A high school business class that started in Effingham is being used as a model for learning in Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota. The Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities network now includes 14 classes. Although pleased with the growth, founder Craig Lindvahl wants to be careful to not expand beyond control and a competitive application process is in place for those interested in establishing a similar program. Lindvahl went from teaching the class to students attending Effingham County schools to working with the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship to assist other teachers with expanding the program elsewhere.
Lindvahl provided an update on the program this week during the CEO Experience conference at the Keller Convention Center. The students in the class organize the conference and line up speakers on topics of interest to those working in or interested in running a business. The organization the past two years is so well done it would be hard to tell high school students are running it as it seems like a professionally-run event. It is quite impressive to see the community come together in support of the students' efforts. Lindvahl credited the community for making the class possible and putting it in a position to be a model for others. More plans are in the works to enhance the program, so I look forward to following its progress.
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I found the topics the speakers discussed to be of interest, particularly a venture capitalist and social media expert. David Orr of Social Holdings Inc. said leveraging social media is important for businesses, but which medium is most popular seems to be changing by the day. Orr prefers Twitter, which certainly has gained in popularity. The younger generation seems to be turning somewhat away from Facebook, as Orr pointed out because they're finding their parents are coming onto the site. Orr said programs are available to help business owners manage through the social media channels and reach customers in the most effective and efficient ways possible.
David Samuel, co-founder of venture capital firm Freestyle, shared his experience in establishing various businesses. Among his advice is to pick a direction for a company to focus on. All too often companies try to do too much and forget about the thing they do really well, Samuel said. The focus can be re-evaluated in time, but he's found successful businesses aren't constantly changing direction. He finds compeition to be a good thing as it allows companies to continue to better themselves.
And perhaps most importantly, it is beneficial to keep a positive attitude in a negative world, as speaker Jeff Speer pointed out. Speer is a real estate agent with ReMax in Effingham. Speer's message seemed simple enough but is one that often seems to be overlooked. It involves setting a plan and living a well-balanced life. Business owners experience their shares of ups and downs, so Speer said — as others have — to keep everything in perspective when having having bad day. Other speakers included Susan Hanfland describing true colors in understanding co-workers' personalities and developing effective communication along with Bob Schultz exploring the art of conversation.
The class meets every day and visits various businesses in the area. Along the way, they develop business plans to establish their own companies. It's something they take seriously, as Lindvahl said the companies should be able to function in the real world. Another opportunity to see the class in action takes place in the spring during its trade show.
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