CEO Students Get Taste Of Success At Trade Show

By Christopher Heimerman
Daily Gazette, Sterling, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Student entrepreneurs got the chance to hone some real world business skills at the annual “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities Trade Show” in Sterling. Inside the Northland Mall, the students (which included many women in business), had the opportunity to sell their products. Many of the entrepreneurs hope to keep the momentum going post event. You can find a list of the products/companies at the bottom of this article.


It was a bad night to be a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich or a turtle at Northland Mall on Tuesday evening. Now, if you were the CEO of a business selling them?

“This has been insane,” Dixon High School senior Clara Thorpe said just after 5:30 p.m. at the annual Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities Trade Show. “I did not expect this much business.”

She prepped enough ingredients for about 200 of her artisan-yet-nostalgic sammies.

“I’m getting a little worried,” the CEO of C’s Cheese said.

Equally concerned was Rock Falls junior Kaitlin Brown, who’d gone through 52 of her 100 baggies of turtles by 5 p.m. — and that doesn’t include the batch she made for orders she took through her Facebook page, Kate’s Turtles.

Sales, however, were only one measure of success. Many of the young entrepreneurs enjoyed the chance to sharpen their sales skills.

“I think closing sales is still out of my comfort zone,” said Newman Central Catholic student Hannah Atherton, CEO of Empire Etc., an accessory line, “but CEO has helped me get more comfortable, and learn to get on the same level with the customer.”

Several students also learned about priorities and how to manage on the fly.

Margaret Johnson helped her granddaughter, Sterling High School student Bree Johnson, who had a track meet, by manning her booth for Brownies by Bree.

“I just love this program,” Johnson said. “The kids in the program are so much better at communicating with adults, and they’re articulate and outspoken.”

She said sales were booming, especially the cookie brownies.

“The caramel’s coming in second,” she said.

Rock Falls baseball players Bronson Mintun and Nolan Moeller had a ballgame Tuesday night and have another tonight, so their devoted moms helmed their booths.

Christa Moeller said her son’s custom baseball bats had garnered interest, and she can’t wait for her eighth-grader, Lauren, to take CEO.

“I had to tell [instructor] Le Hartman, ‘Please, keep it going, keep it going,'” Moeller said.

Marcia Mintun said her son already had sold upward of 10 custom video game remotes through word of mouth and social media, but the personal development is invaluable.

“I never could have imagined a class would have such an impact on his attitude and outlook,” she said, adding that he’s thinking about keeping the business going during college.

Newman junior Maura Harrison plans to keep selling her Dirty Soaps coffee scrubs through her senior year and beyond. She was out with the flu Tuesday, but hopes to be at her booth today. Her mentor, Nik Jacobs, was happy to fill in.

“This is my first day in the health and beauty business, but for her being out, we’re doing really well,” he said. “It’s been easy being her mentor. She’s got such a motor. She’s been amazing.”

Jakobs, 31, a Sterling resident who graduated from Polo High School, attended the University of Illinois and said if it weren’t for his family’s business, Jakobs Brothers Farms, he likely wouldn’t have moved back home.

“I didn’t know about all the great things that are going on in the community,” he said. “This program is showing these kids the opportunities we have here, and I hope it convinces them to start a business here, to start a family here.”

Rock Falls student Primo Cosileon said he’d sold several dishes from his redux of his father’s business, El Tapatio, but said he wished he’d promoted it on social media. He said he’d piggyback on the El Tapatio account Tuesday night and today to make sure he keeps a line in front of his both this evening.

Curiously, Thorpe’s business doesn’t have a Facebook page. Just comfort food. Behold the power of cheese. Oh, and her dad and cross country coach, Evan Thorpe, blasting it on the program’s Facebook page.

“Great-tasting and full of flavor, that’s perfect,” said WACC commercial foods instructor Joe Hunt, who was sure to share a picture of his sandwich on Instagram before tearing into it.

These student-run companies, among others, have social media pages set up for their businesses:
–Follow @BrowniesbyBree on Instagram for more on Brownies By Bree, run by Sterling student Bree Johnson.
–Email Dixon student Sam McCullough at for more on his college consultation business, Helping Hands.
–Email Prophetstown student Jack Bauer at for more information on his furniture restoration business, Bauer Restoration & Refurbish.

Search Facebook for:
–Don’s Detail, a car detail business run by Prophetstown High School junior Dontae Johnson.
–Dirty Soaps by Maura, a coffee scrub business run by Newman Central Catholic High School junior Maura Harrison, or follow her business on Instagram at @dirty_soaps.
–Empire Etc., or follow @etc.empire on Instagram for more on the accessory line by Newman’s Hannah Atherton.
–Sigel Hydro Coating, a decorating dip business run by Prophetstown High School juniors Kyle and Kevin Sigel.
–Select Start Customs, a custom video game controller business run by Rock Falls senior Bronson Mintun.
–Small Batch Biscuits, a healthy dog treat business run by Rock Falls student Nicole Arduini.
–Kate’s Turtles, a sweets business run by Rock Falls student Kaitlin Brown.
–Addy Bales Beauty Care, a business run by Rock Falls student Addy Bales.
–Thornton’s DoWhatWeDo Basketball Academy, run by Sterling senior Sterling Thornton.
–Volleyball Lessons with Jamyson Trancoso, run by the Sterling senior.
–Jazz & Joe, a coffee business run by Dixon senior Jazzarae McGlown.

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