Pictured: Me, CEO Program Director Cheryl Mitchell, Macoupin CEO Board Chair J. Richard Schien
Note: This is a follow up to the previous article "Coming Home!"
Finding my passion and then working my heart out to use it to help others is the journey I've been on for almost four years now since my dad's diagnosis with brain cancer. Since the day I got the idea for Fight the Fight, sitting by my dad's hospital bed looking around at the harsh economic circumstances of the other patients, it's all I've wanted to do.
The idea of creating something that could help other people who are in desperate need of financial assistance has consumed me (in a good way). I reluctantly go to sleep each night just before I pass out because I want to stay up and keep working.
To me FTF feels like a giant locomotive I've had to use all of the resources and capabilities in me to get rolling down the tracks. And once the wheels started turning MANY other people have jumped on board to help me push it forward.
Looking back at everything we've been able to accomplish through the organization over the past four years I'm still no where near satisfied by where we are at. I believe we are just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with Fight the Fight. But I also realize that we have been able to help out many people and their families so far. (Over $61,000 donated)
What a lot of you don't know is that for several years before the inception of Fight the Fight I was part of another small town, start-up business that was grown from scratch. In 2009, my friend TJ with the support of his family, decided to open a gym (Ageless Fitness) in the heart of our hometown, Gillespie, IL.
Months prior to the facility opening to the public he asked me to be the general manager for the business. At that time I had just graduated with my Masters Degree in Business (MBA), and I was job hunting for an entry level position with a big company where I could work my way up the corporate ladder.
Only after several months of not finding a job in that world did I accept his offer. I knew I wouldn't get a big salary or corporate stock options, etc... but I absolutely could not stand being unemployed.
That was 7 years ago, and I still work there to this day, although only in a part time capacity now. My time working at the gym is really where I was able to...
1) Figure out that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
2) Live through all the experiences of starting a business in a small community from the ground up and all the things that had to be done to make it successful.
3) Learn that it's not impossible to start and run a successful business in a small town economy.
So when I decided to start Fight the Fight I already had all this experience and knowledge up my sleeve!
Like any other entrepreneur, I've been through many crisis/rock bottom situations with both FTF and the gym. And like any other entrepreneur who is going to be successful I've learned how to get through these tough times to keep moving forward.
I can't put into words just how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. Getting back up after I've worked my hardest on things and failed feels like a boxer trying to get up off the canvas after being punched in square in the jaw. But I've done it over and over again and will continue to do it because I believe so strongly in the purpose behind what I'm/we are doing.
From day 1 in the business world I realized that entrepreneurship is not something that can be taught from a text book. The only school where I believed students could be taught to be entrepreneurs was "the school of hard knocks."
A few months ago I learned of a new program founded in Effingham, IL called "CEO" which stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. In this program, high school students create and launch their own real life businesses from scratch. As mentioned above, this is the only way I believe students can learn what it takes to be a real entrepreneur.
When I found out the program would be starting next school year in Macoupin County I applied for and obtained the job of Facilitator for the class. I didn't think I would ever be interested in doing anything else professionally besides growing Fight the Fight, but when I looked at how the CEO program works and understood that it gives local kids a structure and support system to start their own real businesses I was hooked.
I took the job because I care about my hometown area communities and the people in them. If my involvement with the program can help just one student set him or herself up for future success in the business world then we have succeeded!
Learn more about the Macoupin County CEO Program: www.macoupinceo.com
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