EDWARDSVILLE — After months of preparation, Sunday was the payoff — literally and figuratively — for a group of young entrepreneurs from the Edwardsville area.

The Edwardsville CEO Program held its annual Trade Show at the Ink House, where 26 seniors from Edwardsville High School, Father McGivney Catholic and Metro-East Lutheran had a chance to display and sell their products and services to the public.

The show drew a record number of guests and even ended with several students selling out their inventory.

It was a follow-up to the Fish Tank, held March 31 at the Outlet Event Center at Edison’s Entertainment Complex, where the students made a pitch for their products and services to a panel of judges.

“This group of students comes to us in August, and they meet with community members and guest speakers and make business visits, and they learn the ins and outs of how to run a business,” Edwardsville CEO program Director Hannah Allison said. “They get to put it all together in launching their own individual business and this endeavor and this is the day when all of that comes together.

“They’re learning to communicate and they’re finding customer problems and finding ways to solve them. We get to watch all of that unfold and that’s awesome to see.”

Variety of ideas

Among the students on hand Sunday was Father McGivney senior Emma Martinez, whose business, Taste of Miami, features Cuban-style guava pastries.

“My family is from Miami and one thing I realized is that we don’t get to experience exotic fruits as often and we don’t have the exposure to it,” Martinez said. “I wanted to bring Cuban guava pastries to the area and spread awareness of it. It’s exotic, it’s unique and it’s different.”

From creating to the concept to the final recipe for the pastries, Martinez faced numerous challenges along the way.

“In creating a business, you must think about a problem and how to solve it,” Martinez said. “I wanted to bring guava to the area. People aren’t aware of it and that was the biggest challenge.”

EHS senior Ella Feldmann, meanwhile, was selling her product, STEM Creations, which are at-home lab kits for students in grades 3-8.

“The goal was to bring the joy of science outside of the classroom and into your home,” Feldmann said. “I created these because I noticed there was a lack of labs in the classroom after COVID and there was this game of catch-up being played, which led to a lack of science.

“I created these kits to bring science back into the world. I wanted to show kids how much fun science can be.”

For Feldmann, the opportunity to engage with customers about STEM Creations was worth all the obstacles she had to overcome.

“It was a huge challenge, and this weekend was crazy trying to get everything prepared,” Feldmann said. “It’s a been a lot of work, but it’s been a lot of fun at the same time.”

Hard work pays off

Seeing students such as Martinez and Feldmann selling their products and services to the public was especially gratifying for Edwardsville CEO Treasurer Abel Anderson, a founding board member of the organization.

“To see where they have come from the very beginning to now, with the amazing businesses they have come up and getting to show them to the community, it’s the culmination of all the hard work they’ve put forward this year,” said Anderson, who is a commercial lender and Edwardsville Community Bank president of First Mid Bank and Trust.

“The program helps them from the standpoint of how to engage people. When you walk around and shake hands with these kids and talk to them, they speak with confidence, and they are impressive.”

Equally gratifying for Anderson was the wide range of products and services offered by the students at the Trade Show.

“Every year we get a handful of unique businesses,” Anderson said. “Some years there is less variety, but this year there is a wide variety of businesses, and they are all unique.”

Taking the time

Another student at the show was Metro-East Lutheran senior Natalie Blair, who creates repurposed jewelry through her business, Blue Heart Jewelry.

“I go to local thrift stores and buy second-hand jewelry pieces,” Blair said. “I’ve always liked thrifting and jewelry and the jewelry that a lot of stores make these days is usually cheap and it breaks easily. I wanted to use stuff that was broken and create something new out of it.

“It was hard to create enough inventory because of how long it takes to create each product. For what I have here today, I started in January and didn’t finish until last week.”

Father McGivney senior Ellie Antonini was selling custom hand-drawn art through her business, Art by Tini. She has been drawing since fifth grade and been doing national and local competitions for several years.

“I wanted to have a business that I’m truly passionate about and I want to help people but also get better at my skill,” Antonini said. “I want to transfer people’s ideas onto paper and into something that they really love.”

Among the biggest challenges for Antonini is finding the time to create art for her customers.

“These portraits can take me six hours, so I have to space the time out, so I don’t get burned out,” Antonini said.

