Trending News

Region hosts students at National CEO Trade Show

Coming up with successful business plans means reaching back to your roots or past experiences, in some cases with young entrepreneurs at the CEONext National Trade Show held Sunday.

The event was held at the Keller Convention Center in Effingham. Among the business plans were easy-to-make meals, like mason jar potato soup, providing yard work or babysitting services, plus using recyclables for crafts.

Sara Stephens with Shelby County CEO created Elysian Script, to bring smiles to faces through her designs of watercolor cards and air fresheners sachets. And Thomas Quick started Tombomb's Adventures, which is quality entertainment for parties and events through bounce house-type fun.


Karis Hortin, 17, of Albion, created “Jars of Hope,” where she hopes she is making a difference to other orphans, one jar at a time.

“I sell three dry food mixes in a jar – chocolate chip cookies, mac and cheese and potato soup – and they are super easy and convenient meals. For example, my potato soup only takes six cups of boiling water and it is good to go.”

A member of the Mount Carmel CEO, Hortin said the idea came in part from her grandmother, who had served her potato soup. She then targeted the younger audience with mac and cheese and also chocolate chip cookies for a sweet treat. She is considering expanding her menu in the future.

Hortin said was adopted at age 9 from the Ethiopia orphanage called Covenant Ministries, located in Eastern Africa. She has five siblings, four from Ethiopia and two from the U.S.

“I'm truly thankful for all God has blessed me with,” said Hortin. “This is a way I can give back a little bit.”

She will be going back to the orphanage to see how her funds will used to help others, as 100 percent of her jars proceeds goes there. She hopes to have $2,000 raised before her trip in July.

“Not many people in general can open their own business at 17,” said Hortin. “It's rewarding and now I feel like I can do anything.”

Avery Elder, Effingham CEO, was invited with her business that takes care of smelly feet. Her solution, called Nolor, is an innovative way to deodorize shoes using shoe hooks and natural agents like tea tree oil and activated bamboo charcoal.

Jessica Ware of Springfield and Emily Eades of Springfield, both just graduated from Sacred Heart Griffin High School and will attend different colleges in Indiana this coming fall.

But, while in the Sangamon CEO, they partnered together based on similar passions – recycling, crafts, and helping the less fortunate -- in Kenya. Using their last name's first initial, they formed “W.E. Recycle.”

The two young adults launched their recycling/craft business in February where they “turn scraps into crafts.” From their sales, 10 percent goes to foundations in Kenya working to help better lives for the people living there.

Ware explained that they take old items and create trendy products like greeting cards, headbands, dog toys, and decorations for dorms or rooms, and maybe even an office, since they customize orders, too.

“We both found a common ground, where we both had a connection in recycling and crafting, and wanting to give back,” said Eades.

Everything they make is 100 percent recyclable. In just a few months they've made about $2,000, with $200 earmarked for charities in Kenya.

“We want to keep expanding our business the best we can, but we are both going to different colleges in Indiana,” said Ware. “We want to keep it going and keep giving back.”

Cassidy Wilson of Dixon with WACC CEO, owns, “The Mustard Seed,” which is a combination of specialty signs and gourmet mustard company.

“The signs appeal to a popular and growing demand for rustic wooden decorations,” said Wilson. “The mustard is at first sweet, but it has a kick you don't expect. It's a great dipping mustard.”

Wilson said she designs the words, style and font, and creates a stencil to go onto the wood.

She just graduated from Newman High School in Sterling. She plans to attend the University of Iowa.


In Macoupin County CEO, Bryce Buzik, Staunton, has created a service business that provides work opportunities for high school and college students, in his business called “Handful of Help.”

Handful of Help offers just about any kind of work projects including lawn care, dog walking, house cleaning, shopping for groceries, babysitting, dog sitting, moving furniture and lots more.

“I'm the sole proprietor and these others are single contractors,” said Buzik. “We have a few big jobs coming up. As the company grows we will be bringing in more workers.”

Buzik said he admits he wasn't serious much in high school, but after being in the CEO program he's learned so much and knows now how to be a successful business man.

The program, overseen by The Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, brings students in the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities from 168 schools in 39 communities, according to its website.

“We started in Effingham,” said Rebecca Meylor, business development assistant at Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship. “We help CEO programs start in communities across the United States. Here these are students from 16 different communities, where every community has their own local trade show.”

Programs are now growing in Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, and most recently started in Florida, Meylor said.

This national trade show gives those students who were selected a chance to take their businesses to the next level, while also competing for one of three $2,500 Award of Excellence to be invested back into their business.

Kristy Sayers, Effingham County CEO facilitator said that CEO continues to be a game changer for all involved.

“The experience is exciting, unique and often difficult to describe,” said Sayers. “I anticipate continued growth and expansion into additional states in the future for the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship.”

Contact Dawn Schabbing at or 217-347-7151, ext. 138

Share this news article

[ Error ]
CEO Class Directory