May 29, 2024


Opportunities to win some startup cash and hone business skills are coming to Salina in early March.

The first Charlie Walker Entrepreneurial Challenge is open to residents of Saline, Ellsworth, McPherson, Dickinson and Ottawa counties.

There is no cost to enter. 

Deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Friday March 4. Interested individuals or teams can complete the application process electronically at, which includes a business plan, and two- to three-minute elevator pitch video, promoting your business plan concept.

“We are pleased to be co-sponsoring this week of entrepreneurial programs, concluding with the Charlie Walker Entrepreneurial Challenge,” said Mitch Robinson, executive director of the Salina Community Economic Development Organization, 120 W. Ash.

Organizers strongly encourage applicants to attend the free Project Open training from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 15 and Wednesday Feb. 16 in Room 118 of the Technology Center at the Kansas State University Aerospace and Technology Campus, 2310 Centennial Road.

The sessions are designed to help applicants develop their business plan. If you are not able to attend, a video link will be available. Register at

The activities launch during the week of March 7 with four local events, concluding with a live pitch competition at 6 p.m. Friday, March 11 at The Temple — Salina Innovation Foundation — at 336 S. Santa Fe in downtown Salina. The gathering is open to the public.

Applicants will compete for cash prizes of $8,000, $5,000 and $3,000— provided by area sponsors — to be used for related business startup expenses.

“If you don’t submit a plan (by 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 4), you can’t be considered for prizes,” Robinson said.

Leading up to the finale will be four programs targeting entrepreneurs interested in starting their own business:

• 6 p.m. Monday, March 7, Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus (Room 118 in the Technology Center): “The 3 Ms – Money, Marketing and Management.”

• 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, students from Salina Central and Salina South high schools will compete in the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge at Salina Area Technical College, 2562 Centennial Road in the Airport Industrial Center.

The winning individual or team will win $500, with $350 for second and $200 for third.

• 6 p.m. Wednesday March 9, in the dining hall of The Temple, 336 S. Santa Fe: “Women in Business,” highlighting several women who have started their own businesses in the Salina community.

• 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, “Social Media Marketing” seminar at the Visit Salina Annex, 120 W. Ash, next door to the north of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce.

The final activity, 6 p.m. March 11 in The Temple dining hall will include the business plan competition, with each finalist’s five-minute pitch presentation to a panel of judges. Each finalist then will have five minutes to respond to questions from judges, regarding their presentations and the original application.

The Entrepreneurial Challenge is named in honor of the iconic Salina businessman, Charlie Walker, who founded a number of companies, biggest among them Salina-based Blue Beacon International (known for its truck and RV washes), and the Rolling Hills Zoo near Hedville.

Walker died in 2012, but his family has continued his commitment by spearheading a number of civic causes in the Salina community.

“This competition is a way to help people realize their dreams,” said Mary Landes, executive director of the Salina Innovation Foundation, based in The Temple.

Co-working spaces are available for rent at below market cost, she said, for people wanting to get started with their own businesses.

“That’s what Charlie did. He started with an idea and built it up,” she said. “Lots of people have dreams, and this is a way to help them realize those dreams.”

The competition is sponsored by Startup Salina, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Community Economic Development Organization, The Co-Working Space at The Temple, Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus, Kansas Wesleyan University and Network Kansas.

To learn more, call (785) 404-3131 or visit

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Members of Startup Salina, a group of entrepreneurs, and those aiming to be, meet at 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday every month in the co-working space at the Temple. To learn more, call (785) 404-3131.