April 01, 2016

SIU to host High School CEO Trade Show

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- High school students from around the region are trying their hand at entrepreneurship courtesy of a workshop and trade show from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Office of Economic and Regional Development and Center for Innovation. 

The teens will showcase the new businesses they have created at the High School CEO Trade Show from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on April 28 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 1740 Innovation Drive in Carbondale. The public is welcome. Just as with a major trade show, those attending will be able to visit the various booths, talk to the business owners and learn more about the companies. They may even hear an elevator pitch or two, as the students can choose to give very short, one-on-one “sales pitch” talks about the companies they founded.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the High School CEO Trade Show on April 28 and the final preparatory workshop on April 6; both will take place at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center. The most opportune time to get video, photographs and interviews during the workshop is from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. when trade show presentations are being given. For more information, contact Kyle Harfst at 618/453-3427 or harfst@siu.edu or connect with any of the regional CEO programs.

 The trade show is the culmination of months of effort and preparation by high school students from Jackson, Perry, Randolph and Union counties.  They, as well as students from Williamson and Saline counties who are having a separate trade show on the same date at the Williamson County Pavilion in Marion, were chosen through an application process to participate in the six county high school CEO programs. Special CEO boards within each county oversee the programs. 

Through the program, the high school juniors and seniors have learned about business concepts, creation and development. A final training workshop on April 6 at the Dunn-Richmond center will give the students a chance to view the trade show location; network with other students, economic development experts and business owners; and learn more about trade shows, elevator pitches, proper attire, presentations and displays. 

Then, it will be show time for nearly 30 young entrepreneurs. Visitors to the April 28 trade show will find a wide variety of student businesses – from cupcakes and baked goods to metalworking enterprises, from computer services companies to smartphone screen repair businesses. 

“Our office is delighted to host the CEO Trade Show for several of the counties that have High School Entrepreneurship programs,” Kyle L. Harfst, director of economic development for SIU, said. “In going through this process, students have refined their elevator pitches, prepared budgets for their booths and designed their trade show displays. Ultimately, they will need to ‘close the sale,’ providing them with real world experience as to what it is like to own your own business and utilize a trade show to sell your products and services.” 

The SIU Office of Economic and Regional Development endorses the CEO programs that are being created at high schools throughout the region. The CEO programs are based on the Effingham CEO program, now called the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship. The programs are actually taught in the classrooms but the business community in each county supports the programs and provides mentoring. 

“I view this not only as an educational activity, but as a long-term economic development strategy. Keeping young, talented individuals in the region is critical to economic growth,” Harfst said. 

For more information, contact Kyle Harfst at 618/453-3427 or by email at harfst@siu.edu