Barton business students participate in Ice House Entrepreneurship Program

June 2, 2014
Story and Photo by Joe Vinduska

“Inspire, Inform and Involve.”  That is the mantra for the “Kansas Ice House Entrepreneurship Program,” which is designed to give business-minded individuals the tools to become more efficient and successful in business ventures or their careers.  Four Barton business students were given the opportunity to immerse themselves in this eight-week intensive to strengthen and hone their entrepreneurial minds.  The Great Bend and Hoisington Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development paid the entry fee for each student.  Both Chambers created a partnership with NetWork Kansas and the Kaufman Foundation to bring the program to Great Bend and Hoisington.

Students Kade Cook, Tiffany Guthrie, Tiffany Jenks and Gentry McLeland took the class, which included many local businessmen and women in the hybrid course and they agreed that networking was one of the main benefits.

“You’re going to gain connections in this class,” Cook said.  “It helps you gain resources and to know who you can go to for certain things.”

Jenks, who graduated with her early childhood degree from Barton this spring, wants to open her own daycare and said the program helped her with ideas for her own business.

“They taught us ‘Start small, think big and act fast,’” she said.  “You can’t just go full force all at once.  You have to start small and make sure you don’t try to grow too fast.”

Cook, who works as a car salesman at a local dealer and wants to continue growing in this field, said the ‘act fast’ idea resonated with him and was equally as important as ‘start small.’

“They kept urging us to get started,” he said.  “If you don’t start, you’ll keep putting it off and saying ‘I’ll do it later,’ and eventually you’ll talk yourself out of it.  It opens up your imagination to all the possibilities.”

McLeland , who eventually wants to open a travel agency, said this course is for everybody; not just business owners.

“I took it to become a better employee overall,” she said.  “Anyone can gain something from it because it helps you get in that entrepreneurial mindset and encourages you to do what you really want.”

The program enables participants to learn directly from the firsthand experience of successful real-world entrepreneurs.  It offered by Program Facilitator Brian Richter and Program Coordinator Jill Nichols.  Richter has been an educator for 25 years in Sterling.  He has served as a staff teacher and consultant for the Kansas Council on Economic Education and he was selected as the Kansas Economic Teacher of the Year in 2006.  Nichols spent 22 years moving around the country in commercial television.  She was Executive Director of Rice County Community Foundation from 2002 – 2008 and has been Rice County Economic Development Director since 2006.

President of the Great Bend Chamber Jan Peters said the course is designed to help people interested in entrepreneurship, but it also benefits the communities in the area.

“It gives people a chance to solidify a lot of their thinking about starting a business and gives them the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people and take a hard look at the financial aspects of starting a business,” she said.  “We know that growing locally is one of the strongest ways to create jobs in any community and if we can help support those with an entrepreneurial spirit, that is just one of the best ways to create new businesses and new jobs.”

The class meets once a week for eight weeks and alternates locations between Great Bend and Hoisington.  The class includes discussions, guest speakers and class presentations and online coursework.  For more information, go to and click on “Barton County,” or call Peters at (620) 639-7175.

Photo Caption: Barton business students (from left) Gentry McLeland, Tiffany Guthrie, Tiffany Jenks and Kade Cook all agreed the Ice House Program gave them confidence and reminded them to look at the big picture.