Staples, Minn.,
07:00 AM

Central Minnesota CEO Program Teaches the Business of Life

STAPLES, Minn. (22 May 2017) -- As if juggling classes and preparing for graduation at the end of May isn't enough, Wadena-Deer Creek high school senior Logan Taggart is also running a small business. Taggart recently started, “Taggart's Tag Art,” an engraving business in which he customizes tags for luggage, pets, and more.

The young entrepreneur got his start thanks to the Central Minnesota Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program, available to juniors and seniors from Staples-Motley and WDC High Schools. The year-long program gives students the opportunity to work side by side with successful business people from the community, and culminates with creating, launching, and managing a business.

Taggart and his 13 classmates showcased their small business products and services at the class' Trade Show on May 16 at Maasconi's Char and Bar in Verndale. Over 100 people attended the event, yielding sales and generating leads for the young entrepreneurs.

And while the year-end Trade Show was a great opportunity for the students to share their businesses and give the public a better understanding of the program, the event revealed less-tangible benefits: smiling, confident youth, introducing themselves to strangers, making eye contact, shaking hands, and fielding questions.

“I chose to be part of the CEO class because I've always been interested in business and it's what I plan to pursue in college,” Taggart said. “But, the biggest things I’ve learned this year are how to network and common business etiquette.”

Throughout the year, the class met from 7:30-9:00 a.m., every school day at an area business. The students got plenty of practice introducing themselves and engaging in business conversations through 45 area business tours and hosting 32 guest speakers. Working alone, or in pairs, students were matched with a volunteer mentor to help them navigate the process of starting their own business. All were immersed in real-life learning experiences with the opportunity to take risks, manage the results, and learn from the outcomes.

“This class is a very good way to learn life skills, even if you're not interested in going into business, it's still very helpful,” Taggart said.

Cindi Koll, class facilitator and former Family and Consumer Science teacher, says CEO's aim is two-fold. “One of the reasons – and part of the reason CEO is funded by local businesses, or as we call them, ‘investors,’ – is economic development,” Koll said. “We would like our young people who are ambitious and hardworking and have some entrepreneurial dreams to come back to central Minnesota, to Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek and raise their families here. That's the economic side of it. The other part is to prepare them to be adults, maybe more so than their regular academic classes.”

In addition to all the business meetings, Koll arranged for the students to meet with area bankers, insurance agents, realtors, and landlords, giving them opportunities outside the normal high school experience.

The CEO curriculum was developed by Craig Lindvahl, a retired teacher from Effingham, Illinois, and is available nationwide. According to Koll, Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek are among 38 school districts who have a program, and the Central MN program is just one of three in the state. Learn more at

The program is made possible because of support from area businesses, called “investors.” National Joint Powers Alliance® (NJPA) is one of several area investors, and has provided Central MN CEO with $67,450 in Innovation Funding in its two years of existence (2014-15 and 2016-17). NJPA is slated to continue as an “investor” for 2017-18 with $47,500 in Innovation Funding.

Innovation Funding was created to help Region 5 entities (education, local government, and nonprofits) fund initiatives aimed at creating collaboration and improving the region. The funding is a strategic reinvestment intended to support region-wide initiatives, and designed to impact and serve a greater public purpose.

2017 CEO Busniness Class
Katie Benson & Molly Lindgren, SMHS   Chick-n-Coops
Lucas Doyle & Tyler Jahnke, WDC Two Guys in Polos (Computer Programming/Video Games)
Rachell Fischer, SMHS Blotch Art
Jacob Krueger, SMHS Krueger Fix-It
Hayley Maloney, WDC HJ Snaps (Photography)
Cody Moe, WDC Moe Seed
Sarah Moen, WDC Sarah's Signs & Such
Dominic Nistler, SMHS Dom's Sweet & Sassy Syrup
Rachel Paskewitz, SMHS Double S Cattle Co.
Mikayla Sauber, SMHS Sauber's Doe Lake Brittanys (AKC Registered Brittanys)
Zach Strickland, SMHS Z'Cello
Logan Taggart, WDC Taggart's Tag Art
About NJPA

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota's nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 200 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.