Laurie Daugherty

At the Venture Connectors Feb. 1 lunch, Laurie Daugherty, executive director of the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs (GSE), discussed how her organization prepares Kentucky high school students to be successful entrepreneurs by exposing them to the tools and skills necessary to start a company. She shared how the accelerator-style program offers teens opportunities to gain high school credit, scholarships and build a company from the ground up.

Daugherty also talked about the precedent-setting work GSE is doing that is garnering national attention, and how it relates to the Governor’s Scholar and Governor’s School for the Arts programs. She also shared tips on how the audience could get involved with GSE to help create the next 10 entrepreneurs.

GSE is a three-week program held in the summer that exposes Kentucky 9th, 10th and 11th grade students to established entrepreneurs, startup tools, funding, emerging technologies and scholarships. It is free to apply and attend, and culminates with a Demo Day where each team of up to four students pitches their business to a panel of judges in front of a large audience. The top five teams have the opportunity to earn cash prizes.

In 2013, Daugherty applied startup methodology to take GSE from ideation to implementation. She and GSE leadership recognized that efforts like this focused on developing human capital may be the best hope of changing outcomes and improving living standards for many Kentucky communities. Under Daugherty’s leadership, the program showed immediate success.

In 2016, she founded KEENStart, a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation, to operate GSE and focus on entrepreneurship education initiatives. She began her career in a startup way before it was cool and has been involved with business in a multifaceted capacity for more than 25 years. Her experience includes small business ownership and management, advising Fortune 500 companies on corporate transactions, and managing the Kentucky Enterprise Fund and the Kentucky Innovation Network. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and a law degree with distinction from the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.