There were 120 Kentucky students who attended the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs (GSE) this summer and participated in an opportunity to pitch their business startup ideas at two competitive Demo Days on June 26 and July 24 at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). GSE was split into two sessions that ran from June 6-26 and July 5-24.

During the Demo Day events, student teams developed business models, designed prototypes and pitched their startup ideas to a panel of entrepreneur judges and an audience of 300. Three teams of student entrepreneurs at each event earned cash prizes to continue their ideas for a service or product developed during each session.

The top three finalists during GSE’s Session 1 Demo Day were:

  • First place: BranchOut received $1,000 for developing an app that connects high school students to educational and career opportunities in Kentucky. Team members were Joleen Gima, a junior at Harry Doss High School (Jefferson County); Jessa Zaheri, a sophomore at Scott County High School; and Bella Marita, a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy (Diocese of Covington).
  • Second place: Fill It received $750 for the creation of a refillable laundry detergent system to reduce plastic waste. Team members were Charlie Gorman, a junior at Highlands High School (Fort Thomas Independent); Jenna Coles, a sophomore at Logan County High School; Parker Cleveland, a junior at Highlands High School (Fort Thomas Independent); and Sarah Freeland, a sophomore at Oldham County High School.
  • Third place: Secura received $500 for developing an app that connects women instantaneously based on location and need, allowing them to take self-defense classes together and access other opportunities and tools to defend themselves from an assault. Team members were Avery Shacklette, a junior at Meade County High School; Savannah King, a junior at Highlands High School (Fort Thomas Independent); Jill Heffernan, a junior at Sacred Heart Academy (Archdiocese of Louisville); and Ella Stahl, a sophomore at Campbell County High School.

The top three finalists during the during GSE’s Session 2 Demo Day were:

  • First place: TEHRA received $1,000 for developing an online marketplace that allows consumers to select from a variety of eco-friendly, sustainable home resources. Team members were Divine Irakiza, a sophomore at South Warren High School (Warren County); Charles Tompkins, a sophomore at Elizabethtown High School (Elizabethtown Independent); McKenna Sun, a junior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Fayette County); and Nathan Palley, a sophomore at Henry Clay High School (Fayette County).
  • Second place: Nexxus Bond received $750 for the creation of a durable and safe cover for chemotherapy ports, allowing patients to move with less fear of getting an infection or damaging their port. Team members were Katherine Coale, a sophomore at Bethlehem High School (Archdiocese of Louisville); Riley Weber Horowitz, a junior at Campbell County High School; Colin Esmeier, a sophomore at Covington Catholic High School (Diocese of Covington); and Ethan Biddle, a sophomore at Johnson Central High School (Johnson County).
  • Third place: SwimSafe received $500 for the development of an educational water safety organization that caters specifically to autistic children and their affinity for water. Team members were Kendall Harper, a junior at Western Hills High School (Franklin County); Cole Chambers, a junior at Christian Academy of Louisville; Brenna Lambert, a freshman at Great Crossing High School (Scott County); and Ellie Thornsbury, a junior at DuPont Manual High School (Jefferson County).