Student business in the spotlight

Lyon and Murray County CEO holds student trade show

MHS senior Kristina Lacroix bagged up goodies like decorated cookies and cupcakes for customers at the Lyon and Murray County CEO Trade Show on Wednesday. After taking part in the CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program, students like Lacroix showcased their own small businesses.

BALATON — There’s a lot learn about starting a small business, area high school students said. But being in the Lyon and Murray County CEO program gave them a chance to learn and build business skills.

It made a big difference, said Tracy Area High School junior KaNa Thao.

“On the first day, we would not have known how to do this,” Thao said. On Wednesday, she and her business partner Chris Del Angel were among the CEO students showcasing their own businesses at the second annual CEO Trade Show, held in Balaton.

A total of nine students took part in this year’s CEO class. The CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program is geared toward teaching high school juniors and seniors entrepreneurial skills, as well as making connections and learning from area businesses. In a presentation to the Marshall School Board this week, Lyon and Murray County CEO facilitator Shanda Walker said the group visits 30 to 50 area businesses, and hosts 30 to 40 guest speakers, each year.

As they learn, students also get to work with mentors from the area business community, and have the opportunity to start their own business.

The business concepts students came up with covered everything from home baking, to music and carpentry.

MHS junior Olivia Williams said her business had a couple sources of inspiration. She always had a dream of baking. And then, “We got really into making (sourdough bread) at home,” Williams said. The experience helped lead her to create Liv’s Sourdough Bakery.

“It’s been a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Williams said. She said she had baked 74 loaves of bread this week alone.

Williams said the experience of being in CEO has been helpful. “It’s been really nice to learn all the little details of having a business,” she said.

Owen Gillette, an MCC student, started a business making tables from live edge wood and epoxy.

“Each is unique. That’s kind of a big selling point with it,” Gillette said. He said he first saw the idea for that style of table online about a year ago, “And I just kept seeing it.”

Finding supplies of live edge wood for the tables was one challenge Gillette faced, but he said his mentor knew a source with connections to a tree business.

Getting to meet area business people through CEO was one of the valuable things about the program, Gillette said. “It’s good to have that many more connections,” he said.

Del Angel and Thao teamed up for an unusual business – reselling sneakers.

“I’ve always been into shoes,” Del Angel said. But while he was in the process of clearing out part of his closet, he learned that some sneaker styles are rare or highly sought after.

“Sneaker culture is really big,” he said. He and Thao’s business focuses on getting good deals for sneakers, and then reselling them to customers.

“I liked the experience, and the people,” Del Angel said of being part of CEO. Thao said being part of CEO was also a chance for her to meet and talk with people, and build confidence.

A new class of students will be starting out in the CEO program this fall. In her presentation to the Marshall School Board, Walker said the 2024-25 Lyon and Murray County CEO class will include 20 young professionals from the Marshall, Tracy, RTR and MCC school districts.


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