IGNITE! Business Success wants to support and maximize entrepreneurial talent and aspirations in our youth.  Fond du Lac County area high school students each year participate in the IGNITE! Entrepreneurship Summit and Youth Idea Challenge to learn how to take an idea and possibly turn it into a real business!

Video: Students:  Why Should You Pitch an Idea?

Video: Why Should Our Local High Schools Participate?

Have more questions about the next 2019 Challenge? The Challenge is getting a revamp and will be a one-day experience that will have students thinking critically (and quickly) to solve entrepreneurial challenges. High school students in the Fond du Lac County consortium should mark their calendars for April 10, 2019 and ask their instructors for more information. Send us an email if you want to know more!  

2018 CHALLENGE: 8 Teams Present on April 18, 2018

Eight final teams prepared business plans and conducted research, financial projections, and other necessary planning to present new business and service ideas to sharks at the third annual Youth Idea Challenge pitch night.

  • 1st place $2,000 scholarship winner: C-Ball – Horace Mann High School (golf ball finding spray and glasses) Mentor – Loree Shady, Hometown Bank
  • 2nd place $1,000 scholarship winner: Team Chloe – Campbellsport High School (affordable makeup palette) Mentor – Diana Hammer, UW-Extension, Fond du Lac County
  • 3rd place $500 scholarship winner: The Crossway – Fond du Lac High School (study and extracurricular activity space) Mentor – Steve Leaman, Horicon Bank

Honored judges/sharks in 2018

  • Beth Kuehl, founder of the Great Plate
  • Craig Much, business banker at Fox Valley Savings Bank
  • Amy Pietsch, director of the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College
  • Shawn Pollack, owner of Poco Pizza
  • Jeff Stueber, business management instructor at Moraine Park Technical College

Entrepreneurship on Tour: November 10, 2017

The IGNITE! Youth Idea Challenge kicked off with an Entrepreneurship on Tour event November 10, 2017.  Students heard from Colleen Merrill with the UW-Oshkosh Small Business Development Center on how to “ROCK” entrepreneurship. A Stanford University design thinking challenge was also completed, using random craft materials, interview skills, and time limits to come up with products to solve the problems faced by their peers. As part of the tour, students heard from small business owners and inventors from around the community about how they got started. Thank you to the entrepreneurs who shared their time with us:

– Ann Culver, Annie’s Fountain City Cafe
– Ken Manninen, Choropoly/Alliance Manufacturing
– Joe Truesdale, wisnet.com
– Jon Wiltzius, Breezy Hill Campground

2017 CHALLENGE: 8 Teams Present on March 8, 2017 to 5 Sharks

For the Challenge’s second year, business plans were submitted and narrowed down to 8 high school team finalists to participate in the Youth Idea Challenge Pitch Night on March 8, 2017.

  • 1st Place $2,000 scholarship winner:  Skratch Snacks – Campbellsport High School (healthy gluten free snacks)  Mentor- Caitlin Stoll and Joel Fleischman, Drexel Building Supply (hear Skratch Snacks on KFIZ’s April 12, 2017 segment talking about their experience)
  • 2nd Place $1,000 scholarship winner:  Team Laconia/Buechels – Laconia High School (interchangeable shoe bottoms/tops)  Mentor-Jeff Liddicoat, Horicon Bank – Ripon
  • 3rd Place $500 scholarship winners (tie):  Iron Muscle Fitness & Big Guns Wrestling Club – Campbellsport High School (affordable, family friendly gym)  Mentor- Ike Perron, Perron Trucking AND Fondy Business Team – Fond du Lac High School (mobile outdoor theater concept)  Mentor- Steve Leaman, Horicon Bank – Fond du Lac 

Honored judges/sharks in 2017:

  • Beth Kuehl, Founder of the Great Plate
  • Mark Lasky, CEO of Sadoff Iron & Metal Co.
  • McKaela McFarlane, student entrepreneur and previous owner of Red Wagon Popcorn
  • Ryan Cropper, COO at Grande Cheese Company
  • Mike Pelland, Founder of Princeton Audio

Entrepreneurship on Tour: November 11, 2016


The IGNITE! Youth Idea Challenge kicked off with an Entrepreneurship on Tour event November 11, 2016.  Students had the opportunity to tour local business and learn how successful entrepreneurs got their start.  That day long event finished with an idea generation exercise to get everyone thinking of their BIG idea to pitch at the Youth Idea Challenge in March.  Over 100 high school students and educators from seven schools participated.  Thank you to the following businesses who hosted tours:  Drexel Building Supply (Campbellsport); Wisnet.com (Fond du Lac); Hoppers (Fond du Lac); Silica For Your Home (Fond du Lac); Glewen & Sons Excavating (Waupun); Jan’s Optical (Waupun); and Fox Computers (Waupun).




2016 INAUGURAL CHALLENGE:  4 Teams Present on April 13, 2016 to 5 Sharks 

Six high school teams submitted an original idea in February 2016 with 4 teams participating in a Pitch Event on April 13, 2016 to earn a chance to claim the coveted title of IGNITE! Youth Idea Challenge Champion plus other fabulous prizes.


  • 1st Place $2,000 scholarship winner:  Ian Homan – Waupun High School (tech support app idea)  Mentor- Mark Hron, Hron Tech, LLC.
  • 2nd Place $1,000 scholarship winner:  Fondy Biz Team/Higher Limits – Fond du Lac High School (adventure/recreational center idea)  Mentor-Kari Koenigs, C&K Elite Properties & Downtown Deli to Go
  • 3rd Place $500 scholarship winner:  FDL INC – Fond du Lac High School  (Bago Boardwalk for Lakeside Park concept)  Mentor-Jeff Stueber, MPTC Business Management Instructor
  • 4th Place $400 scholarship winner:  Waupun Warriors – Waupun High School (electric and wind turbine powered vehicle concept)  Mentor-Andy Glewen, A. Glewen & Sons Excavating, Inc. 

The Fondy Biz Team won both Community Choice Awards for Most Creative Idea and  Best Presentation/Pitch.

Honored judges/sharks in 2016:


  • Aaron Sadoff, North Fond du Lac School District Superintendent
  • Beth Kuehl, Founder of the Great Plate
  • Emil Harmsen, Founder of PsyberFire
  • Marty Schibbelhut, Head Bee Keeper at B104.7
  • Tom Avery, adjunct professor at Ripon College and mentor at the Creative Enterprise Consultants

Pitch Event Media Release

Pitch Event Fox 11 Video