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Hundreds Turn Out in Support of White County CEO Trade Show Monday

Rice Motors has been a Carmi staple for 88 years…and serves as a fitting place for White County’s newest entrepreneurs to launch their businesses in trade show fashion.  That’s just what the latest 11 White County CEO class did from 5 to 7pm Monday.  A year’s work culminated with a huge crowd and invaluable experience showcasing their own products and services.

From personalized decals and handmade candles to healthy snacks on the go.  From essential oil products and string art to homemade ice cream, handmade epoxy resin wood jewelry and furniture…even a personal breadstick recipe that are already a hit at a family business, this year’s crop of CEO entrepreneurs are going places.  Family, friends, and business leaders from the region were all there to check out the products and make purchases.

Some of the students drew from their personal history in identifying their business including Bailey Sutton.  “My business is Bayley’s Fresh Bites and it’s a healthier snack alternative for people who are always on the go.  I grew up in a family where we were always on the go with sports.  I wanted to make a snack that people could grab and take with them or a college student for in between classes.”  Like the other students, Sutton says the CEO Class was helpful in learning how to go through the process of launching a startup.  “It was kind of [a] long [process], but definitely worth it.  I had to get my food management class which was about an 8-hour class I took at SIC.  On top of that, I had to get the dehydrator and the different ingredients which took a while.  And then to dehydrate all of them, it takes about 5 hours depending on the item, but in the end it’s really worth it for a healthier snack.”

CEO Facilitator Tracy Orr explains her role; says she makes a bond with each class and now in her third year says she feels the same pride as each students’ family.  “They call me their CEO Mom.  It’s more of a 24/7 job, like I’ll get a text at midnight, which is ok.  I love being their CEO Mom.  Scheduling is the biggest part of my job.  Getting people to come and talk to the students or making appointments for tours that we need to make.  And then it all culminates to this and I couldn’t do it without our CEO Board.  They’re an amazing board that each works their tail off.  Anytime I need anything, even if it’s just to talk, I can call them.  That’s important.  We talk at national conference how we’re as facilitators on an island, because we’re not teachers so it’s nice to just be able to reach out to someone.  And Rice Motors is amazing as hosts of the trade show.  They do everything for us, coming in on Sunday to open the doors and staying here with us while we set up.  They really spoil us.”

Rice Motors plays multiple roles within CEO.  In addition to playing host to the trade show, Scott and Todd Rice also serve as investors and are available as mentors.  Investors make the program possible.  Orr says some get it wrong when it comes to how CEO is funded.  “That’s one misconception.  People tend to think it’s a tax payer funded thing that’s through the school.  It’s not.  We don’t see any tax payer money.  All of our funding comes straight from investors, who give $1,000 per year and commit to 3 years.  We’ve been so lucky.  Our community has stepped up and making sure that we’re taking care of because yeah, this program couldn’t happen with out them.”

Learn more about the students, their businesses and the White County CEO Program by visiting