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CEO Summit empowers students, local entrepreneurs

Local business owners gathered at Wednesday’s Kokomo CEO Summit had the chance to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills, but the event was even more of a learning experience for the area high school students who planned it.

This is the second year the Kokomo Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities class has put on an entrepreneurial summit as its class business endeavor for the school year. Students will go on to launch their own personal businesses this spring, drawing on the experience they gained recruiting sponsors, lining up speakers, selling tickets and attending to numerous other details to plan the CEO Summit.

“There are so many little details,” said Lewis-Cass High School senior Derek Sullivan, who co-led the CEO Summit with Lucy Mavrick. “It seems like a pretty basic idea, but there are a lot of little things you don’t realize until you’re doing it.

“It’s great to see all the hard work of the class pay off,” he added.

Kokomo CEO is part of a network of sites across the Midwest supported by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Illinois. Local businesses invest in each program, and juniors and seniors have to apply to join the class, which meets at the beginning of each school day.

The 18 high school students in this year’s Kokomo CEO class divided into groups to tackle different parts of planning the summit that drew more than 150 people to Oakbrook Church Wednesday afternoon. Paul Wyman, principal broker of the Wyman Group; and Paul Lushin, founder of business advising firm Lushin; gave keynote addresses at the start and close of the summit. Monty Henderson, Jennifer Habig, Terry Munday, Drew Larison and Jason Hoffer led breakout sessions covering everything from marketing to fundraising to team building.

“Really it was who in the community is willing to build into our organization,” said Mavrick, a junior at Kokomo High School, adding her thanks for the sponsors who supported the event.

She and Sullivan both said participating in the Kokomo CEO class has been a valuable experience. Sullivan said he has learned how to interact with adults in a professional setting, and Mavrick said it’s been the highlight of her school career so far.

Laura Lanning has seen her daughter also make progress in the Kokomo CEO class, becoming more professional and getting a better idea of her plans for the future. Lanning attended Wednesday’s summit to support her daughter as well as to gather ideas for her work as Human Services chair at Ivy Tech Community College and for her small candle business, Raven Lake Originals.

She appreciated Wyman’s point that nothing happens until a sale is made and sales are happening all the time – whether literal sales for a business, taking pledges for nonprofits or selling other people on a certain vision for the community. Lanning also attended Habig’s breakout session on progressing your brand.

Morgan Young, who is the facilitator of the Kokomo CEO class, was proud of his students’ efforts organizing the CEO Summit and happy not to be needed Wednesday.

“I honestly love being able to just walk around and do nothing because they’re handling it,” he said between breakout sessions. “They really do know what they’re doing.”

Source: Education reporter Lauren Slagter 

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