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From high school to ‘CEO’

Area group to launch business program for Lyon and Murray County high school students

On Monday Ryan Follis, program developer for Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, talked about the planning process for a new entrepreneurship program for high school students in Lyon and Murray County. Area organizers say Lyon and Murray County CEO will offer year-long courses where students get experience running their own business. A similar program, Southwest Minnesota CEO, is already up and running in Luverne.

MARSHALL — A group of area businesspeople and educators say they want to try a new approach in growing the next generation of entrepreneurs in southwest Minnesota. The plan includes founding a year-long educational program that connects high school students with local businesses, and gets students started on developing their own business plans.

“It gives them that experience of talking to business owners, and finding the wherewithal to say, ‘Gosh, I could do this,'” said Carla Goedtke. Goedtke is a financial adviser at Investors Choice Financial Services in Slayton and Marshall, and she is serving as board chairwoman of the new Lyon and Murray County CEO program.

CEO — short for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities — is a nationwide program for high school juniors and seniors, Goedtke said. With the help of local investors and businesspeople, students get real-life experience in creating and running their own businesses. The year-long program includes visits to local businesses, guest speakers, and an annual student trade show.

On Monday, board members including representatives of area businesses and the Marshall EDA, as well as the Marshall and Murray County Central school districts, met with Ryan Follis of Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship.

“This is to launch the program,” Goedtke said of Monday’s meeting. Midland is the organization that helps communities start their own CEO programs.

Follis walked the group through the process of starting a CEO program serving high school students in Lyon and Murray counties. Organizers have already found area investors to support the program. One of the next big milestones for area organizers will be hiring a facilitator to work with students, Goedtke said.

Goedtke said organizers hope the CEO program could give area high school students a different perspective on careers, and encourage young people to stay in southwest Minnesota. When Goedtke was in high school, many of her classmates’ parents were farmers or small business owners, she said.

“There was a continual exposure to that as a career choice,” she said. If high school students today could have similar experiences, it could show that getting a four-year degree isn’t the only path to success.

Follis said the CEO program develops students’ entrepreneurship and people skills, and gives them real-life opportunities to make connections with local businesspeople. Students operate a class business, as well as their own individual businesses.

CEO programs are funded through local business investors, Goedtke said. So far, the idea of starting a CEO program in Lyon and Murray counties.has drawn interest from more than 30 investors.

“We’ve had many businesses and also individuals,” she said.

Businesses could help support the Lyon and Murray County CEO program through an investment of $1,000 a year for three years, or a one-time investment, Goedtke said. She said some investors had opted to contribute $3,000 all at once.

Other parts of the planning process for the CEO program include recruiting speakers and mentors from the area business community, she said.

Jake Scandrett, principal of Murray County Central High School, said his interest in the CEO program came from hearing about the Southwest Minnesota CEO program in Luverne.

According to Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship’s website, Southwest Minnesota CEO has had 62 total students from 12 participating schools.

“We were hearing the good things coming out of there,” Scandrett said. Murray County educators have been looking for ways to help connect students with local businesspeople, he said. “This is really a program I think will help make that connection.”

“What really interested me in the program was their investment in the community,” said Chet Lockwood, who was among area businesspeople stepping forward to serve on the board of Lyon and Murray County CEO.

Goedtke said the goal for Lyon and Murray County CEO is to start their first class next fall.

More information on Lyon and Murray County CEO is available online, at www.lyonandmurraycountyceo.com.

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