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Kokomo CEO class helps students create businesses, become entrepreneurs

Editor's note: Over the past several weeks the Tribune has examined mentoring opportunities in and around Howard County. This is the fifth story in the series.

KOKOMO - Sarah Hutchison wants to be an entrepreneur, and through the Kokomo CEO class, she’s one step closer.

Hutchison, a senior at Kokomo High School, is one of 19 students enrolled in the CEO class, which stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. Through the class, students at high schools around Howard County meet with business mentors in the community to learn about creating and running their own businesses.


Since the start of her senior year last fall, Hutchison has been meeting with Crystal Sanburn, the sponsor relations manager for the Kokomo Jackrabbits. Sanburn has helped Hutchison work through her ideas for what business to develop.

Kim LaFollette, who works for Community First Bank in Kokomo and is a member of the CEO board, said the mentors help guide the students through the process of creating a successful business. The mentors are available to ask questions and help the students work through different problems they run into, but the students are responsible for reaching out to their mentors.

The students also meet as a group with other leaders in the community to learn about everything from networking to creating a resume.

“It’s all student-driven,” LaFollette said. “Some programs are mentor-driven, but this class is entirely student-driven.”

The students are tasked with coming up with their own idea and plan for a business. Initially, Hutchison said she wanted to focus on creating a financial business, but she said she’s always leaned more toward arts and crafts, so she changed her focus to a candle company.

Hutchison found out about the CEO class from one of her teachers at the Kokomo Area Career Center, where she was taking a business class her junior year. Her teacher urged her and a few other students, including Molly Hedrick, to consider applying for the CEO program.

The program is a commitment, Hutchison said. They had to not only show that they were seriously interested in it in their applications, they also meet at 7:30 in the morning and have to make time to meet with their mentors.

Hedrick said she was excited to apply for the class, and she was even more excited to be accepted.

“I wanted to be in this class,” she said. “Success has always been my thing.”

Hedrick knew she wanted her business to be a bakery. She said she’s good at budgeting and shopping at stores like Goodwill, which she thought she could put to use somehow, but baking is one of her passions.

As the students worked through their year in the program, they planned a CEO Summit, which they hosted in February. The event brought together business and community leaders from around the Kokomo area for keynote speakers and breakout sessions focused on improving businesses. Each year, the class plans a similar event to raise money for the next year’s class.


The real challenge, though, was putting together their businesses by the end of the year. Last week, the students finally were able to show off their hard work at their CEO Trade Show. At the event, each student set up their business and sold or talked about their products.

The businesses ranged from used car sales to custom sports awards to gourmet coffee. Hutchison showed off her candle business, RoseWicks, while Hedrick sold her Butter Bakery goods.

Hedrick chose the name Butter for her bakery because she wants people to know she didn’t hold back any of “the good stuff,” she said.

“The theme is indulgence,” Hedrick said. “Extra butter, extra chocolate, extra everything.”

Hedrick said the hardest part of putting everything together was creating the macaroons she sold during the trade show. She wanted the macaroons to be the highlight of her bakery, but they were harder to make than she anticipated and she had to improvise with other baked goods. Overall, though, she said she was proud of what she put together and people seemed interested in her various treats.

Hutchison chose the name RoseWicks because roses smell great, she said. She added that the hardest part of putting her business together was the amount of time it took to make all of her candles.

“It was very time consuming,” she said. “If I didn’t have the candle-making machine that I have, then it would have taken so much longer and it would be very messy.”

Hutchison plans to continue selling her candles, and she’s accepting donations of used candles that she can melt down to make into new ones. To find out more, visit her RoseWicks Facebook page at


Education Reporter Caele Pemberton can be reached at 765-454-8587, by email at or on Twitter @CaelePemberton

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