StartUp MHK to give opportunities to entrepreneurs.

"Members of the Manhattan business community on Thursday launched StartUp MHK, which will include a pitch competition for entrepreneurs.

Mike Honeywell, a partner in JNT Company, a Manhattan-based marketing firm, helped produce a similar event in Jefferson City, Missouri.

“If you’ve been thinking about starting up a business or somebody has said, ‘You ought to start a business,’ this is the place where you’ll get more support than you’ve ever got in your entire life,” he said.

Honeywell said StartUp MHK’s competition will happen in late September or early October. Organizers are working on finalizing the dates.

For the inaugural year, Honeywell said the goal is to have a pool of $5,000 to $8,000 to distribute to the three businesses with the best pitch. He said he hopes to hear 30 to 40 pitches.

About 40 people attended the kickoff lunch Thursday at Peoples State Bank in Manhattan.

They listened to three local entrepreneurs — Derek Richards, Ben Duell and Matt Karstetter — give advice on starting a business.


Richards, owner of Alliance Realty and co-founder of The Fellow, a coworking space, said the initial years require patience and gratitude for what you get.

“For the first year, we probably would have brought in maybe $200,000 worth of total commissions,” he said. “Last couple of years, we’ve been over $1.5 million, so I’m super happy about that. It’s been really cool to see that.”

Duell, who runs Duell Construction focused on remodeling older homes and commercial spaces, said he took a risk to do something he loves.

“I tell people that running a company is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, but it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve been married for 13 years, and I have three children, so believe me when I tell you it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

Karstetter said he worked in construction for years with his Alliance Development company to create enough funds for his true passion, The Foundation Sports Training Facility, which opened in November 2015.

“Identify what you’re good at and try to play off your strengths,” he said. “God has a way of showing you this is your path.”


Article by Bryan Richardson with the Manhattan Mercury.

Staff photo by Jackie Dobson