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CEO class hosts trade show to wrap up year

Wadena student Jessica Langer is "The Furry Dogmother," which is her CEO business venture.

Each of the Central MN Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities students had the opportunity to showcase the individual businesses they started at the CEO Trade Show at the Landmark Inn in Staples on Monday, May 18. Approximately 100 people attended the event to see the students marketing the products and services they had for sale. Local business investors and the CEO Advisory Board held their Annual Meeting at 5 p.m., prior to the trade show which ran from 5:30 — 7 p.m.

The mission of the CEO Program is to enable high school students to become self-reliant individuals who will have the skills to start successful businesses and contribute to the ongoing economic development of their communities.

Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek High Schools, along with area business leaders, collaborated to give eight high school students this unique opportunity.

Wadena-Deer Creek students participating in the program were Kayla Hanson, Jessica Langer, Hope Norenberg and Danyel Post from Wadena-Deer Creek High School.

Langer's business is called "The Furry Dogmother," a dogsitting service. Post created the "How to Nail It Manual," a fingernail art manual she wrote and illustrated. Snowflake Blankets, custom made polar fleece blankets and pillows, were created by Norenberg. And Hanson has been selling Sweet Jamaica food.

The CEO program was founded in 2008 in Effingham, Ill., under the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship. The first teacher of the CEO program, Craig Lindvahl of Effingham, has been to Wadena and Staples to help launch the program.

Cindi Koll serves as the program's facilitator.

While emphasizing real-world learning over textbooks, the class is linked to Common Core and national entrepreneurship education standards and provides high school credits. Students are selected for the class through a rigorous application process.

The Central MN CEO Advisory Board oversees the program and is made up of business owners and school administrators from Staples, Motley, Wadena and Deer Creek. They meet on a regular basis to hear updates from CEO students, to fine-tune and improve the first-year program and other program needs. Members include: Bob Jackson, Jerel Nelsen, Lee Westrum, Mike Palmer, Chris Hadfield, Judy Richer, Mark Schmitz, Rich Utech, Dean Uselman, Julie Nelson, Michael Craig, Sue Turner and Koll.

Each student has two mentors from Wadena or Staples who help guide the students. They are:

The CEO program is funded thanks to CEO investors - local businesses who were asked at the beginning of the school year to contribute $1,000 a year, with a three-year commitment. The program is entirely funded by businesses - there is no cost to the school districts.

Those investors include: Staples Rotary Club, Lakewood Health System, Pillager Area Firearms Department & Relief Association, Chad and Paula Becker, Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union, City of Wadena, Stern Companies Inc., Mayer, Porter and Nelson, Ltd., Long Prairie Packing Company, Sen. Paul Gazelka, MeKechnie Vehicle Components, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Stern Manufacturing, Staples Economic Development, Doyle and Deb Yoder, Larry and Karen Lundbland and Staples-Motley Area Community Foundation.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561