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Ignite Rural Business to return 2024
Ignite organizers look ahead to second annual competition
ignite second pic

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Great Bend Economic Development’s “Ignite Rural Business” 2024 kickoff took place Monday evening, Nov. 13, at Dry Lake Brewing, 1305 Main in Great Bend.

As attendees noshed on a spread of meat rollups, cheese and fruit, Great Bend Economic Development Director Sara Arnberger and Lee Anne June, GBED communications director, combined for a recap of the Ignite Rural Business finals on Oct. 5 at the Crest Theater in Great Bend and a look-ahead at the upcoming activities in 2024.

“In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we thought what more perfect time could there be to talk about the second year of Ignite?” Arnberger said. “We had a fantastic turnout on Oct. 5 and as a result, we have three new businesses starting up and we are working with the two others as finalists. So, we will have five new businesses as a result of the competition, and that, my friends, is the purpose.”

About GBED

“As Great Bend Economic Development, we are a staff of two and I will tell you that together we make a fantastic team,” Arnberger said. GBED also has a board of seven members that supports the vision, missions, and activities. More than 30 volunteers help with all facets of the organization. 

Arnberger outlined the five subsets, which she called “capstones,” under the GBED umbrella. They include Great Bend Alive, which has 33 volunteers, and Advancing Barton County Childcare, which has a board of 13. 

“Our mission is to improve the economic quality of life for the working families of the community,” she said.


As the fifth “capstone,” entrepreneurship has been building prior to the Ignite program’s inception last year.

“For a couple years, we’ve really been honing in on our learning opportunities for entrepreneurs,” she said. Partnerships with Wichita State University, Network Kansas expanded learning opportunities. Along the way, Arnberger noted, “we learned that entrepreneurs need funding sources as well.”

“Starting a business is expensive,” she said. “So, we needed opportunities to fill in the gaps and that is what Ignite is about. We want to support starting up businesses in Barton County, but we also wanted to support the learning curve and sustainability of those businesses. We also wanted to encourage people to come to Barton County to start new businesses.”

The Ignite program provides that springboard, she said. “It’s our own version of ‘Shark Tank,’ The Entrepreneurship Committee is who really works on Ignite.”

The board founded in 2023 does have a couple openings for 2024, so Arnberger encouraged those interested to contact her.

Upcoming events

Arnberger announced that the 2024 Ignite competition has been slated for next Oct. 10. 

In the competition, participants advance through four rounds, beginning with a video pitch, then present their business plan. In round three, they were paired with a local business mentor, before advancing to the finals.

She noted that the grand prize has been set at $50,000, with $30,000 in second place, $10,000 for third place and $5,000 for people’s choice award.

She added that GBED will be looking for business mentors as well as participants for the next year.  The evening closed with those attending breaking into teams to discuss their “best worst ideas,” with the best worst idea winning a prize.