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Calling area business people: Share your expertise with student entrepreneurs

Lee Westrum, Superintendant, WDC Schools

An innovative new program called CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) will be starting next fall for juniors and seniors at Wadena-Deer Creek High School, Staples-Motley High School and Pillager High School that will give students the opportunity to work side by side with successful business people from all three communities. The program will be non-traditional in that the class will meet at a different area business each quarter for an entire school year and students will learn about entrepreneurship firsthand from successful local entrepreneurs. Once students get their feet under them they will develop a business plan and start their own business.

The program aims to develop young entrepreneurs who have the skills necessary to develop new businesses in the area or be an asset to an existing business or industry in the area. While this is certainly an education program, it is equally as much an economic development program that invests in young people and shows them all of the possibilities that exist in this area for profitable businesses and industries. It is a "grow your own" entrepreneur program that plants seeds today for harvest in the future and the crop we are growing is economic development.

In order for this program to be a success we are going to need local business people to participate. There are four ways for a business person to participate in the CEO program:

• Serve as a host site. We will need businesses that are willing to let the class meet at their site for a period of time from a few weeks to a few months. We are expecting 10-20 students for year one of the program.

• Volunteer as a mentor for a student. Part of the program is to pair students with a successful business person in a mentor-mentee relationship.

• Volunteer to make a presentation to the CEO class. Local business people will be asked to present to the class on topics that they are experts on.

• Contribute financially. The program is funded completely through donations, so financial investments are essential for the program.

If you would like more information about CEO and how you can participate in this innovative new program, you can contact Mike Craig at (218) 631-4096, Dean Uselman at (218) 631-7710 or Lee Westrum at (218) 632-2176. Mike Craig, Dean Uselman and Lee Westrum are the representatives from the Wadena-Deer Creek area on the Central Minnesota CEO Board of Directors.