County CEO Program Seeks New Applicants


The Montgomery County Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) board is seeking young students for their program.

The program is called CEO because the program, which began in 2015-2016, has helped more than 70 high school seniors to create entrepreneurial opportunities.

Students who join the program will learn about starting, managing and maintaining businesses by touring companies throughout Montgomery County. 

They listen and ask questions of business people on topics that range from incorporation and tax laws to regulations, employee management, marketing, sales and more.

Students develop and present class business plans to a "Shark Tank," and then implement the "winning" business that provides seed money for each individual start-up. 

The capstone experience of the program is that each CEO develops his or her own business to create products or services that will be featured at a trade show in May. 

Students present their business concept to local bankers, who then recommend how much, if any, seed money each business should receive.  

This financial investment into the student’s personal business is supported by the class business the students will have had earlier in the year.  

Students do not have to reimburse this money to the class, but they are required to take their personal business seriously as it is an opportunity for them to earn money.

These students have ranged in academic ability from straight-A valedictorians to C students. Some have been outgoing and outspoken, while others have been quiet and introspective.

Student businesses have ranged from writing, illustrating and publishing a book, to aerial photography, to landscaping, to custom-cut and painted metal signs, to first-aid kits and graphic design. 

Additional businesses have included a DJ service, hand-crafted jewelry, custom engraving on metal and glass, lawn care and maintenance, beef cattle backgrounding, conservation plantings and care, scented candles, frozen yogurt, snow cones, fast food delivery, music lessons and much more. The businesses are as varied as their individual personalities and interests.

The students also share a few traits, including being independent or a desire to be independent, honest, trustworthy and hardworking at the things they choose to do.

Teachers who see students in their classroom who have these traits should encourage them to apply during their junior year. 

The online application process for the class of 2022 is open now at, and applications are due by Monday, March 1. Students will need to have one academic reference, which could be a teacher, coach, administrator or class sponsor, as well as one non-related personal reference.

For those who know of any students who are seventh or eighth graders, or freshmen, sophomores or juniors who would love to do their own thing, encourage them to look into Montgomery CEO and plan their courses so they are able to apply.

CEO facilitator Ryan Follis and current CEOs will visit high schools in the coming weeks. 

For those who have questions about the program or would like to draw attention to a particular student or students, contact Follis at or 217-556-6620 or contact Heather Hampton+Knodle at or  217-538-2171.


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