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April 13th Newsletter

Molly Niemerg and Connie Cash from Midland Institute

We had a great visit from two Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship team members, Molly Niemerg and Connie Cash. Connie is one of the newest team members at Midland and serves in the role of executive assistant to Craig Lindvahl and a coordinating resource to facilitators and fellow Midland co-workers. Molly is currently a college student and also an Effingham CEO alumnus. Molly assists the institute with student recruiting, book sales, photography and social media campaigns. The main purpose of the visit was to visit with Jasper CEO Students about the social media networking that CEO provides to current and former CEO students. I also asked Molly to visit with CEO students about her experience in CEO, her booth at the trade show, and also about life after CEO. Our CEO’s were very glad to have had the perspective of an alum to navigate through their trade show and the end of their CEO experience.


Congressmen John Shimkus

It was an honor to meet with Congressman Shimkus along with the Effingham CEO class in the beautiful Leadership Room at EJ Water in Dieterich. Our students were overwhelmed at the practicality and nobility Congressman Shimkus brought to this position. Many of the Jasper CEO students commented about his calm and personable demeanor along with his knowledge base and quick wittedness. We found ourselves fortunate to have his leadership representing our area and know he carries our message of small town America to his constituents every chance he gets.


Hospitality at Tuscan Hills Winery with the Pitchers

The concept of Tuscan Hills Winery is something that we sometimes take for granted. In reality, part of why this winery works is because it has stayed so centralized around the idea of hospitality, something more than customer service in creating an atmosphere where you feel wanted, comfortable, and almost homelike. Jasper CEO Students didn’t realize how rare that was until we were asked us to name some places with a feel like that. In a world of “big box stores” where the all mighty dollar drives a large portion of our purchasing decisions the last few generations have neglected or not been introduced to the concept of hospitality. Essentially hospitality was what small town America businesses thrived on. At the age of 17 and 18, few of the CEO students have really experienced family owned entertainment and shopping. Our experience at Tuscan Hills was a very positive one and it really gave our students a different spin on running a business.


John Stone with Connor & Connor

Connor & Connor has been a family owned business since 1946. If you look you are on the square in Newton on the south west side you will notice the name “Dewey” on the building. This was the office building of one of the original founders! During a JEDI event this winter, CEO students had the opportunity to tour this historic building and saw the door to his original office. John Stone came to visit with Jasper CEO students and tell us more about the history and operations of the business. John’s wife is an heir to the original Connor & Connor and John was proud to have the chance along with Jon Earnest to take ownership of the company in 2009. Connor & Connor is currently based in Robinson, IL and has 11 employees. They offer a variety of services and work with both the private sector and municipalities. Their line of work is multi-faceting and includes items such as storm water drainage, city streets, county and township roads, bridges, environmental planning and management, oil well permit applications, property surveys, wastewater treatment facilities, potable water treatment and storage, only to name a few. Connor & Connor also assists in applying for funding assistance for municipalities with the state and federal government. We also discussed how the use of technology has changed in the last 25 years in engineering and how critical training and the use of these instruments has become.


Jasper CEO Shark Tank

ABC’s hit reality series “Shark Tank” features a panel of potential investors, called "sharks", who consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. On the television version the sharks invest their own money into a new business if they are interested in what it has to offer. The entrepreneur can make a deal on the show if a panel member is interested. However, if all of the panel members opt out, the entrepreneur leaves empty-handed. The show is said to portray "the drama of pitch meetings and the interaction between the entrepreneurs and tycoons". The "sharks" often find weaknesses and faults in an entrepreneur's concept, product, or business model.

What a better way to test the strength of Jasper CEO’s student’s individual businesses, sales pitches and business plans that to put them up against Jasper County business tycoons. Well, maybe we shouldn’t refer to them as tycoons… We invited four very business savvy and equally positive community members (Kelly Hemrich, Wes Pitcher, Dan Cox, and Chad Farley) to serve as our “sharks”. It was a great opportunity for students to exercise their sales skills and true found knowledge of the business they have personally built from scratch. It was a great culminating activity for students and it gave them four different perspectives about their businesses. Although the students have frequently shared what a nerve wracking experience it was, I know the intense pressure will pay off when YOU come to visit them at their booth during the first annual Jasper CEO Trade Show on April 29th from 5-7 p.m. at the Newton KC Hall.


A morning with Representative David Reis

Representative David Reis visited with Jasper CEO Students on Friday. One of the magnificent benefits of having a CEO class with small numbers is the opportunities for discussion that it provides. We were able to share about the economic impacts we have observed in Illinois and in Jasper County. Dave talked to us about some astounding facts and the reasons why he decided to run for his position and why he still continues to be so passionate for Illinois and local government. He discuss the need for farm representation at the state level, the need for monitoring social programs that have grown to over 50% of the state budget, and the job openings in this area that go unfilled. He also covered the disparity we are seeing in Illinois as over 3000 tax payers have left Illinois to do business in other states and how many more have moved here for our entitlement programs. We also discussed a topic very applicable to CEO’s, worker’s compensation, and how IL is the 3rd highest in the United States. We appreciated the reality that Representative Reis painted for us and the hope he gave us as he described the state’s long term plans to make Illinois the business state that it once was.


Student Journal Quote

“Thursday was SHARK TANK DAY!! I loved every minute of it. I thought that my presentation went very well and that I got a lot of good feedback from the sharks… Also, I now have a better understanding on what materials I will use for my trade show booth that’s coming up. It was an interesting day and I enjoyed it very much.” – CEO Class of 2015


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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 Jasper 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.


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