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Photo by Diane Cox
Granite City business teacher and program facilitator Karen Greenwald stands with Jacob Shemwell and Greg Nienhaus at their booth at the CEO business showcase. Shemwell and Nienhaus plan to offer a service to help senior citizens adapt to technology.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Granite City senior Kelsey Clark stands behind a table promoting her business, Fuzion, on April 27 at Southwestern Illinois College in Granite City. Clark makes homemade bath and beauty products.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Alexis Reese is offering a Spanish translation service with her business, Reese Translations. She says she wants to solve immigrants’ communication issues.
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Granite City senior Th’Adrin Hanna speaks with residents about his businesses.
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Residents and business professionals check out the businesses.
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Student CEOs showcase their business ventures and speak with business leaders about how to market their products.
GRANITE CITY — Granite City High School seniors, under the direction of business teacher Karen Greenwald, are branching out into the business world through the CEO program.
Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship is a central Illinois-based company whose purpose is to encourage business owners to train future executives.
A dozen Granite City seniors were chosen to participate in the yearlong program through a process that included filling out an application and providing references from teachers.
Funded and supported by local business owners, students will earn two high school credits while they use businesses as classrooms to learn how to run a business. They will develop a business plan and market and sell products. The program has seen students make $5,000 to $30,000 a year.
“The purpose is for students to learn they have opportunities right here in their own communities,” institute Executive Director Craig Lindvahl said. “This program shows them how to create those opportunities right here and become the CEO of their own business while still in high school.”
Business owners commit to an annual investment of $1,000 for three years while providing resources for the current year expenses and sustainability of the CEO class for future students.
“We are very fortunate to have the active businesses behind us,” Greenwald said. “When we have CEO events, many of our business sponsors and advisory board members participate. They have really gone above and beyond the call of duty for our students. We have some great mentors.”
Students visit businesses, meet with professionals and learn about running a company. They start their own business from a concept, learn how to produce the product and work to make it successful.
“In January we had a Best of Granite City trade show at St. Gregory’s Armenian Community Center for businesses here in town,” Greenwald said. “There was a cover charge for the event. Those funds went toward the new businesses the students would form. Each student opened a business account for their business. When it came time to choose their business, I told them to make a list of ideas and narrow it down.”
CEO participant Kelsey Clark and her mother created a business out of their Pinterest hobby of making health and beauty items.
“I found ways to make lotions and bath and body products. I know a lot of girls who carry lotions in their purses,” Clark said. “The products I’m selling are all homemade and they all have natural oils in them. People are really into all-natural things and are staying away from things that have potentially harsh chemicals.”
Greg Nienhaus Jr. and his business partner Jacob Shemwell resolved to offer a service to bridge the gap between senior citizens and technology.
“It’s our plan to focus on technology as a whole and not just focus on the use of computers,” Shemwell said. “Our main purpose is to offer instruction to senior citizens who want to learn how to use technology. Technology is always evolving and it can be confusing, especially in the beginning. We are going to start with tablets because there are models that are small, affordable and easier to use.”
The program’s goal is to take the start-up business and put it to use past the high school years. After graduation, students own the businesses and can keep them to pay for a college education.
Alexis Reese took her love of language and marketed her abilities as a language translator as CEO of Reese Translations.
“I know that language translations is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Reese said. “I’ve invested more than three years of my life to learn Spanish. With the immigration situation becoming an increasing concern in our country, having people who can translate Spanish will be very handy. If I can help resolve issues through my work, that would be very rewarding. I hope to learn more languages and I’ve even considered the military as an avenue to do that.”
The program showcased the businesses and officially opened their doors for sales April 27 at Southwestern Illinois College’s Granite City campus.
“We had a really great turnout to this year’s showcase,” Greenwald said. “We had a very special surprise when Midland Executive Director Craig Lindvahl came to see our new businesses get launched. It was such a great experience and the students were excited to make their first sales and contacts to offer their services. Business cards and fliers were in high demand.”
Approximately 150 to 200 guests came through the doors to support the students in their new ventures.
For information, visit midlandinstitute.com/CEO-Class-Profile/Granite-City-CEO. Businesses interested in becoming mentors or corporate sponsors can contact Greenwald at firstname.lastname@example.org.