Third Business Plan Competition Coming

Opportunities to win some startup cash and hone business skills are coming to Salina in March.  Applications are now open for the 3rd Annual Charlie Walker Pitch Challenge will be held Friday, March 22nd, at K-State University-Salina.

According to the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, the Challenge is open to start-up businesses as well as young businesses who have been operating for three years or less and offers an opportunity to win up to $6,000 in cash prizes. Last year’s event gave out $18,000 in prizes to the five top place finishers.

One of 2023’s top prize winners, Salina Selfie Station, has utilized their funding to purchase a mobile photo booth and other equipment to kick-start their business. “Being a part of the Charlie Walker Pitch Challenge helped us shape our vision and business strategy.” Genell Heimer, co-owner of Salina Selfie Station, said, “We networked within the community and made friends with the other competitors. We are still cheering on each other’s business successes a year later!”

This year’s event is again presented by Bennington State Bank and JRI Hospitality and offers cash prizes for the top five finishers: $6,000 for 1st place, $4,000 for 2nd place, $3,000 for 3rd place, $2,000 for 4th place, and $1,000 for 5th place. Other sponsors include Network Kansas and VentureDash.

Initial application includes submitting a business plan as well as a short 2–3-minute video introducing the business idea. Deadline to submit is March 8th, 2024, at 11:59pm. There is no charge to apply, and includes residents of Saline County, as well as Dickinson, Ellsworth, McPherson, and Ottawa counties.

All applications will then be scored, and ten (10) applicants will be chosen to move on to the in-person event and pitch competition.

The pitch competition will take place on Friday, March 22nd, 2024, at Kansas State University-Salina. Competitors will be given five (5) minutes to pitch their business plan to a group of judges, like what is seen on popular shows like ‘Shark Tank.’ The judges will then have some time to ask questions and will score the businesses. At the end of the night, scores will be tabulated, and the top five finishers will be announced.

The Entrepreneurial Challenge is named in honor of the iconic Salina businessman, Charlie Walker, who founded several companies, largest 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 several civic causes in the Salina community.

“We have some generous business owners in this community who are eager and interested in supporting the next generation of small business for the area,” Renee Duxler, CEO & President of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce said, “This event has evolved from a group of them, to include the Walker Family, wanting to encourage entrepreneurship in a fun and educational way. This pitch competition really does achieve that.”

To find out more information and to apply for the challenge, visit You can also get more information by emailing Jaclyn Crow
at [email protected].