Oh Rats! takes title at entrepreneur fair

By Colleen Williamson (

E-Fairs are opportunities for high school students who have created a product or service, or who have an idea or concept that could lead to a business, to compete for a chance to win money to fund their business or promote their idea. Student business plans are due in December. Students then have the chance to set up display booths, share their elevator pitch and be interviewed by a panel of judges for a chance to win a first-place prize of $1,000 and a chance to progress to the state competition, $500 for second place or $250 for third place.

Only Labette County High School students have competed in the past. This year, however, three Parsons High School youth-developed businesses competed alongside three LCHS youth businesses.

Ivy Gatton, an LCHS senior, was the only student this year to bring to the competition an established business. Gatton is the owner of Oh Rats! She is a rodent breeder and sells rodents for live pets and as feeder rodents for people who need them as a food source for a variety of reptiles, raptors or other animals.

Gatton has been in business for four years, serving mostly the local and surrounding area. She and her family started the business out of their own personal need, as licensed wildlife rehabilitators who help care for injured wildlife until they can be returned to the wild.

“It started to benefit the wildlife and then it kind of grew into what it is today,” Gatton said.

“I do sell a lot of pet quality ones,” she said, noting the different colors and patterns of hair and eyes and even a breed of hairless rat that is quite popular as a pet.

She has 33 breeder pairs and can produce more than 264 offspring a month from them.

“This is a $43.48 an hour paying job. I only spend about 30 minutes a day to feed and water and take care of them. My gross income is $9,600. My net income is $7,335, so it is a profitable business. It’s 74 percent profit.

“And if we were to go into the zombie apocalypse, I’d have us covered,” she said jokingly.

Gatton was this year’s first-place winner, nabbing the top prize of $1,000. She has the opportunity to go on to compete at the state level.

Though unsure if she wants to major in nursing or veterinary medicine, Gatton said she plans to continue her business through college to help pay tuition, fees and other costs, and then she said she will pass on the business at some point to her now 7-year-old sister, allowing her to do the same.

LCHS students Kylee Barney and Abbie Adkison designed their business concept: K&A Pure Art Studio, in which they would not only sell their own photography and art but provide classes to teach subjects such as sculpture and photography.

LCHS freshman Cadence Wheeler pitched her business concept, the reopening of her family’s Neodesha Restaurant, Mojo’s. After losing industry from the town in recent years, downtown businesses have been closing. Wheeler said her father had to close their restaurant in order to take a different job to support the family. Her father still owns the building. Wheeler said her concept for reopening the restaurant would be to try to initiate the revitalization of the downtown area.

Wheeler was the second-place winner this year, taking home $500.

PHS business teacher Jane Posch presented to her students the opportunity to participate this year in the E-Fair and several decided to accept the challenge. She said it was somewhat last-minute, giving her students only about four weeks to compile their business concepts and develop their plans for submission. Having never participated, every aspect of the competition was new for PHS. Still, one team placed.

Brooklynn Woodworth, Matyson Vail and Ian Shelite presented their business called Out of the Woods, in which they would use discarded pallets and recycle them to design a variety of customized, rustic home-decor items, from knick-knack shelves to picture frames.

“We can customize them to anything you want,” Shelite said. “So far it is just a concept, but I think that it’d actually be a pretty cool business to run and it would generate a lot of income, I think.”

The three won third place in this year’s competition.

PHS students Jayda Burgess, Kristy Kline and Bri Luton designed a business called the Golden Bean Food Truck. The three said they would offer specialty coffees, teas and a variety of food items. They would take their truck to Labette Community College and PHS to help provide students with their morning caffeine fix before classes, in addition to heading to industries around town to serve customers.

PHS students Brannin Thornton and Austin Rossman’s business is Sun Bourne LLC, a community garden business designed to provide indoor and outdoor garden spots to rent, allowing people to grow food year round to help provide their families organic foods that are not genetically modified, they said.

Ludwig said she was very excited for all of the students’ great ideas that were submitted this year, and she is hopeful even more schools in Labette County will participate next year.

Economic viability in small, rural communities plagued by outward migration can be difficult to attain, but in a world networked by ever-advancing technology, many entrepreneurs are proving more their ability to work from anywhere and be financially successful.


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