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Area students head to trade show

Three area high school students are taking their Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, or CEO, businesses to the national level.

Cassidy Tucker of the Shelby County CEO program, Marlee Nolen of the Fayette County program, and Keri Zumbahlen of the Jasper County program are among the 25 students who will see their projects and businesses showcased in the annual Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship National CEO Trade Show on June 9.

Midland Institute Community Director Kent Probst said this is the first year the national show is not being held in Effingham.


“This year we’re moving it to Champaign,” Probst said. “We have several communities that are near and emerging in the Champaign area. It’s centrally located for all our programs are from Indiana and Minnesota and Illinois.”

Probst said the CEO program in Effingham just wrapped up its 11th year following the 2018-2019 school year. The idea for a national trade show emerged as the program grew out of state with programs emerging across the country. Probst said starting in fall 2019, CEO will have 51 programs across five states.

Former Effingham County CEO student Madison Magee said students across Illinois and other states applied to be in the national trade show. She described the chosen businesses as “upper-level” businesses that stood out in their county’s program, which will be seen on a nationwide platform.

“I think it’s a great source of pride for them (the students) that they got accepted and that they’ve worked so hard on their business and spent so much time on it, and people see the worth in it,” Magee said. “It’s also the excitement of explaining it to people who aren’t from your small town. It’s not so much a personal thing; it’s more of a professional thing.”

The national trade show will also be the first time Magee’s CEO University program will be showcased outside of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Magee started the first college-level CEO program in 2018 after she was approached by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship to help create a program for college students.


Along with the CEO University booth, a Midland Institute booth will also provide information on getting involved with the program and how to bring it to other communities.

Businesses from area students to be featured at the national trade show include Nolen’s InBloom, a succulent plant business. Zumbahlen started KZ deSIGNed, a business focused on faith-based signage handmade by Zumbahlen. Tucker’s FabFormals is a store selling, purchasing and renting formal wear.

Other concepts to be featured at the trade show coming from students in Illinois are essential oils, stone table and countertops, video game designs, pet trees and toys and more. The trade show will be held Sunday, June 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn located at 1501 S. Neil St. in Champaign. Magee said three trade show participants will also be awarded $2,500.

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