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Communication and Networking

CEO Guest Speakers


Behrz Bloomz

Stephanie Dusing and Jim Behrens

The entire week of CEO seemed to have a communication theme, including how you communicate your business through displays. Jim Behrens and Stephanie Dusing educated CEO students on the floral industry. They also learned Jim's story dating back to his high school days when he found himself in a floral design course when he thought it was about horticulture. And so his journey began. Students loved the hands-on opportunity to create their own display at Behrz Bloomz using any product in the store. When finished they voted for the best one (excluding their own). Who knew the team of four guys would come out on top in a close vote! More importantly, Jim and Stephanie visited each table giving extremely valuable design advice about visual displays. What a great lesson for many of our projects, but especially when it comes time to create booths at our May tradeshow.  


Sauk Valley Leadership and CEO

The sign on Monday should have read, "This Week's Goals, Good Communication." It was truly an indication of how the week transpired, with speakers who discussed how you portray your business, public speaking at Breakfast Before Business, and on Wednesday, an opportunity to practice conversation skills. As students paired with the adults from the Sauk Valley Leadership Program, they took on the task of explaining CEO, something they are often asked about. Students enjoyed the meeting and networking with the adults and immediately asked if the classes could be combined again. 


Yellow Creek Quilt Designs

Jill Shaulis

Jill Shaulis, owner of Yellow Creek Quilt Designs, gave valuable business lessons as she grew from small shop owner, to creator of a pattern company, to fabric designer, and national speaker. She discussed the value of writing down goals, short and long term, journaling about the progress, and evolving and adjusting along the way. When approached with new opportunities, she emphasised the importance of research and being unafraid of learning new things. For example, when asked to design a line of fabric by the CEO, she admitted she didn't know how, but would learn. She also talked about being able to say of "no" if it is impossible to deliver a qualtity product. Other topics included having an exit plan, the effect of bad service, presentation is everything, and success creates excitement, exhaustion, and new problems to solve. When finished, students had many questions for Jill. They understand that while quilting may be an industry they will never be involved in, the business lessons were invaluable. (And that is why this facilitator loves working with these amazing students.) 


Breakfast Before Business

CEO Presents: Frequently Asked Questions

CEO students greatly appreciate being invited by United Way to speak at the October Breakfast Before Business. Project Manager Brendon Riesselman led his peers as they brainstormed, practiced and delivered a six minute presentation, "Frequently Asked Questions." This is a great opportunity to practice speaking publicly. In addition, they enjoyed networking during breakfast and at least one student was already talking about who they met and the connection they made. 


Eastland Career Day

CEO Presents to EHS Sophomores

Each year, Eastland High School sophomores take a day for business visits during their Career Day. With extra time at the beginning of their schedule, they request a stop with the CEO class. As project manager, Andrew Lauf worked with his peers and determined the best plan was to organize the 50 plus sophomores into three teams and rotate them through a variety of activities.  The team-building, "get-to-know-you", and question/answer groups each had a leader that explained the importance of the activity. As a side note, Anastasia Matias who is a current CEO and Eastland student, remembers her visit as a sophomore and at that point knew she wanted to be in the class! 


Student Journal Highlights for this week

This past week I have been thinking a lot of what it meant to me to be the Project Manager of the Chili Cook-off. I know that it makes me smile to see all things come together, when I was assigned a task last weekend. This Cook-off also made me see what everyone brings to the table for CEO. Let me start with Mitchell. I named Mitchell head chef last weekend and even though Kade was jealous, I was confident that Mitchell would get the job done. I see Mitchell in the CEO class as our engineer; he is able to look at a situation and figure out what needs to be done to make it work. The next person that made me think a little bit is German. I did not know all week that he was coming to the Chili Cook-off until the Friday. That Saturday, he brought a zero gravity chair, and he also brought doughnuts for the whole group. I would think of German as the caregiver of the group; he went out of his way to make sure we were taken care of. Then my mind thinks of  Kade. Kade gave us many good laughs on Saturday. He wore an American cowboy hat that did not go with the theme, but it was funny. He also had a dance competition with me as well and a singing one. He is the entertainer of our group; he made sure that everyone was having a good time. Then I think of Kallie. She is the one that made sure that we had everything done. She is the person that made others stick to the task at hand and she was the one who made the tent look nice. She is not afraid to tell her opinion. “ Do not do that Gehrig, you look ridiculous.” This comment just made me smile because yes I did know that I am not a good dancer and she made the most out of it. The last person that came to the Chili Cook-off was Hannah McCarty. Hannah brought a tarp for us because it was raining. She is a good problem solver. We made the best of it with the rain.

I want to thank the girls, Anastasia and Hannah Wilson for making the awesome posters that endured all the rain and wind.  I want to thank  the group that attended the awesome community Chili Cook Off.  I could not ask for a better group. I thought our group had a grand time and the only thing I could have asked for that would be different, would be if everyone else could have participated. It would have added to the fun and I really enjoy everyone in CEO. There is not one person that does not bring something to the table for our CEO class and even though we were just a few of the classmates that were available, we learned a lot and had the best of times.

Gehrig Koerner

Gehrig Koerner
Sunday, October 15, 2017Learn More About Gehrig

Editor's note: Hannah's journal sure brought a smile to my face; especially when I watched the youtube video! Join the CEO students on October 30 and/or 31 when they each pitch their idea for the class business. 

Yesterday I was watching shark tank and I found my self asking questions that I never even thought about before. I usually just watch it to see all the products. But this time is was watching how the entrepreneurs give their business pitch. They usually give a great pitch but when they have to answer questions they are less prepared. Often times they look overwhelmed. Could you imagine standing in front of 5 incredibly wealthy and intelligent business owners to give your pitch. Oh wait we’re going to have to do that. I just hope I don’t do this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fcRuxfKH7zI . I noticed another man who talked about the reason behind his business. It was very personal to him, which made it personal to the sharks. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If more people started with the why, I bet they’d get more offers. I also am seeing how the business people think. When they invest in a product, they see growth potential in that industry. They see who the consumer is, and they see it as cost efficient where they can make a profit. 

It’s just so strange to think of something in a way you never had before. I like how CEO is changing the way that I think and making me a smarter consumer. 

Hannah Wilson

Hannah Wilson
Sunday, October 15, 2017Learn More About Hannah

Almost every Saturday morning I wake up and go open up a coffee and flower shop on Main Street in Prophetstown. I serve customers and make bouquets of flowers for some of them. I also get the privilege of delivering some flowers to people, and the look on their face is always priceless. It's an experience that I wish everyone could have, and on Wednesday the whole CEO class got a little feeling of what it's like to make someone's day with a couple flowers. When we watched the original Petal it Forward video, I caught myself smiling through the whole thing, and I have a feeling all of you did too. I was very excited for Wednesday, and the experience lived up to the expectation. Being turned down was hard at first, but not everyone knows what to do with flowers being handed to you. By the time people were accepting our gifts and really smiling about it, I had such a warm feeling, and everyone else's stories made my heart melt too. This feeling carried on throughout the rest of the day and everything seemed to go right even if they were going wrong. It also carried on to the board meeting on Friday when I was able to tell the board the story of what we did. I feel that we should try to have this positive attitude every day, especially in the business world. A business and its employees reflects the personality of the owner, and if everyone starts each day with a positive attitude, the atmosphere you create will become more positive. 


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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 WACC 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 22 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 27 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.


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