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Richland County 2019 CEO Trade Show Defines Success

Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities is just the tip of the iceberg defining what the Richland County CEO program offers to participating RCHS students. Last nights trade show, held at The Holiday, was the capstone event for a program open to all seniors at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year for Richland County High School.
While the program is open to the entire senior class, only ten students are selected to participate. The 2019 trade show event is the culmination of countless hours of dedication not only by the students, but also RCHS teacher Sherri Gray, in her second year as the program facilitator. Additionally, a lot of time was invested by participant’s mentors, along with the assistance of businesses conducting commerce in Richland county. 
Ms. Gray explains the value of Richland County CEO. “As a classroom teacher, I know there is much more to offer our students, but we are sometimes limited by our surroundings. CEO helps these students explore the world around them....being a ‘hometown’ girl, I know the importance of giving back to the community, and I view CEO as a way to accomplish that.“
Richland County CEO is a member of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, which helps establish the local CEO board while providing on-going training and support. The vision of the CEO program is help participants compete in the global economy while being inspired to contribute to the economic development of the county.
The CEO program is very much a county-wide collaboration of mentors, educators, and local businesses, without which this program would not be possible. There are twenty-five foundational investors and eleven CEO investors consisting of locally owned and national corporate businesses. 
What they are investing in is the future. And the future is embodied in this year’s 2019 Richland County CEO student participants. A complete list of these supportive businesses can be found at
The students met daily for a ninety minute meeting versus a regular classroom curricula. In the first semester, they collaborated to create a community event. In the second semester of the school year, each student went solo, creating and running their own business.
Last night’s event took place to allow each student to showcase their business. In the pattern of industry trade shows, each student presented their business in a booth format that allowed the public to ‘stroll the floor’ and speak with the young business owner. 
One purpose of the evening was to judge the top three businesses among the ten participants. When all participants do an excellent job, it makes it especially difficult to decide. Each business was unique, with many tied into family roots, while others were inspired by particular passions. The ten businesses and students are presented here alphabetically, with the top three businesses noted herein.
Abigail Nealis created O’ Happy Soap Co., which offers aesthetically pleasing bar soaps and other bath and body products in a wide variety of scents and textures that are beneficial for the skin. Abigail is donating the proceeds of her sales to the Unity Project, a local non-profit assisting the homeless and disadvantaged here in Richland County. Abigail said, “I like soaps and shopping around for the ones I really like. I thought it would be great to share my favorites. I also want to help other people, so the Unity Project seemed like the perfect fit for me to do that.′ Abigail was 3rd runner-up in the judges picks.
Brent Hatten used his passion for the outdoors as his starting point. His business, Birdbrains and More, offers handmade birdhouses, picture frames, squirrel houses, and bird feeders made from barn wood. Brent shared, “I’m really a hands on person, and because my dad loves photography so much, we decided to make frames. I love the outdoors, so I combined that with my passion for wood working, and with the help of my mom, who is very craftsy, we designed these bird houses.” Brent will be going to college with the aim of becoming a civil engineer.
Dakotah Brown started his business by using his Vietnamese grandmother’s recipe for egg rolls. His business is called Kim’s Egg Rolls. They are delicious, homemade, and authentic Vietnamese egg rolls with dipping sauces. Dakotah plans on attending OCC, then a university to obtain a degree in business marketing. To properly report, a taste test was obligatory, and this reporter fervently hopes Dakotah opens a store front business to sell them, as he indicated that may possibly take place down the road.
Lauren Hill, placing second with the judges, created $5 Flat, a non-profit that sells donated new and lightly used ladies dress shoes for $5. Profits subsidize business clothing at Cinderella’s Threads, located on Whittle Avenue, where women are able to rent formal and business clothing. The owner of Cinderella’s Threads, Geneva Forys, was on hand with Lauren, who shared, “I’ve known Geneva for most of my life.“
Lauren’s inspiration for her business has a unique story behind it. At one of the meeting versus class sessions, Sherri Gray commented on how nice Lauren’s shoes were she was wearing. That comment was the basis for a wonderful non-profit business designed to help women feel good about how they look. 
Lauren plans on becoming a cultural resource anthropologist. Indiana State University in Terre Haute is the closest university offering courses for her specialty, but she is not committed to attending ISU just yet. Her job would involve traveling the world to visit construction sites or any undertaking where there is a potential for culturally important relics to be lost under a bulldozer plow, in way of example. 
Macy Piercefield, owner of Sincerely Yours, provides the service of addressing envelopes and handwritten cards for special events and business needs, available individually or in bulk. When asked what motivated Macy to start Sincerely Yours, she replied, “I’ve been complimented on my penmanship by a lot of people, and I thought I could use that skill to provide well-written cards.” 
Reid Doll, owner of EyeFly, provides customers with high-quality aerial drone photos of their home and property. Customers are able to access their digital copies and printing options for one simple, flat fee. When asked how high the drones can operate he replied, “The manufacturer recommends 400 feet tops, but I’ve only taken it up to 250 feet.“
Reid plans on keeping the business open through the summer. He said, “I have jobs lined up, but a lot of them want me to wait until the grass is greener and trees and flowers are in full bloom.” 
Seth Kocher, owner of SK Metal Products, offers custom-made sheet metal signs designed and cut to the customer’s specifications with various painting options available. Seth utilized the resources of both the high school and the FFA. A plasma torch cutting table is owned by the FFA and is set up in the RCHS metal shop. Seth rents the machine from the FFA, represented by Dawson Hawkins.
Seth shared with the paper about his business. “I do a lot of the signs and designs for families. I’ve worked with some businesses for their signage. Precision Collusion is one of the companies I’ve sold to and I have more on order to complete. I also have done some for different sport teams.“
Sutton Dunn, winner of the Shark Tank Award given to him earlier in the year, also took 1st place last night. Seth sells a sells a delicious, homemade and reasonably priced salsa created from a secret family recipe. He said, “All of my ingredients are purchased at Walmart.” His motivation stems from his desire to share his family salsa with the community. The salsa is of a sweeter variety as opposed to fiery. 
Sutton has a bright future ahead of him. He plans on attending OCC for his associates degree, then going on to university for a degree in physical therapy. His father Mart Dunn is a teacher at RCHS and was on hand with his son for the evening. 
Viktoria Willis, owner of Four Paws to Love, sells organic dog and cat treats specifically for animals with allergies along with high-quality bandannas for our four-legged, furry friends. All of her doggie bandannas are handmade by Viktoria. Her inspiration came from her own dog, who has a gluten allergy. When she had trouble finding gluten free dog treats, she sensed a void in the market.
Wilson McWilliams-Conley, owner of Wilson’s Wonder Detergent, provides a homemade, eco-friendly detergent for $5 a gallon. Wilson shared why his detergent makes sense to use. “It’s eco-freindly, and it doesn’t have all kinds of chemicals in it. It’s also much less expensive than major brands like Tide, which can be twice as much per load.“
Wilson plans on keeping the business running and will be attending OCC in the fall. He then will be attending university to pursue a degree in business management. 
At 8 PM, the judges announced the two runner ups and handed an over-sized check for $200.00 to Sutton Dunn. After winning, Sutton said, “I want to thank all my classmates. Everyone did a great job. I also want to thank my parents and my grandpa. I’m just happy.”


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