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CEO Survived Shark Tank

CEO Guest Speakers


Wendte Farms

Roy Wendte

Wendte Farms welcomed the CEO students to their farm. Effingham County is considered to be an agricultural based community, so it was fitting for the students to tour a farm. Roy Wendte spoke to the students about how their farm runs and the techniques they use. The students learned a lot about the different ways to monitor the fields, such as by using apps found in the app store and by using drones. Roy made sure to allow the students to feel as if they were at home and allowed some students to sit in his farm equipment. The students learned of how unique it is to operate a farming business and how far away some fields are from the homestead of the farm. The students left the tour with a renewed understanding of how farms operate and the technology involved with farming.

Written by Tiffany Gates


Shark Tank Day

Last week Tuesday, the CEO class had the great opportunity to present their personal businesses to some of Effingham’s finest business professionals like in the popular TV show “Shark Tank”. Five to seven students were placed in separate rooms with three experienced “sharks” to critique, advise, and reassure the students about their personal business products and services.

With the businesses being displayed at the CEO Trade Show on May 1st, the class has this annual “Shark Tank” day a little over a month before the Tradeshow to help fix some of the issues that the students might still have in their businesses. It provides them with alternate views and different opinions than what the students are usually used to, and it gives them another set of eyes to check the details of their business that they might have missed. The class loved having this opportunity to practice presenting and selling their businesses to some of Effingham’s business experts, and are now working out the kinks in their businesses.

By: Meg Deters

Here are a view journal entries from last week’s Shark Tank experience:

"The sharks loved my pictures and the concept of my business. I loved having them critique my business and offer me suggestions to possibly include...  I was highly nervous walking into the Tank and was hoping to be able to hear other pitches before my turn. It didn’t quite happen that way. I was called up first. I was very nervous, but I do believe I handled myself well... I am extremely glad to have a day dedicated to using our elevator pitches and to be offered suggestions for our businesses." - Tiffany Gates

"Shark Tank Day overall was a success in my eyes. Yes, I may have not agreed with some of the things the sharks said, but that just goes along with the maturity in decisions. Just because someone suggests you do something doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. The world is made up of choices and it all depends on which path we take and what path I decide to take with my product." - Wittni Cotton

"Shark Tank day was a huge success.  More than anything, for me, it was a big confidence boost. I went into this day, feeling sure I could be successful. But leaving the shark tank, I felt like I could sell ice to Eskimos. With this being said, they did give me some constructive criticism that I am taking into consideration." - Bryce Lohman

"Shark Tank Day was a great morning. I really appreciate the chance to be able to present my business like a real business owner because we are. Just having that opportunity to be able to feel like we are attending a real Shark Tank is unbelievable. I got a lot of great advice that I am seeing is best to incorporate into my business." -  Claire Gardner

"Tuesday was our Shark Tank Day at the Convention Center. I had three highly experienced sharks that gave everyone in our group advice on how to improve their products. I practiced my pitch several times before that day, and it really helped ease my nervousness. The sharks were very supportive of my business, and the advice they gave me will help me to get down the initial cost of my product. I really hope I can show them how their suggestions have helped my business at the trade show." -  Avery Elder

"Shark Tank day.  I thought Megan and I killed it.  The sharks seemed genuinely interested in our product and it made me even more excited to sell our products at the tradeshow.  I also enjoyed hearing about everyone else’s products in our tank. It was cool to see everyone’s progress! Overall, it was a very inspirational day. " - Jake Brandt


Jeff Magee Presented on CRM and The Importance of this Tool to Grow Your Business

Jeff Magee

The class was privileged to hear Jeff Magee present CRM (Customer Relationship Management). He spoke about how Syngenta and other companies are using CRM data to improve their businesses. One of the biggest parts of CRM is determining who the customer is and what they like. This means that a company can center their products around a target customer to make their products work more efficiently for them, or they can find room for growth. CRM data and technology are becoming incredibly valuable and will be a huge part of the future market. Mr. Magee’s presentation gave the CEO class valuable knowledge that they will take to their future businesses.

Written by Tyler Higgs


CEO Gained a New Respect for their Brain with Memoryworx

Kelly Willenborg

The brain is one of the most important parts of the body, which means that it needs extra care. Kelly Willenborg, the founder of My Memory Worx, knows this more than anyone. This week, she explained to the CEO students just how much care this crucial organ needs and taught them a few things they could do to exercise and strengthen their brains. Mrs. Willenborg is extremely hard working and very passionate about what she does. It was amazing to hear how much time and energy she puts into everything she does. She recently got a degree in Gerontology in order to help even more people. Mrs. Willenborg also stressed the importance of the mentors she has had in her life, which is something CEO also believes to be incredibly important. 

Written by Megan Hodge 


What Every CEO Student Should Know Before Renting An Apartment

Jeff Speer - Evergreen Apartments/Re/Max Key Advantage

In less than five months, a few of our CEO students will be living the apartment life. Jeff Speer of Re/Max Key Advantage and his team from Evergreen Apartments did a wonderful job preparing the students on not only what to look for on the lease they sign, but valuable tools to pack. Like the importance of a plunger and all the ways a hammer could be used instead of hitting a nail.

CEO appreciated the advice to be aware of your surroundings when you go to rent and to also be respectful of others who are your roommates. Just simple things like taking out the trash and keeping the noise down after 10:00 pm can build a better community within a renting living situation.

That is what is so exciting about CEO, you not only learn about business, but the day to day happenings of life.


Student Journal Highlights for this week

"Going into this tour, I did not expect much since it was a farm. You think, what does a farm have to do with business? With this farm, business and farming go hand in hand. Staying up to date with the latest technology and making the most out of every dollar is what this farm carries itself on. I was really glad that we toured this place because it changed my mindset about farmers in rural Illinois."

Blake Lohman

Blake Lohman
Friday, March 23, 2018Learn More About Blake

"Ginny Liss has magical powers or something. Every since we have been on that tour I look at yoga a different way now. I have been doing it at home and can see myself practicing yoga more often... I felt like it really helped me relieve stress."

Cairra Leasher

Cairra Leasher
Wednesday, March 28, 2018Learn More About Cairra

"CEO never fails to amaze me with everything we get to see or be a part of. Whether it be touring a farm, learning about mental health, or doing yoga, everything we have done impacts us as people. We can take skills from every place we tour or from any speaker we hear and incorporate them into our daily lives. I am so thankful to have this opportunity in my life."

Tiffany Gates

Tiffany Gates
Wednesday, March 28, 2018Learn More About Tiffany


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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 Effingham 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.

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