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Lehigh sophomore participates in CEO Academy

June 20, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Thirty-seven students had the opportunity to participate in the Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida CEO Academy, a one-week business school summer camp, earlier this month, providing them with the opportunity to think and act like an entrepreneur while coming up with their own business plan.

"It went fabulous," Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida CEO and President Angela Fischer said of this year's academy. "They really enjoyed themselves. They had great presentations and ideas that they brought forward. It was really great."

This year the students represented Bishop Verot High School; Cape Coral High School; Charlotte High School; Dunbar High School; East Lee County High School; Estero High School; Fort Myers High School; FSW Collegiate High School; Gulf Coast High School; Lehigh Senior High School; Mariner High School Naples High School; North Fort Myers High School; Plant High School; South Fort Myers High School and homeschool.

Article Photos

The judges for the 11th annual Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida CEO Academy were Gary Tasman, Scott Fischer and Pason Gaddis.


The Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida's CEO Academy celebrated its 11th year. Fischer said although it has morphed during those years, the academy is offered to junior and senior high school students, as well as an occasional sophomore student.

This year, two sophomore students were accepted.

At first the academy focused on business plans and marketing packages, before transitioning more towards a Shark Tank type of program.

After Lehigh Senior High School student Brianna Steed's mom recommended the CEO Academy, the soon-to-be junior, thought it seemed like a good place to start learning about the business world.

"I did enjoy it very much," she said about her experience.

Students who are interested have to fill out an application and a personality profile.

Steed thought the personality profile worked really well. She said although all of her teammates were different, they all seemed to get along.

"We all had strengths and weaknesses and it highlighted us well to do good as a group," she said.

The application fee, $100, was waived for students not able to pay.

"We waived the fee for more than half of the students," Fischer said of this year.

The number of applicants varies from 50 to 75 students from Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties every year. This year, Fischer said they had some applicants who wanted to participate from Canterbury School, but could not because they were still in school due to make-up days from Hurricane Irma.

Once the students are chosen they are placed into teams based on their personality profile. Fischer said they group the students this way because they want to make sure the schools are mixed up to provide a more exciting experience for them.

The CEO Academy met daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 4 through June 8, at Florida Gulf Coast University's Emergent Technologies Institute. On Friday, the last day, they presented their business plans.

During the week, students interacted with experienced local business leaders, entrepreneurs, Florida Gulf Coast University professors, as well as other students to complete "high energy team building activities" in such topics as economics, entrepreneurship, ethics, finance, global economy, marketing and international trade.

Steed said when she first walked into the academy it felt like what business should feel like.

"Just being there made you want to act more business like," she said.

Over the course of the week as the team members began to get to know one another, it made her realize that not everyone is creative. Steed said they realized that if they worked hard at their ideas and followed them, through, they would achieve what they wanted.

"The experience really helped me (think) that everything can lead to something and if you work at it long enough it will become something," she said. "If I relax, eventually the solution will come. Being creative isn't always planning things out."

Typically, there are six teams of six students who work together to either develop a service, or a product that they want to market.

"Something they see that is needed," Fischer said of their ideas.

The idea of Hear Change stemmed from one of Steed's teammates being deaf. She said the individual shared how interpreters do not always show up and sometimes do not do a good job if they do.

"Our solution was a seminar that would offer a hotline for interpreters that don't show up," Steed said. "It doesn't matter where you are, it could be virtual or in person."

Steed said she really enjoyed working with Dr. Sandra Kauanui, the director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship.

"Most older people you can't relate to well. She had great skills talking to teens and a good way to share information," she said. "It made the whole process a lot easier."

When Dr. K shared her thoughts on their idea, Steed admitted their feelings were hurt a little bit, but that was to be expected.

"It helped me develop a perspective that the idea doesn't have to stay this way to be successful," she said.

Fischer said they had about 80 folks RSVP for the VIP breakfast on the final day of the academy.

"The students have their presentation boards and prototypes. They talk to the judges, community members and family members that were there," she said. "After that they go to a small classroom to do individual pitches. Some of them have great communication and presentation skills."

This year's judges were great because they listened to all of the pitches, asked questions and once the judging was completed provided feedback on their ideas, Fischer said. Those judges included Gary Tasman of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property of Southwest Florida, Scott Fischer of Scott Fischer Enterprises, and Pason Gaddis of Florida Media Group, LLC.

The first place team received a $1,000 scholarship for their idea GiftR, a gift registry platform providing individualized profiles for gift suggestions for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. The second place team received a $500 scholarship for their model business plan for SkyBites, an app that would allow travelers to view a map of restaurants available in airports they are visiting to order food, pay and have it delivered to their gate.

The scholarships were awarded to each team member, which will be used at the college of their choice.

Fischer said the great thing about the program is it allows the students to learn the basics of entrepreneurship from local leaders, business people and college professors.

"It also teaches them how to collaborate and teamwork," she said.

The academy helped point Steed in a better direction after high school. She said she has always enjoyed writing.

"Writing isn't a lucrative job," she said.

But, with the help of the academy, she is thinking about tying a business aspect with her dream of writing.

"I can create my own publishing company . . . tie in what I always want to do . . . best of both worlds."

The Academy was presented by Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida in partnership with the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University.



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