FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 8, 2019
Estill County FFA Member Casey Howell Awarded a $5,000 Venture Capital Grant From the Kentucky FFA Foundation
Casey Howell braved the Shark Tank at Kentucky FFA Convention and came home with a sizeable grant to help grow his business.
Howell is a rising sophomore at Estill County High School and an active member of that school’s FFA chapter. His enterprise is C3 Fabrication, where he specializes in custom roll cages for utility task vehicles as well as other implements. He recently took part in the Kentucky FFA Shark Tank, a grant competition styled after the popular television show with the same name.
FFA members in 9th through 11th grades were invited to submit a 4 to 6-minute video explaining their enterprise and how a grant would help advance their business. Howell was one of ten finalists selected to present his idea live in front of a panel of judges and an audience at the state FFA convention, which eventually led to his selection as one of the five $5,000 grant recipients.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Howell, “but it was good to help grow my business and get out of my comfort zone to do more things through FFA.”
Howell plans to use the grant to help purchase a CNC plasma table, a very expensive piece of equipment that will expand his fabrication capabilities. Just two weeks after receiving the grant, he was already in North Carolina testing out models and getting training on how to use a table.
The student enterprises in the competition were also Supervised Agricultural Experience projects. All students who are in school-based agriculture classes in Kentucky have the opportunity to develop their own SAE and participate in leadership development through FFA. Both of those experiences complement the in-class instruction they receive.
“I don’t know of another youth organization that prepares a student to be career ready like FFA,” said Darrell Billings, one of the judges for the final portion of the competition and a member of the Kentucky FFA Foundation board of trustees. “These kids leave high school understanding how to keep records, borrow money, get a return – it’s a real tribute to the way ag ed is set up in Kentucky and the way FFA rewards those kids who work hard.”
This year’s agriculture venture capital grants were made possible by a generous donation from Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn.
“When Dr. Lynn gave us the money to use, he said just go make a difference,” said Billings. “That was opening us up to be able to change the whole world…and for these kids, he did.”
“I’ve always said if you’re feeling down about the future, come to the state FFA convention,” said Kyle Kelly, another final round judge and Kentucky FFA Foundation board of trustees member. “These students are really thinking outside of the box. We went from traditional SAE’s all the way up to a young man who had diversified into building roll cages for UTV’s. They’re already making money, investing money and putting money back into their local communities. Dr. Lynn and all of us will see a return on investment that will impact students for the rest of their lifetimes. We couldn’t have done that without his support.”
The Kentucky FFA Foundation cultivates partnerships which support the FFA vision to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. Kentucky FFA Foundation initiatives impact more than 14,500 FFA members in 154 FFA chapters across Kentucky.