Lessons from Jeff Platt, Teen Entrepreneurs and Learning about Credit, and Communication

CEO Business Visits


TrepStart Day with Independent Youth

Key Note Speaker Jeff Platt, Sky Zone CEO

CEO students attended the Independent Youth Inc.'s 7th Annual TrepStart Day at St. Louis University on Monday. After introductions, a dance contest and prizes, keynote speaker Jeff Platt, CEO of Sky Zone, informed students about the history of Sky Zone, his definition of an entrepreneur and how growth can be painful. He stressed that his 15,000 team members are the most important part of his business.

Sky Zone will be located in 11 countries and the 200th location will open by the end of this year. It is important that a business constantly evolves. Jeff told the audience the Chesterfield location will be renovated for $1 million. He shared with students the following lessons:

  1. Trust your gut. Many decisions are based on a lot of numbers, but always trust your gut. Talk to people and take a leap of faith.

  2. Nobody accomplishes anything great on their own. You can't do eveything on your own. You have to rely on others. It takes a team. Empower others.

  3. Be resilient. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. How you respond to these punches will define you and your character. You learn from your failures. You must be able to solve problems in business and in life.

Students attended two break out sessions and listened and learned from the following entrepreneurs, who ranged in age from 13 to 18 years old:

Brennan Agranoff, Lily Born, Zandra Cunningham, Jake Johnson, Ethan Kamat, Ryan Kelly, Carson Kropfl, Remmi Smith, Mikaila Ulmer, Joshua Williams.

Thank you to Jeff Smith and icon Mechanical and Engineering LLC for providing CEO students this opportunity. 


Southwestern Illinois College

Venue Options for our Event
At the end of class on Tuesday students met with Gary Gruenert, Physical  Plant Supervisor, and Jeff Bonifield at Southwestern Illinois College to look at the possibilities and options of the venue for our class business. The Commons area and the History Room is a viable option to host our class business event. Students will make a decision on the venue next week. 

Enrolling for Four Hours of College Credit

Amanda Quinn, Southwestern Illinois College

Students were excited to listen to the process and enroll at Southwestern Illinois College with Amanda Quinn, Dual Credit Coordinator. Students will earn four hours of college credit upon completion of CEO in May, 2018. The course is MGMT 299 - Special Topics in Management. 

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your morning with CEO and enrolling students for college credit. 


GCS Credit Union


Establishing Credit and Communicating Your Vision

GCS Credit Union

Financial Literacy Boot Camp was explained to CEO students by Billie Jo Sanchez, Training Manager at GCS Credit Union on Thursday. Students completed a pre-test on their Banzai website. Billie Jo encouraged students to establish a budget, save early, live within their means and use a worksheet to compare accounts by financial institutions.

Know the difference between your needs and wants, establish good credit and montitor your credit report. She explained the Student Success Account at GCS Credit Union and talked about some pitfalls of college student loans. Billie Jo answered many questions during the presentation. Taylor Brewer, Training Specialist, gave students a behind the scenes look at the drive through tellers and a tour of the facility. 

On Friday students met and listened to CEO and President Keith Burton. He showed a video on leadership before grouping students and introducing a vision and communication activity. A CEO for each group was given a look at a decorated pumpkin and then they had to communicate their vision to the next person in charge, who in turn brought their thoughts to the group to decorate their group's pumpkin as was communicated. This was an activity that students felt helpless at times and disengaged. How a leader communicates, shares their vision and defines the details is important to the group to succeed and solve problems. Students enjoyed this process and learned how hard it is to be a leader.

Thank you, Keith Burton, and your staff at GCS Credit Union for sharing two mornings of learning with CEO.  Thank you also for being an investor. We appreciate you.


Student Journal Highlights for this week

This was a fun week and really busy. Monday we started out on Trepstart day, which was a lot of fun. Tuesday was Halloween so I was rocking the Clark Kent so that was fun. Wednesday I worked for the first time at my new job at Ravanelli's. Thursday, I worked some more and we had GCS Credit Union, which was cool because they had donuts. Friday we did the team building exercise with the pumpkins and I worked as a host. I really liked working as a host, it is a lot better than washing dishes. It’s crazy for me to imagine myself being a host about a year ago, I was so anti-social, but CEO is transforming me. I also worked Saturday. I worked a lot this week, and my hands and grades are feeling the aftermath. I have sandpaper hands and have been just coming home and going straight to bed every night. Sunday I went and got my suit for professional pictures. It was super expensive, but it's really nice and I’m happy that I got it. Sunday was my only “day off” but I have to do a lot of homework and try to catch up in my classes.

On Monday for CEO we went to SLU for Trepstart day. It was a lot of fun, they had a nice DJ and we had a dance party. Also after we went to Dairy Queen. It really started the week off great. For once I didn’t have a “case of the Mondays.” We learned a lot from people our age and younger who already have businesses. Jeff Platt, the founder of Sky Zone, was the keynote speaker. He taught us that there is a lot more to being an entrepreneur than what’s in the dictionary definition. He gave powerful messages such as “growth is painful,” and three steps to be successful are:

1. Trust your gut. - He told us to go with that gut feeling you have, because that’s where your heart is. And if you go with your heart, you’ll be committed. Your gut leads to success.

