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May 8th Newsletter

Hankins Sporting Goods/CJ’s Performance & Accessories

As with all of our business visits, there is a concept or sometimes multiple concepts to be taken away. Within the last two months our CEO students have heard several times from business owners that they were relieved that their business had started some time ago as with the current economy, starting their same business now would pose several more hurdles. To be honest, I worried that my students would be absorbing the wrong side of that message. The message as intended was, ‘The business climate in Illinois is very different today than 30 years ago.” The message I was worried they would be surmising was, “Too bad for you. It is impossible to start a business in 2015 in Jasper County.” This message is absolutely incorrect. This is the great part and the scary part of being a facilitator. Facilitators attempt to always give students the most accurate picture possible, positive or negative, and allow them to draw their own realistic conclusions. However, it is also my responsibility to make sure that their conclusions are accurate. With that in mind, I knew who to call, Chris Hankins, owner of Hankins Sporting Goods and CJ’s Performance & Accessories, one of Newton’s newest businesses.

In 2003 Chris started CJ’s Performance Accessories out of his home as a side business. As that business grew in 2011, he started to also look into another passion of his, firearms, which he also started to sell after receiving his license, at his home base. As the businesses continued he started to look for locations around Newton that would fit his businesses needs. In May of 2014, Chris and his family opened the doors to their new building positioned on Jasper County’s most busy section of road along IL State Highway 33. Chris’ message today was that you can start a business in Jasper County today, but he was honest and admitted that it is tough. Fellow business owners have offered him the advice that the first 3-5 years are the hardest but then with time, he will become more established. We discussed that he is always looking for more products to sell in the sporting goods line and is in the process of bringing on another line of business soon. We discussed the licensure process to sell guns, insurance requirements, building relationships with distributors and fellow businessmen and the cost of advertising. Speaking of advertising, have you seen the Hankins Sporting Goods commercial on WTHI? Chris drove home the concept that being an entrepreneur is all about taking chances and that starting a business in Jasper County is possible and rewarding!


Newton Masonic Lodge 216

One unidentified topic that is covered throughout the CEO program is citizenship. Today, during our visit with Greg Sidwell and Ralph Portlock, we indirectly targeted such topic. Greg started by explaining that the Masons learn ancient hieroglyphic moral instruction for men using symbolism and rituals. So how did this all begin? He provided a video clip for us to watch that did a fantastic job of explaining the history of the Mason’s, their start in ancient Europe and the decent to America in the 1700’s. Centuries ago masonry workers needed a form of showing credentials to prove who they were and that their masonry skills were legitimate. In the modern era, masons have no required trade ties to masonry but are required to live by the square and on the level. Masons believe in freedom, tolerance, love, and peaceful connections. The Newton Masonic Lodge #216 will celebrate is 159th anniversary in October of this year. The Newton Lodge had its start only a few years after Illinois founded its Lodge in 1840. The Newton Lodge has had over 1250 members during its tenure and today has 203 members. We had outstanding discussion about the purpose of the Masons, how they affect our community, and the independent bodies that exist because of them such as the Easter Star, Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Shriners. Greg’s parting advice to CEO student’s was to be sure and get involved as an adult in some kind of positive community service club in order to make a difference in the community they live in.


Our last hoorah in Jasper CEO is a trip to meet with the management team of the Cincinatti Reds and job shadow different elements of the "Great American Ballpark" during an actual ball game with the Atlanta Braves. We wiill be traveling to Cincy on Monday, May 11th. I will be sure to post some great pictures and a story of our experience in next weeks newsletter. Go Reds!


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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.

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