Our mission at Ogallala Commons is to develop leaders who help human and natural communities thrive. Our work is tied to the region of the Ogallala Aquifer. One of the ways we accomplish this is through supporting and mentoring Youth Entrepreneurs.
Our entire team at Ogallala Commons strives to contribute to this mission, but one person consistently at the heart of it all for area youth is OC Youth Engagement Coordinator Megan England.
Megan has been involved in various aspects of education throughout her career, and that experience has led to a passion for helping rural students find their place in the world. She has been involved at OC for the past 15 years: first as an intern and entrepreneurship fair student, then a teacher, and now full circle as a full-time staff member. Shares, “it’s no exaggeration to say the experiences and connections I’ve gained here changed my life.”
Fun Fact about Megan: she competed in a Youth E-Fair as a student and won $1,000 that she used to purchase the computer she used all through high school and part of college!
As part of her work in Youth Engagement at OC, Megan is highly involved in our Commonwealth Academies and Youth E-Fairs. This year she is trying something new!
If you (or your students) are looking for a little more hands-on guidance with E-Fair projects, Megan will be hosting a Zoom workshop twice a month (a morning and evening option) to answer questions and walk students through the business plan, providing feedback and a space to bounce ideas off each other. All relevant links and information can be found below.
More Details: What's An E-Fair?
Ogallala Commons Entrepreneurship Fairs are like a combination of Shark Tank and Science Fair. 6-12 graders are invited to prepare a business plan and visual display (can be super simple or as complex as they want — we provide a rubric for what they will be scored on, and they can use that how they see fit). Most students choose to do their display on a science fair board. They submit their business plan and contact information online by the entry deadline, and then it is pre-scored by our panel of local investors. On the day of the in-person event, all the students come to the central location (we usually host it at the Community Building in Lamar) and the fair is opened to the public. Students are encouraged to bring any products they want to sell, and most leave with a sale or two (or more) if they choose to do that.
While the fair is open to the public, the investors walk around and students spend 3-5 minutes pitching the basics of their idea to the investors. The investors also score this pitch. At the end of the pitch session, we calculate the scores of the plan combined with the scores of the pitch, and the top 3-5 projects from the JH and from HS are brought into the session that’s like Shark Tank — they get an interview with just them and the panel of investors for 5-10 minutes. At that point, the investors decide how they want to award investments. Students who win an investment are free to do whatever they like with that cash — most choose to put it into their business or purchase things for college, etc. but there are no restrictions on what it can be used for — financial literacy is super important to us, and we think one of the best ways to learn how to use money is to have a little money to use! 🙂
Usually, there is a pot of prize money that local businesses and organizations have invested, and it’s the panelists’ discretion on how to award the money they invested. Sometimes, they award all the interviewees equally, sometimes they give a large chunk to the top 1 or 2 from each grade level and smaller amounts to the others, it varies according to the projects and judges present!
The investors also provide feedback on the pitch and the plan, and after the fair, it is tabulated by my team. We then share that with the students so they can improve their plan for the future. Many students choose to enter multiple fairs (in the same year or different years), and improve each time. This is also nice because every fair has different investors, so if a panel doesn’t resonate with their project at one fair, they likely will at the next!
Monthly E-Fair Prep Workshops
Want a leg-up on preparing for E-Fair? Hop on one of our monthly zoom workshops to get your questions answered or some feedback on your plans! Our kick-off call is October 23rd at 10:30am (Mountain Time), and after that they will be held the second Tuesday of the month, with a 10:30 and a 4:30 (MT) option each time.
Upcoming 2023-24 Fairs
Silverton (TX) – November 16, 2023
One of our longest-running fairs, we’re hosting our first in-person fair of 2023-24 season in partnership with Silverton ISD! We can’t wait to see our Texas high school students again! Entries are due November 8th!
Regional Virtual – Dec. 1-8, 2023
This fair is open to all students 6-12th grades across the OC region. Students submit their business plan and a short video pitch by the entry deadline, and then wait for an email for scores. The top-scoring plans are invited to a live pitch via Zoom in front of a panel of judges. Entries are due Dec. 1st!
Phillips County (CO) – Mar. 28, 2024
Phillips County E-Fair is always a highlight! We are SO excited to see our NOCO friends again at the Phillips County Event Center! Entries due March 20, 2024!
GrowSECO Southeast Colorado – Mid-April, 2024
We’ll update you with the final date as soon as possible, but the entry deadline is confirmed for April 10th!