Student entrepreneurs compete in Side Hustle Challenge

Gracie Kidd, of Galva, participated in the Side Hustle Challenge that the Central Kansas Entrepreneurship Center put on for Tabor students to showcase their side hustles. Kidd won first place in the competition.


Jean Paul Fort and Nathaniel Heilig won second place in the Side Hustle Challenge hosted by the Central Kansas Entrepreneurship Center with their display for their business, Gainz Control.
Laura Savage won third place in the Side Hustle Challenge hosted by the Central Kansas Entrepreneurship Center. Her side hustle features homegrown, grain-fed, hormone-free black angus beef that is delivered to your door.

It’s the time of year when many people focus on shopping locally and supporting small businesses. There may be more options than ever in Marion County, thanks to the Central Kansas Entrepreneurship Center (CKEC). In addition to being available to guide and assist entrepreneurs looking for help, they hosted the Side Hustle Challenge at Tabor College, where students were given an opportunity to showcase their businesses/side hustles. While some of the businesses started in the students’ hometowns, all of them are now run here in Marion County.

Students assembled display boards with information about their side hustle and presented them to four judges to compete for three cash prizes to put back into their businesses.

“I was expecting maybe 10 students, but we had 25 students participate, and I know of a few more who couldn’t make it,” said Central Kansas Entrepreneurship Center Director Jeremy Ensey. “I was blown away by the participation and the work that these students did.”

There were three prizes available, with first place getting $500, second place getting $250 and third place getting $100. The prize money came from Network KS and the Hillsboro E-Community.

“The Side Hustle Challenge was amazing. There were so many presentations, and it was very surprising to see what students in the community are doing on the side. Students today are resourceful and entrepreneurial in ways I never would have thought of as a student. It was a great event for the CKEC, and the city was glad to participate,” said Hillsboro City Administrator Matt Stiles, who also served as a judge at the event.

Some of the side hustles were piano lessons, auto detailing, hair styling and cutting, refurbished athletic shoes, athletic apparel, energy bombs, Christmas light installation and more. Each side hustle was evaluated and scored, and in the end, the top three were only separated by 0.14 points out of a possible 40 points. The top 12 were separated by fewer than four points.

Gracie Kidd won first place for her display of her business, Pets and Porches House Sitting, which she started a few years ago.

“I house sit for people that are normally going on vacation or just getting away from their house. I watch dogs, cats, donkeys, goats and more. I’ve done some farms and some in-town houses. I can stay overnight, or I can just stop and water plants,” said Kidd.

She has relied on word of mouth for her business, but now, thanks to having to come up with goals for her display and her prize money, Kidd plans to up her game with it all.

“I am super excited about winning. I actually posted on my personal Facebook yesterday—kind of like a promotion post about a little bit about what I do and then a picture of my presentation. I have gotten several messages from people and now it’s kind of actually starting to turn into a real business,” Kidd said. “So over Thanksgiving, I’m gonna be doing a lot of looking at a business plan, looking at accounting stuff, looking at insurance, making my information sheet more in-depth for a real business and move away from it being just a side hustle.”

Kidd can be reached at 620-334-0228 or by email at

Nathaniel Heilig and Jean Paul Fort took second place for their business, Gainz Central, which sells power bowls to “fuel your body, delight your senses.” The bowls consist of Peruvian superfoods carefully selected to support health, increase energy and provide strength.

The group’s power bowls are available at Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy. They have already had some good success with their product, but now they hope to grow even more, thanks to both the experience of the challenge and winning the prize of $250.

“This challenge was such a good experience. It was a little stressful preparing for it all, because they last minute kind of threw it at us, but that’s good. A lot of times in the business world you’re gonna get thrown projects. You have deadlines, and you gotta deliver them,” said Heilig. “It made us get organized and come up with our goals. We put this thing together, and it helped us really see who we are, what we do and how we serve. We learned how to pitch our product and learned to communicate and present.”

Heilig and Fort can be reached by email at by calling 949-702-5069. They also have a website at

Laura Savage won third place for her display of Mud Creek Cattle Company.

“I live on a ranch just outside of Florence, and we raise our own black angus cattle, which we then sell for beef directly to consumers. It’s hormone-free. We have high choice prime, which is the highest level you can get for grading. It’s grain-fed, which means you’re gonna have the most tender beef available compared to, like, a grass fed beef,” said Savage.

The beef is available to purchase a quarter, a half or a whole cow. They are also creating beef bundles for those wanting smaller quantities.

Savage can be reached at 620-381-0973 or by email at

The CKEC is hoping to do the event again in the future and open it up to the public to attend so people can know more about the many student businesses available in Hillsboro and Marion County.

“We’ve already been talking amongst the judges and our business department about how we can do better next time and thoughts about incorporating the city more into it, whether it be a weekend or an evening so people can attend. How many people in Hillsboro need some of these businesses like getting their hair styled, car repair, Mary Kay items or more,” said Ensey.

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