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The Challenges and Assistances for an Entrepreneur

CEO Business Visits

Save the Date - Trade Show Coming Soon

The Belleville CEO students would like to invite you to their Trade Show on April 19 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Southwestern Illinois College PSOP Center (210 North Church Street, Belleville).  There will be 20 businesses showcased that evening such as:

  • Acts of Assistance
  • Awali Tee's
  • Belleville Sport Support
  • Design by Pallet
  • DSK Designs
  • Emilie's On-the-Go Studio
  • Fat Food
  • GameFlesh
  • Graphogo
  • HoneyTees
  • J&E Detailing
  • JR's Lawncare and Landscaping
  • Mechanic on the Move
  • Noteify    
  • Purple Diamond
  • Rettro
  • Senior Craft Masters
  • Stickers for Sustainability
  • The Second Hand

Mentoring Monday

Bobby Fritz & Tyler Douthitt

We hosted our second Mentoring Monday this week.  We had the privilege of having Mr. Bobby Fritz, President of Robert ‘Chick’ Fritz Distributing and Mr. Tyler Douthitt, owner of, stop by to meet with their mentees.  Before Mr. Fritz met with Josie Proffitt, his mentee, he shared with the group how important it is to have some accounting knowledge as a business owner.  He encouraged everyone to take at least one accounting class.  He share that having that background will help you understand your financials more clearly which will allow you to make more intelligent decisions about your business. Thank you Mr. Fritz and Mr. Douthitt for stopping by Monday and spending some time with us and your mentees.

Gas Light Vinyl

Greg Bach, Owner

On Tuesday we visited with Gaslight Vinyl auto wraps, and toured their facility. Greg Bach, cofounder of the company with his brother, showed the class the behind the scenes of a different business approach. Mr. Bach’s main point of the meeting was the necessity of having the prep work done before beginning to borrow loans and investing in yourself. Forming a proper and informative business plan, startup expenses, and cash flow documents is something that can commonly be overlooked, but very essential.

 Mr. Bach also emphasized the importance of expansion of your company, as it will result in more income for future reference. Overall, the tour was very informative, whilst very interesting, as it was a business tour that was not office based. Thank you Greg Bach.

 Written by Ian Hass

Business Assistance Programs

Eric Schauster, Dir of Economic Development

On Wednesday, Belleville CEO met at Artigem with Mr. Eric Schauster. He talked about the city of Belleville’s Business Assistance Program and ways you can be tax exempt for items that are affixed to your property. He discussed ways that some people were trying to take advantage of this program, so they had to keep changing the way it was run. Sometimes they help to abate rising property taxes. He said that the people who don’t support TIF like to say that it’s “giving money away”, but he pointed that it’s money they never would have gotten anyway because without TIF the value of those properties wouldn’t have been raised in the first place. Thank you Mr. Schauster for taking the time to come speak with us!

 Written by Emilie Smyth


JoAnn DiMaggio-May and Adrine Krikorian
Mrs. JoAnn DiMaggio-May, Director of SBDC SIUE and graduate student, Ms. Adrine Krikorian stopped by again on Thursday to help review the Belleville CEO students' 2nd draft of their business plan. Besides helping the Belleville CEO students, both our speakers this week, Mr. Bach from Gas Light Vinyl and Mr. Schauster from the City of Belleville, also mentioned how much Mrs. DiMaggio-May and her staff at SBDC SIUE have helped them personally or other business owners in the community.  Thank you Small Business Development Center SIUE for your continual assistance in helping small business owners become successful!

Student Journal Highlights for this week

This week, I really enjoyed meeting at Gas Light Vinyl with Greg Bach to learn about his recently started up company. He talked about how he got into the business by receiving help from Jo Ann and others from her department. He and his brother had to learn from experience which included some failures, but they gained lots of knowledge to apply to their next trials. When starting up a business, it is necessary to give it 100% priority because it is like a child that needs taking care of. There are many sacrifices and struggles that come from the process, but it should end up being very rewarding.

In my own personal business, I am finding that setting everything in places takes lots of attention to details, so I don’t run into unforeseen problems after I have opened up my business. I am excited, though, to finally get all of my financials and business plan out together so I can start making sales. I think that part will be more enjoyable because it is the act of actually running the business rather than setting it up. Once I start making sales though I will have to remain very organized to keep track of sales and orders. The aspect of donating to conservation organizations also excites me because I am glad that I can make a difference with the support of others.

As a city, Belleville has to run its operations very much like a business, which I never realized before. When our visitor from the city of Belleville came in it was interesting to hear from someone on the inside about their business. Lots of times I hear people complaining about how it is hard to do business with the city because they don’t seem to want to cooperate. The reason that the city sets limits and regulations on projects is ultimately to make sure the building or project stands the test of time. Keeping buildings and projects up to standards ensures that they are meeting the requirements to solve the bigger picture.

Gaslight Vinyl was a pretty fun visit. While some of the bigger businesses teach some very valuable concepts and lessons, the creative fun ones are my favorites to visit. When people said wrapping cars, I wasn't really sure what all went into that type of unique business. Mr. Bach was really cool to listen to. He is clearly very talented artistically, and somewhat reminds me of my T-shirt vendor. Hopefully I can get an affordable good-sized banner from Mr. Bach for the trade show.

