rush,” an adventure park on Cave Run Lake in Rowan County, was declared by the panel of judges to be the “Most Innovative Business Idea.”

Team members included Seth Hedgespeth, Green County; Kaylee Wilson, Pulaski County; Kelsie Brown, McCreary  County; Brooke Ratliff, Rowan County; Zachary Mitchell of Knox County

  • “The Big ‘En,” a start-up restaurant on Lake Cumberland specializing in American fare and classic seafood.

Team members included Carson Staples, Wayne County; Jordyn Bray, Pulaski County; Chelsea Gray, Knox County; and Jay Winkler of Estill County.

  • “McCoy Mountain,” a nonprofit organization that offers tourists unique opportunities to learn more about the legend of the Hatfield-McCoy feud during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Team members included Caitlin King, McCreary County; Alyssa Price, Morgan County; Lisa Carter, Pulaski County; Bradley Correll, Pulaski County; TJ Melton of Knox County.

  • “The Beginning of the Inn,” a start-up company that offers fun and relaxation to travelers passing through Lake Cumberland and thrill seekers in the heart of Southern and Eastern Kentucky.

Team members included Trista Brown, Pulaski County; Brett York, Wayne County; McKayla Hamlin, McCreary County; Matthew Crawford, Pulaski County; and Madison Duff, Martin County.

  • “Southern Soul,” a one-of-a-kind experience where customers can learn what it is like to live and work on a farm. Learn how to harvest crops, taste fresh picked vegetables, and enjoy Southern style dining with a twist.

Team members included Natalie Whitt, Bath County; Lesley Roy, Russell County; Kerrigan Samons, Johnson County; Devin Morrow, Wayne County; and Makayla Bush of Pulaski County.

  • “Taste of Wonder,” a lodging facility decorated to recreate the experiences of some of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and full-scale restaurant specializing in traditional dishes from that part of the world.

Team members included Diana Moskalyuk, Jessamine County; Kaley Allen, Clay County; Marcus Todd, Knox County; Brooke Dials, Martin County; and Nicholas Herrmann of Laurel County.

In addition to the team recognition, ELI graduate Trista Brown of Somerset was voted by her peers as the “Most Aspiring Entrepreneur” in the Class of 2012. The award was presented to Brown for showing the most entrepreneurial spirit.

“I would love to start my own dentistry practice some day,” said Brown, a student at Pulaski County High School. “ELI has provided the leadership and business skills I need to be successful in the future.”

Members of the first-place ELI Business Concept Competition team will be recognized at the 2012 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards (EIEA) luncheon on Sept. 10 at The Center, located at 2292 South U.S. 27 (at Traffic Light 15) in Somerset.

High school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors within The Center’s 42-county service area are eligible to apply for ELI. For more information on the program, contact Delaney Stephens at 606-677-6000 or email

Click here to view photographs from ELI’s graduation program and other activies held during the week.