Posts Tagged ‘STJOECEO.ORG’

startupthecityTonight in South Bend, Indiana, a student group that I’ve been proud to be associated with for the past two years will be hosting a grand event that’s been months in the planning – and it’s already a sell-out.

StJoeCEO is a group of over 30 high school seniors (and one junior) from seven area high schools in its second year, with a mission of developing tomorrow’s young entrepreneurs.  For several months now the students have been building support for their big event at the Palais Royale in downtown South Bend.

(Disclosure: I am a board member and the CFO of StJoeCEO, but much more interesting and importantly to me, an occasional in-class volunteer and a mentor to several of these bright and enthusiastic students.)

If you ever despair of the future, given all the divisiveness surrounding us today, just find a group like this to turn your head around.

Tonight’s event, Startup The City is a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, and of the tremendous strides that the city of South Bend has made in just the last couple of years.  The event features “Venture Valley” and “Innovation Way” that will showcase local entrepreneurs… “Panel in the Park,” a panel discussion including South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Chamber CEO (and former area mayor) Jeff Rea, and a host of local business dignitaries… and showcase presentations by area start-ups.

For the students, it’s an opportunity to put into motion what they’ve been learning the past few months about business, innovation, strategic thinking, finance and emotional intelligence, not to mention marketing, sales, pitching, record-keeping and flat-out entrepreneurial thinking.  Program Director Iris Hammel and her co-teacher Bethany Hartley have been tireless in their efforts to set a high bar for these kids – and they appear to be exceeding.

Collectively, the StJoeCEO team has already raised around $80,000 in event funding, half of which will later go to fund the students’ own start-up businesses, which each will be diligently working on as soon as Startup ends tonight.  In the coming weeks, each will give a ‘Shark Tank’-like presentation to a panel of local business and investment professionals, and will ultimately share in funds that will help them launch their own local businesses.

What a great way to learn about entrepreneurship and the many benefits of their hometown community.  I am excited to attend this evening along with about 300 other folks, and look forward to working with these students the rest of the year.

You can learn more about StJoeCEO here.  They’re currently accepting applications for a few spots in next year’s classes, and are in the process of adding a college level program and an Elkhart area class as well.  I encourage anyone who knows of a bright young high school junior to check them out.

And by the way, local business community… investors are ALWAYS welcome!


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SJCEO_SBTribWe’ll veer way off-topic today, but for a good cause. 

Last year I had the privilege of being introduced to, and starting to work somewhat closely with, a terrific new venture in our area named St. Joe CEO.  They are the local affiliate (in St. Joseph County, Indiana where our firm is located) of a growing national program whose web tagline says it all: “CEO is the standard for entrepreneurial education in the United States.”

Locally, this is the inaugural CEO class, consisting of 23 carefully selected seniors from every high school in our county.  The goal is to prepare them not for just entrepreneurial opportunities, but in the larger sense, for managing their lives.  Students become immersed in real life learning opportunities that include plant tours, guest speakers, relevant reading assignments and class projects.

Right now, CEO student teams from committees that include finance, sponsor solicitation and marketing, among others, are planning a huge fundraiser to be held on February 25th in a giant hangar at the South Bend airport.  There, via attendance and auction – augmented by sponsor contributions (Platinum, Gold, Silver, and still available!) — the students plan to raise the funds that will help seed the creation of their own, real-life businesses.  At the same time, they’ll be promoting a local organization called “Ignite Michiana” by presenting student sponsored “Ted”-style talks that promote the accomplishments of area youth, to an expected audience of over 700.

As a longtime business owner and entrepreneur, I’ve personally taken a fast and deep interest in their efforts, and volunteer three mornings a week to help work with and teach the class.  The program director, Iris Hammel, is a hands-on, energetic leader who manages to pull all the pieces together in directing the efforts of the various student committees as they prepare for the big fund-raiser next month, and their subsequent real-life business start-ups.

But here’s the thing: In order to participate, besides the heavy work load, students must commit to attending a daily session that runs every morning before school from 7:30 to 9:00 AM… then, they head off to school.  Yet, as more than one has noted, the program has changed their life.  Most love the program so much – and the challenges it serves to them – that they wouldn’t think of missing a session.

Here’s the other thing: As an instructor/helper/mentor, it’s a terrifically engaging opportunity to give something back (to students yearning to learn to be business people and entrepreneurs), but also to get something in return – the satisfaction of the doing, and the learning, that comes of working with younger people.  In all cases – and this is why I’m writing about it and recommending such a path to others – what you get back is more than equal to what you give.

And that is my New Year’s Wish for you dear readers!  Learn more about St Joe CEO from a great recent article in The South Bend Tribune you should find here.





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