Pottawatomie County Entrepreneurs Join Flint Hills Business Launch, Start & Expand Businesses 

By: The Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) | 11.30.21

The Flint Hill Business Launch program, sponsored by Spark, the PCEDC, NetWork Kansas, the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce, provides support and education for new or current business owners in Pottawatomie, Geary, and Riley counties. The most recent program cohort concluded in the fall with 9 new program graduates representing all three program-eligible counties. Two of these graduates, Kaylene Plummer and Janet Forge, shared their experiences in the program with the PCEDC in a recent interview.

Kaylene Plummer, the Senior Vice President and Data Operations Officer of Farmer’s StateTimeless Curiosities Bank in Westmoreland and the President of the Westmoreland Area Chamber of Commerce, joined the Flint Hills Business Launch this year after having a long-standing interest in the education provided by the program. One of her motivations to join the cohort was the opportunity to gain insight into the entrepreneurial process that could help attract new businesses to the Westmoreland area: "We're just kind of stale on our growth, so, as President of the Chamber, I am always interested in anything I can learn to bring back."

Kaylene's primary reason for joining the Flint Hills Business Launch this fall, however, came from an unexpected opportunity to start her own business. A few months ago, Kaylene got the chance to co-purchase a building with a friend and decided to take the opportunity to transform the building into a new business space. Looking towards launching her own business, Kaylene decided it was the perfect time to join the cohort. Kaylene’s new business, Timeless Curiosities, is an antique and repurposed furniture shop now open in Westmoreland. Through the Flint Hills Business Launch, Kaylene was able to learn about many of the lesser-known technical concerns of running a business, such as the nuances of business insurance, before opening her business' doors in late November.

Prarie Ridge VineyardJanet Forge, who has owned/operated the Prairie Ridge Vineyard near St. George for over 25 years, joined the Flint Hills Business launch to gain insight for a large-scale business expansion. The vineyard, which will operate under the name Prairie Ridge Vineyard Winery & Events, is planned to commence new operations as a winery while continuing its current grape-growing operations. Furthermore, the vineyard is considering the incorporation of a proposed event space, which would be available for rent by private parties. Looking to lead the vineyard into these significant business expansions, Janet decided to join the Flint Hills Business Launch to get expert guidance for shaping and completing a new business plan. Additionally, Janet said she drew great value from course speaker sessions and subsequent discussions regarding pertinent topics in business support areas, including financing, accounting, and legalities.

Janet noted that connecting with entrepreneurs in various industries and stages of operation was an especially enriching aspect of the program: “It was nice to be able to collaborate and ask questions of each other and use each other’s expertise that we had in certain areas”. Kaylene Plummer echoed this endorsement of the collaboration offered within the course, and also expressed appreciation for the openness of workshop speakers towards new questions and discussions. 

Entrepreneurs and business owners enrolled in the Flint Hills Business Launch participate in over 30 hours of workshops and educational opportunities. Networking opportunities with mentors, local experts, and cohort participants are available throughout the 8-week program. The next cohort will begin in the spring of 2022. Prospective participants can visit https://sparkmhk.com/businesslaunch to learn more or join the waitlist for the next session.                                                  

 Group Photo

Flint hills business launch fall 2021 gradatues, including Kaylene Plummer (4th from left), and Janet Forge (2nd from right).

FHBL Link Opens in new window