2. Nobody accomplishes anything on their own. - He taught us that it’s ok to ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes. Embrace it, it’s part of being a human.

3. Be resilient. - He taught us about how he’s failed and learned from it. Failing is just another way to learn, you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, rather accept that failure. It can happen and that you’ll be better for failing. Life is going to “punch you in the face” a lot, you just gotta be able to take it. It will make you stronger.

After learning from Jeff Platt about life and getting his advice, we had the opportunity to ask him questions.  He even told us about his dog’s instagram, which I'm following now. I want to have a golden retriever now. After this I went home and took like 15 minutes to just pet my dog.

After learning from Jeff Platt we headed into breakouts to learn from other young entrepreneurs. I personally got Lily Born and Mikaila for my breakouts, but we all attended different breakout entrepreneurs. First was Lily Born. She made the kangaroo cups, and has a company Imagiroo. She taught me about the invention process.

It starts with observing. Is there a problem? Then it goes to brainstorming. How can I fix the problem? Next is experimenting. How does my solution work? After you prototype. Use things like sticks, clay, cardboard etc. and just make a simple model. Then, improve. How can I make it better? Finally, launch. Crowdfund and sell if you have a good prototype.

After Lily taught me about inventing, I headed to Mikaila. She made Me & The Bees, a company that sells lemonade to save bees. Mikaila taught me about how she came up with her Idea for her business, and taught us an acronym to start our own. She’s super knowledgeable for how young she is. The acronym she taught me was FITS, which stands for fix, interest, trends, and skills. You find a problem and fix it using something you’re interested in, or a trend, or skill.

After the breakouts, we had lunch and left. It’s crazy that these people are as successful as they are at their ages. It’s pretty inspiring to be honest. When I was going to get my suit Sunday, I was having a conversation with the lady helping me, and she asked what the occasion was. I said it was for professional pictures for CEO. It was funny because her eyes lit up and she asked “You’re a CEO?” I can only imagine what the other kids at Trepstart day have to deal with when they go somewhere to get plane tickets or suits.

On Tuesday, we had a class day and talked more about the Best of Granite City event we’re planning. We also went to SWIC to scope out the environment.

Wednesday, a lady from SWIC came to class to help us get set up for dual credit. I think it's pretty nice that I get college credit for CEO, I think it might help me enlist higher in the air force.

Thursday, we were at GCS Credit Union. We were taught about financial literacy and credit from Billy Jo Sanchez and Taylor Brewer. We got financial boot camp packets, and got the rundown on just about everything that has to do with money, from savings accounts to budgets.

Friday, we were at GCS Credit Union again. We met the CEO, Keith Burton. who taught us about teamwork and perspectives. We did a team exercise on designing a pumpkin according to instructions from a leader. It was a lot of fun, and gave me a new idea about leadership and its role in business. It also showed the power of having different perspectives.

All in all, this was a good week. But I’m so ready for a break, even though I don’t really get one with all the homework I have. I’ve been super over worked this week. I need to find a way to balance time better, and dedicate more to school. Life is good though, I got a nice suit and I’m going to have money again so that’s nice. I might follow GCS’s advice, but I’ll most likely just blow it on fast food and gas like normal.

Scott Schank

Scott Schank
Sunday, November 5, 2017Learn More About Scott

This week was full of lessons and sayings that were of value to me, and that taught me things that I can use in my everyday life.

Monday was one of the most exciting days for the CEO class as we ventured to the annual TrepStart day at SLU. Guest entrepreneur speakers, Jake Johnson and chef Remy Smith were amazing with keeping us engaged and making sure we were having fun but still gaining from this wonderful opportunity. The duo introduced us to Laura Gardner, Tonya Hamilton, and our key-note speaker, Jeff Platt who answered a few of my questions. I asked Jeff what he feared most in his big business and he simply responded, “failure.” Jeff explained that he fears unsatisfied guests and employees. He also made the point that entrepreneurs are willing to take risks, be crazy, and be resilient. The most important message of the day was, “it is through failures that you will succeed.”

Tuesday, we registered for our SWIC dual credit and talked about upcoming events. I learned that sometimes it is best to leave your input out of an argument to better understand someone else’s point of view.

Wednesday we went back to SWIC to get a better understanding of the area for our event in January, which will be further discussed throughout the next two months. I am so excited to host this event for the community with my favorite class!

Thursday was another great learning opportunity for us, as we traveled to GCS Credit Union and heard from Billy Jo Sanchez, and Taylor Brewer about what a credit union is all about, and what to watch out for.

Friday was another eye opener for me as we were surprised with pumpkin decorating from CEO Keith Burton at GCS Credit Union. Most of us were confused on what this had to do with businesses or a credit union, but at the end of the “lesson,” he explained to us about how communication is very important in running a business and that we really need to pay attention to every detail someone tells us.

This was one of the most fun weeks in CEO and I appreciate the opportunities given to our class!

Morgan Tucker

Morgan Tucker
Sunday, November 5, 2017Learn More About Morgan


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