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Students unveil businesses: CEO Trade Show highlights young entrepreneurs

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Briana Sanchez / Tribune Erik Belgum, Elite Sneakers, right, talks to Cassidy Hanson, left and Sophi Schmitz, center, Monday, May 15, at the MinnWest Technology Campus auditorium during the CEO Trade Show. Belgum decided to buy, design and resell shoes for his business.2 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Joseph Hernandez, owner of Fortune Virtual, center, shows CEO Trade Show attendees how his 360-degree virtual tours for real estate agencies work. Kristin Allen, foreground, views one of tours at Hernandez's booth May 15 at the MinnWest Technology Campus auditorium in Willmar. 3 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Kevin Acquard, New London-Spicer High School principal, left, views a 360-degree virtual tour with Joseph Fernandez during the CEO Trade Show on May 15 at the MinnWest Technology Campus auditorium in Willmar. Fernandez created the 360-degree tours for real estate agencies and calls his business Fortune Virtual.4 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Sam Hanson trys on the 360 degree virtual tour at Joseph Hernandez's booth Monday, May 15, at the MinnWest Technology Campus auditorium during the CEO Trade Show. Fernandez created the 360 degrees tours for real estate agencies called Fortune Virtual LLC.5 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Andrea Carruthers, left, talks to Calvin VanDerPol about his business, Doggy Style, Monday, May 15, at the MinnWest Technology Campus auditorium during the CEO Trade Show. VanDerPol created the business as a mobile dog grooming service.6 / 6

WILLMAR — Wyatt Allen was ready.

He greeted a visitor to his trade show booth with a firm handshake and his "elevator speech" about Origin Content Development, his business providing original content for their social media marketing plans.

Allen and 20 of his classmates in the Kandiyohi County Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program presented their fledgling businesses to the public at a trade show a week ago on the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar. This is the third year for the CEO class, which includes students from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, New London-Spicer and Willmar school districts.

The trade show drew a crowd to view displays for a wide range of businesses — dog grooming, social media marketing, bath products, baby bath time gift bags, one-of-a-kind vintage clothing, gift boxes full of art projects for kids, horse photography, repurposed household items and 360-degree videos.

The class, led by Willmar teacher Tyler Gehrking, meets each morning through the school year at various businesses around the area. Students tour businesses, learn from members of the business community and work with mentors. They develop a class business, often a fundraising dinner, to raise money to start their own businesses. Each student receives a share to use in starting a business to be highlighted at the spring trade show.

Like Allen, the members of the class learn about business etiquette, things such as punctuality, appropriate attire and properly handshakes. They get over some shyness and learn to speak to new people.

The trade show gives them a chance to put all their new skills on display.

All of the students in this year's class said they thoroughly enjoyed the class and the experiences they had had.

Allen called the class "transformational" and said he felt it taught him life skills.

"I loved this class so much," said Jessa Hanson. It was her first business class, she said, and she liked that it took students out of a classroom setting. Hanson's business VintMod Marketplace offers vintage jeans and other clothing with hand-made embellishments.

The businesses offer future prospects, too.

Miranda Lang said she plans to keep her social media marketing business going when she heads to college. Her business offers assistance to small businesses that do not have time to manage social media on top of running the business. She said she believes she can find a market for her services in many places.

Some of the students are already experienced in business. Erik Belgum has been buying and reselling limited-edition Nike sneakers for a couple years. He checks for new designs and orders them as soon as they come out. After the design has sold out, he resells the shoes to people who missed out. He already has a following in size 14, his size, so he decided to stick with that for now. The class helped him formalize his business and make it more professional, he said.

"It's a great way to get to know business," said Joseph Fernandez. "I learned so many things I wouldn't have learned in school." Fernandez shoots 360-degree videos that can help real estate agents offer virtual reality tours of their listings.

Nick Reiter, whose Flash Fix business repairs cracked or broken device screens, said he came into the class thinking it might be a "cakewalk," but he soon learned that was not the case.

"It makes you grow up and it makes you work hard," he said. "You meet a lot of important people in the community, a lot of nice people."

Student businesses

The students and their business phone numbers, if available, are as follows:

Wyatt Allen, NLS junior, Origin Content Development, web content for business marketing, 320-441-8790.

Rebecca Andrews, ACGC junior, Rebecca's Touch, retouched or repurposed home decor, 320-295-8302.

Erik Belgum, ACGC senior, Elite Sneakers, limited-release Nike shoes for resale, 320-295-8663.

Ian Carruthers, Willmar junior, Safety Ring, flexible silicone wedding bands for people with physical jobs or hobbies, 320-522-4916.

Courtney Caskey, NLS junior, Pipe-It, industrial-style home decor, 320-905-7372.

Noah Cunningham, ACGC junior, Cunningham Car Detailing, car detailing service, 320-894-9828.

Matthew Eng, Willmar junior, Horizon Edge Media, custom videos and promotional materials for business, 320-212-1229.

Joseph Fernandez, Willmar senior, Fortune Virtual, high-quality, 360-degree virtual tours for real estate, 320-444-5170.

Jessa Hanson, Willmar senior, VintMod Marketplace, vintage clothing with handmade embellishments, 320-212-2016.

Ashton Hedman, NLS junior, Arts by Ashton, repurposed and new home decor items, 320-905-4998.

Kali Jensen, Willmar senior, Pampered Pets, repurposing household items to make dog beds, pamperedpets2017@gmail.com.

Jordan King, NLS senior, Kings Hockey Training, offering summer, dryland hockey workouts for kids grades 6-10, 320-441-8355.

Savanna Knudsen, NLS junior, May Marketing, social media marketing, 320-444-1299.

Miranda Lang, ACGC senior, Miranda's Modern Day Marketing, social media marketing, 320-583-2061.

Maggie Meyer, ACGC junior, Baby Life, baby bath gift packages, 320-221-5929.

Alaina Mueller, NLS senior, Creativity Crates, six age-appropriate art projects in a box for kids ages 3-5 or 6-8, 320-212-1200.

Cole Ochsendorf, Willmar senior, Cole's Mojoe, a self-serve coffee kiosk, 320-441-9946.

Paige Olson, NLS junior, Wagon Wheel, horse photography, horse-related decor, tack on consignment, 320-444-9115.

Nick Reiter, NLS senior, Flash Fix, repair of cracked or broken device screens, 320-212-5758.

Charlene Robinson, NLS junior, Belle Ame, bath bombs and scented soaps, 320-444-0248.

Calvin VanDerPol, ACGC senior, Doggy Style, mobile dog grooming at customer's home, 320-309-1587.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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