CEO business class also focuses on ‘making you a better person’

WILLMAR -- Catelyn Berg is already interested in the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities business class next year. "It sounds like it would be fun, especially since I want to own a business when I get older," said Catelyn, 16. The CEO program ...

The secret to success
Catelyn Berg, 16, left, and Emma Hodapp,16, chat Wednesday with Craig Lindvahl, right, at Willmar High School about a CEO business class that will be starting in the Willmar, NLS and ACGC school districts. The informational meeting was held to explain to the students what would be covered in the class. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR - Catelyn Berg is already interested in the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities business class next year.
“It sounds like it would be fun, especially since I want to own a business when I get older,” said Catelyn, 16.
The CEO program will be a joint effort of area businesses and the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, New London-Spicer and Willmar school districts.
About two dozen students attended an informational session after school this week at Willmar Senior High. Similar information will be delivered to students in all the districts, and they will be invited to apply for the program. The class will accept 20 to 22 students from among those who apply for it. Students who are interested can talk to their teachers about applying.
Catelyn and Emma Hodapp, 16, both sophomores, said they were interested in the program.
Catelyn said she has wanted to own a modern book store/coffee shop “since I was 10.”
Emma said she wasn’t sure what type of business she would like to own if she is accepted into the class, but starting a business will be part of the class.
Craig Lindvahl, a former teacher who founded the CEO program in Illinois in 2008, spoke with the students about the opportunities available through the class. The program now has 15 classes in Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota.
The class will meet each morning for 90 minutes, and it won’t meet at school. It will include touring businesses in the area and meeting business leaders. The class will have a class business project, and each student will develop his or her own business, too. At the end of the year, the class will host a trade show for the community to showcase their businesses.
“You will write a couple business plans,” Lindvahl said. “What you learn doing a business plan will separate you from 99 percent of the people you know.”
It’s OK to go into the class without knowing what type of business you want to start, he told the students.
“You’re going to learn from those successful people” at businesses, and something is sure to spark an idea, he said.
Lindvahl introduced Alexis Teichmiller, a former student of his who is now a junior at Eastern Illinois University. Her first business was writing, publishing and selling a book about the CEO class. She now has a second business, a traveling boutique that she takes to salons and sororities in her area.
Teichmiller said she recommended the class to students. “You will become a family,” she said.
The class changed her in a number of ways, she said, and it made her apply herself more in her other classes.
“It just kinda lit a fire under my butt,” she said. “Opportunity isn’t going to knock on your door; you’re going to have to go out and find it.”
Among other things, she said, the class builds loyalty and pride in the students’ home area, because they learn so much about entrepreneurs in the area. Many students in her class planned to return to their home areas after college to start their own businesses.
“This is a business class, but it’s built around making you a better person,” Lindvahl said.
Students in the class will be treated like adults in the class and will build life skills, he said.
They will be expected to be on time, though the class will start earlier than their schools do. They will be expected to wear business casual dress - no jeans, tennis shoes or T-shirts. “There are people who can help if (affording it) is a problem for you,” he added.
Several boys spoke with Lindvahl after the presentation and said they thought they would apply to be in the class.
Jackson Muldrow, Nick McLouth, Teza Harrison and Alex McLouth, all 16-year-old juniors, said they liked the idea of a different type of class and that it would be considered an AP class.
Owning a business appealed to them, too. “You can start your own business and get actual money,” Teza said, as the other nodded.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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