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CEO students showcase their businesses

EFFINGHAM — Teutopolis High School senior Mindy Myers is a big believer in the connection between the kitchen and family.

“People my age don't get into the kitchen, but family is such an important thing,” she said.

Myers, a member of the Effingham County CEO class, thought about baking before she decided the health regulations would be too daunting. So, she did the next best thing — she's personalizing kitchen apparel, such as aprons, towels, chef hats and other kitchen items.

Myers' “Strings Attached” was one of many business projects displayed by the 40 members of this year's CEO class at the annual CEO Trade Show Wednesday at the Thelma Keller Convention Center. Each class member develops a personal business with a viable plan to display the skills they have learned over the course of the school year.

Myers adopted a business slogan of “Stringing Family Together.” She said she learned the importance of family when her father, Joe Myers, was killed in a motorcycle accident when Mindy was 5 years old.

“Losing my dad like I did made me realize we only get one shot,” she said.

She's also been thinking about CEO class founder Craig Lindvahl, who was diagnosed with cancer last year. A portion of her profit from each apron is going to the American Cancer Society in Lindvahl's honor.

After the baking idea went south, Myers' mother, Amy Vahling, helped her develop the kitchen gear idea. Vahling said her daughter has learned so much from participation in the CEO program.

“She's matured so much,” Vahling said. “It's so unreal how much she has grown.”

Myers plans to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and major in either engineering or business. She still plans to do craft shows and conduct online sales while a college student.

Around the corner from Myers was Effingham High School senior Kaylee Tonn and her “Time to Chime” project. Tonn is selling wind chimes that she has ordered from a distributor.

Like Myers, Tonn has developed a family connection in her business.

“When my grandmother (Rita Welker) passed away, we got a set of wind chimes,” she said. “They are outside my bedroom window, so when they ring, I think of my grandma.”

Tonn said the biggest challenge in her business was trying to determine what would sell.

A star catcher on the EHS softball team, Tonn plans to continue her softball career at Southeastern Illinois College outside Harrisburg. She plans to major in criminal justice.

CEO students often create a business that jibes with a special interest they have. That's what THS senior Dalton Kemper did with his DK Sports Blog.

“I have a passion for sports and I like to write,” Kemper said. “I just combined the two.

“It's a good way to get my opinion out there,” he said.

Kemper, who was the student manager on both the THS soccer and boys basketball teams, said he finds sports exciting.

“I like seeing the passion people have during a big moment,” he said. “It also brings people together like few things can.”

Kemper plans to attend Lake Land College this fall. He is undecided on his major, though he is considering business, engineering or journalism.

More than 1,000 people attended the trade show again this year, including a number of seasoned businesspeople who praised the program.

“I think it's a fabulous program,” said investment counselor Mike Hewing of Teutopolis, whose granddaughter Kaitlin Deters was selling team blankets at the show.

Insurance agent Hank Niebrugge said he likes to attend the show every year.

“I love to see the kids' creative ideas that come out of this program,” Niebrugge said.

Facilitator Kent Probst said the trade show is “an awesome event with an awesome crowd.”

“It's great to watch the kids interact in an adult manner,” Probst said. “It's incredible when they take their ideas and build a business.”

Probst said the class increased the size of the show area and included convention center staff in the planning.

Source:  Effingham Daily News
By: Bill Grimes Daily News

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