Tonight 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!