An Investment in Monmouth's Future

October 2, 2016

MONMOUTH - The city of Monmouth is investing in the futures of Warren County students with its new CEO program.

Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities began at the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship. The program is franchised, meaning expenses are paid to the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, in exchange for educational curriculum and assistance. The program seeks to empower students by educating them on the fundamentals of "soft skills," such as shaking hands, maintaining eye contact and proper workplace conduct.

"We have achieved our first, most challenging milestone to bring a CEO program to Warren County," said Director of Community and Economic Development Paul Schuytema. "We had to fundraise to cover the franchise fee."

The $25,000 franchise fee associated with the program not only provides curriculum but also covers the expenses associated with training the program's facilitator as well as its board of directors. The fee was covered, at no expense to the taxpayers, through donations made by local businesses. Among the sponsors of the program are Midwest Bank, Security Savings Bank, McDonough Telephone Cooperative, Tharp Brothers, Monmouth College and more.

"This is a business education program, teaching kids how to think like business owners," said Schuytema. "The kids who do this have an advantage over everyone else in high school."

Schuytema first encountered the CEO Program during an awards ceremony in Springfield.

"I heard the creator talk about it. His level of passion was infectious," said Schuytema. "CEO is written into our strategic plan, but I wasn't sure when we would be able to do this."

Hancock County completed its first round of CEO last year. Schuytema attended a ceremony during which students presented the businesses they had created during the program.

"It was amazing. These high school kids were standing in front, pitching their businesses," Schuytema said. "They were very professional and sensible. That moment, when I was walking out, I knew we had to bring it to Monmouth."

While students are schooled on the basic soft skills, they are also tasked with creating an actual business. During the first semester of the school year, the class comes together to establish a single business.

"In the first semester, they learn core business, and the class business hopefully brings in some money for the program," said Schuytema. "The funds that are received are used as seed money for those individuals in the second semester."

Schuytema said local businesses have been quick to support the program, because, "It's for our kids, and a small business can afford to do this."

"The goal is not to get them to start businesses, although that is a side benefit," Schuytema said. "The goal is to get them thinking like entrepreneurs; getting them to see the opportunities that are here in Warren County."

The CEO Program can be rigorous, as students attend the class from 7:30 to 9 a.m. five days a week all year. During that time, they will develop multiple business plans, hear from 40 to 50 guest speakers and visit 30 or more local businesses.

"The focus is on 'rural brain drain', how we keep our best and brightest here or bring them back," Schuytema said. "It doesn't take that many students coming back after college to make the program worth it."

Between 15 and 20 Monmouth-Roseville and United High School juniors and seniors may participate in the program. A committee selects from the students who apply those deemed most appropriate for the class. Schuytema hopes Warren County's CEO Program will begin by fall 2017.

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    The manner in which the CEO program is funded is critical to its success and sustainability. All funds raised are used exclusively for the Warren County CEO program. To participate, a 3-year $1000 per year commitment is required. Business Partner Investors commitments of time and energy are also critical to the program's success. Contributions may be tax deductible, as our organization is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization.

    When we are not touring local businesses, we need a place to host the class. During that time, the 0 CEO students and their Facilitator would meet at your site where they would also have guest speakers and guests from the community attend. Hosting requires a facility with internet access and adequately accommodates up to 5 people.

    We are looking for people to share real-life stories about the concepts of running a business, from strategic thinking, product development to marketing, and cash flow management. Also, sharing your personal successes and failures are what recent classes have enjoyed the most.

    If you are interested in participating in any of the above programs, use our contact form to send us a message

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