At HBM, talent development represents a vital part of our culture — and that includes our desire to foster the next generation of business leaders. To that end, we participated in an important event on Sunday, June 10th — the CEONext National Trade Show — held by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit that teaches real-world business skills to high-school students.
The event showcased young business owners who have benefited from the Midland Institute’s Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program. This year-long program allows high-school seniors to learn from business owners in their communities. Meeting each weekday morning at a local company, the CEO program allows students to gain the sort of business acumen that textbooks rarely cover. The program had 640 students participating during the past year, and the CEONext National Trade Show (held in Effingham, Ill., where the Midland Institute is based) highlighted 29 of the businesses launched by students. Three of them received a $2,500 prize to reinvest in their companies. The winners were selected by a panel of five judges, which included HBM’s Nik Ljoljic.
“Midland Institute’s CEO program is inspiring as are each of the young entrepreneurs who presented their business plan and vision,” commented Nik. “I was fortunate to serve as a judge and witness first-hand the passion and creativity of the program participants. I left the event feeling inspired by the many young leaders whom I had the opportunity to interact with.”
During the past 10 years, the CEO program has expanded dramatically. The first program was held in 2008 — by 2013, it had spread to five communities in Indiana and Illinois. Today, the program is sharing entrepreneurial skills with high school students in 45 communities (with 98 percent of them falling under the U.S. Census Bureau definition of rural areas), including schools in Minnesota and Colorado.
Most of those regions face economic challenges and would benefit greatly from additional business development. Of the communities participating in the CEO program, 76 percent have lower employment rates than the state average, and 87 percent have seen population decline in the past five years. In addition, 93 percent of those communities have median household incomes that are less than the national average.
As part of the program, all students work with mentors who help them develop a business plan and launch their own company. But to succeed, these students require more than a good idea and a strong work ethic. To grow and operate their small businesses, they need access to capital — something that most of the students’ lack. Thanks to the $2,500 cash prizes awarded at the Midland Institute’s CEONext National Trade Show, some of those young entrepreneurs will gain much-needed capital to help pursue their business goals. We are proud to have HBM represented at that event because one of the best ways to invest in the future is to support the aspirations of young entrepreneurs.