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Business leaders share tips for young entrepreneurs in Lyndonville

Posted 30 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – Cal Tuohey addresses the group of students and teachers. He explains the importance of being honest.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

LYNDONVILLE – Students in Lyndonville’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy heard directly from local CEOs and business owners in the area about the keys to success.

The panel of four included a diverse group: Cal Tuohey, author, actor and comedian; Jim Simon, Dean of Genesee Community College (Albion and Medina); Barb Champlin, co-owner of Hojack Ice Cream Shack, EZ Shop and Champs; and Peter Woodward, Senior Human Resource Manager of Baxter, Inc.

“The genesis of the idea for this evening started probably over a year ago when we started discovering that there was a disconnect between our school and the business community in the region,” said Aaron Slack, Middle/High School Principal.

Technology and business teacher Todd Wolford came up with the idea as a way to inspire students. With input from others at the school, Wolford chose a list of people who were both local and well established that he felt would inspire the students.

“Don’t lie,” said Tuohey, explaining how an attempt to fool a prospective customer backfired on him. “You can connect better with people if you are yourself.”

That message was repeated throughout the night. The panel agreed honesty was a huge way for an applicant to be considered by a company when job hunting. They also suggested volunteering and being a well-rounded person through hobbies and free-time activities that benefit the community in some way.

“You don’t have to be the best student, but you have to apply yourself and find what you love,” said Woodward.

He wasn’t in the top of his class, but once he found passion for something he was able to focus and begin to guide his life into the path he wanted.

Peter Woodward said having a belief in your company and what you make or do is an extremely powerful motivator. Baxter makes medical products and he constantly thinks about how the devices help to save or sustain lives.

Barb Champlin echoed that finding something you love is the route to success. “It’s a lot of long hours, a lot of sacrifices, but well worth it. I don’t wake up in the morning saying I have to go to work. I wake every morning going to do what I love to do. It’s not work when you do that.”

The group also discussed their regrets of what they wish they had done when they were younger. They offered advice of how to overcome things that might hold someone back that could cause them regret later on.

Jim Simon said that he did learn some hard lessons in his youth, but was able to change himself through them. “It’s really about what happens if you hit bottom and you pick yourself up by the bootstraps. What do you do now? It’s about standing back up if you get knocked down. Don’t feel like your life is set in stone.”

Tuohey wishes he had started by telling his parents what he wanted in life, but didn’t think they would approve of him wanting to pursue comedy. “I didn’t have the courage to tell my parents what I wanted to do. I didn’t want them to hear the wrong answer from me.”

Barb Champlin says she loves running her own businesses because it makes her the ruler of her own destiny. “I like the freedom that it gives me,” she said.

The students all thanked the group for coming to speak to them and some even asked for personal advice afterward about their own futures and choices. They were gracious of the time that was set aside just for them.

“I’ve really learned a lot,” stressed senior Abigail Feldman. She said she did gain some insight and even learned more about their what the panel’s jobs are in the community. She commented that she had no idea that positions like Human Resources did so much.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy has already started students on the path to finding a career they would like to pursue. The YEA runs the school store, which makes a profit. The students then partner up with each other and make real business proposals and present their ideas to a group of investors. The investors vote on the proposals with a yea, nay or can adjust the amount of money the students are asking for. The investors divide the store profits among the students to provide them with the equipment and resources asked for on their proposal.

Two groups within the YEA have already applied for DBAs for their businesses. Feldman and her partner are sharing a Nikon camera that was approved by the investors for their business Fabulous Fotos.

The other approved group is Cashmere Cupcakes and consists of three students. The students rent space in a certified kitchen and are planning to cater cupcakes at local events such as birthday parties. The students for both businesses will be attending college, but will continue to operate as they have time.