“One of my favorite things is seeing pictures of people with their portraits or seeing it hung up and I’ve gotten thank-you notes from people,” Antonini said. “I wasn’t originally going to do pet portraits, but I’ve gotten requests and I’m doing them as well. I’ll do people and pets and whatever the customer wants.”

Supporting young people

Jeffrey Westerhold is another founding member of Edwardsville CEO. He is the principal of Scheffel Financial Services in Edwardsville and leads a wealth management team

Each year, Westerhold is anxious to see which new concepts the CEO students come up with.

“CEO stands for ‘Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities,’ but it’s really about helping young people develop their personal and professional skills,” Westerhold said. “Young people are very creative and if you want a problem solved, they can usually find a way to do it.”

Allison saluted the Edwardsville CEO board members and local business owners for their roles in making the Trade Show a reality.

“We wouldn’t have CEO without our amazing board members and our awesome community. They are the root of this program,” Allison said.

“All of our guest speakers are from the community,” she added. “The students are learning not just about the accounting and the numbers and risk assessment, but they’re also learning life skills. 

“It’s things like doing what you say you’re going to do and being on time. The work of our board members is almost thankless because it’s behind the scenes, but they do it because they believe in the mission and in these students.”

Other companies played equally important roles in presenting the Trade Show, she noted.

“I can’t thank the Ink House enough because they always donate this space to us for free,” Allison said. “Sneaky’s Burgers is providing a food truck out back today and Pop Drop & Party donated balloons. The amount of community support is fantastic.”

Edwardsville CEO students at the Trade Show included:


  • Apparel (Caroline Marcus, EHS — The Ville Style)
  • Athlete essentials kit (Sophia Ivnik, Father McGivney — The Time Out Athletic Pack)
  • Custom digital artwork (Brooke Wade, Metro-East Lutheran — Chexedo Dreams)
  • Custom hand-drawn art (Ellie Antonini, Father McGivney — Art by Tini)
  • Customized organizational materials (Mae Klusas, Father McGivney — The Simplified Life)
  • Discreet stress-relief fidget (Livia Budwell, EHS — Just Breathe Bands)
  • Feminine hygiene kits (Emma Lorenz, Metro-East Lutheran — Period Pack)
  • Framed photography of local landmarks (Mallori Dempsey, Father McGivney — Rose Photography)
  • Gourmet window-sill herb garden kits (Sophia Ball, Metro-East Lutheran — Urbane Herbs)
  • Home décor (Drew Bagby, EHS — Drew’s Design and Décor)
  • Light alarm clocks (Samuel Chouinard, Father McGivney — Lux)
  • Phone cases (Zoë Byron, EHS — Cases for a Cause)
  • Repurposed jewelry (Natalie Blair, Metro-East Lutheran — Blue Heart Jewelry)
  • Repurposed paper products (Rhiannon LaZella, Seton Home Study School, Metro-East Lutheran — Rhi-purposed Paper)
  • Shoe cleaning kits (Ashton Mersinger, Father McGivney— Shoe Renew)
  • STEM kits for kids (Ella Feldmann, EHS — STEM Creations)


  • Dog treats (Taylor Heberer, EHS — Biscuits for a Buddy)
  • Dog walker essential pack (Tanner Garner, Father McGivney — Dog Walker’s Dream)
  • Dog-watching service (Emma Bukovac, Father McGivney — The Buddy System)


  • Baklava (Mariam Amer, EHS — Bakloveia)
  • Cake pops (Olivia Gray, Father McGivney — Cake Explosion) 
  • Charcuterie boards (Avarie Schwartz, EHS — Graze and Gather)
  • Guava pastries (Emma Martinez, Father McGivney — Taste of Miami)
  • Kimchi (Madison Deck, EHS — Madi Kimchi)


  • Dog-watching service (Emma Bukovac, Father McGivney — The Buddy System)
  • Shoe cleaning service (Ashton Mersinger, Father McGivney — Shoe Renew)
  • Trap shooting lessons (Katie Gilbertson, Father McGivney — Clay Crusher Course)

For more information about Edwardsville CEO, go to www.edwardsvilleceo.com or visit the Edwardsville CEO Facebook page.


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