I think I am in good shape for the trade show. I was able to meet with my vendor on Thursday, and he said he is available to start working on the art concepts I have him whenever I give him the green light. First, I want to send my designs into the group chat and get opinions and ideas from my classmates, since I am hoping each of them will buy a shirt. I need to ask them if they want their names and the names of their businesses on the backs of the shirts as well, as it would add a couple dollars to the price of the shirts.

I also think I've got a good jump on my portfolio. I added the fiscals of my business to the business plan, as well as the executive summary. It may not be the most exciting part of a business, but it is definitely necessary in the real world.

I liked the things we learned about from Mr. Schauster. I knew business obviously helped city's economies, but I didn't know that some cities went to such great lengths to help them get started and keep them local. I'm glad that Belleville goes to such measures to help aspiring entrepreneurs and helping the welfare of the local economy at the same time.

Jacob Gall

Jacob Gall
Friday, March 23, 2018Learn More About Jacob

While we did have visitors to Artigem this week, my favorite class was when we visited Gas Light Vinyl with Greg Bach. It is vinyl business in the Belleville area that I had never heard about before. They do custom prints on cars, motorcycles, trucks etc, and also do custom stickers, banners, and wall art. They do so much that I am sure that I am forgetting something and it is definitely worth checking out. The tour we were given by Greg Bach was very well done; he is a very personable man who really cares for his business. He puts his everything into his job, and is just a great example of who a business owner should be. It is really great to hear so much about him and from him as well.

John Lewis

John Lewis
Friday, March 23, 2018Learn More About John

 Another busy week of CEO has passed. My personal business is starting to come along now that I have my business plan and financials out of the way I can really start creating the website. I still need to meet with Fred and finalize everything with him. After that I need to start building up a bigger client base so I have more pieces to sell. Once I have enough inventory it will be mainly advertisement that I will have to worry about. As a class this week we came up with our core values. I wish we could’ve done this a little bit earlier to help us with our class business.   If this is implemented next year they should do it at the beginning of the year.

This week we got to meet with Greg Bach from Gas Light Vinyl which is a decaling shop for cars. I thought Greg’s story about how he and his brother had to take high-risk loans so that they could start their dream business was extremely inspirational. They were willing to risk it all even though no one believed in them. It is all finally starting to pay off for them. Even just meeting him that day I was proud just knowing them and what they have done for their business. I was also very happy to meet Greg because he is willing to help make posters for our personal businesses.

This week we also got to meet with Joanne DiMaggio which I was so gracious to meet with. She help me make corrections in my business plan and my financials. She has been a super big help for me and I’m sure the rest of the class. She is always willing to give her time and full effort to help. Hopefully I can meet with her at least one more time so I can get help with advertising my company and finding buyers for the craft masters pieces.

This week during CEO we were able to meet with Greg Bach, of Gas Light Vinyl, and Eric Schauster the assistant director of Economic Development, Planning and Zone Department for the City of Belleville. When we talked to Greg Bach on Tuesday we were able to get a lot of quality information from him about how to start a business and how to keep it running.  I think we were all able to relate with him a little bit because she went through the same thing we are kind of going through now with not really knowing how to start a business at all but still having an idea that you want to pursue and try and start a business with. When he started his business three years ago he had no idea how to run it but he knew that if you was able to get this business running that it would be great.  I think everyone in the from Mr. Bach’s talk on Tuesday because we are all kind of in his shoes now and are learning how to run a business but if we continue to let it grow we ourselves will grow along with it.

When we talked to Mr. Shauster on Tuesday we were able to discuss and recognize the importance of your business.  he explained to all of us how where you have your business can affect the tax breaks you get and also what kind of benefits you can get from having your business in a certain place. I think it was very important for us to hear this because a lot of us don't know how we're supposed to open a business and don't know how the positioning of your business can really benefit you but also does prosperity of your business and the future of it as well. For me personally it was a great learning opportunity to hear everything he was able to say and I think I was able to benefit from a lot of the information that he gave us.  I think the information he gave us can really help a lot of the people in this class because I think that anyone who is going to need to open an actual store front is going to have to use what he gave us and knowing it now rather than later is really going to help us improve and help our business excel.

Jake Roche

Jake Roche
Friday, March 23, 2018Learn More About Jake

This last week was a very productive week of the CEO program, and was a one of the better weeks we have had in a while. The class is starting to progress on their personal businesses, and show real meaning behind it, as in this last week, we were able to work together and learn to get things done.

Gaslight Vinyl was and is probably one of the coolest and inspiring businesses we have heard from. This business encompasses the true meaning of what the Belleville CEO program is trying to teach us. The whole point in becoming young entrepreneurs and CEOs is to find something we live doing in our lives and create a business or service out of it that will make us happy and even make us some money. That is exactly what the Bach brothers did in creating Gaslight Vinyl as a business. They were two brothers who had no clue how to start or run a business. They went from looking up business plans on YouTube, to finally owning, operating, and expanding their personal growing franchise. With the help of many different people they were able to create their dream and have fun every day at what they love to do. They are inspiring because that is who we, this Belleville CEO class, are at the moment. We are trying to figure this all out, learn business plans and budgets, and create our own business. Going to a business like this has more meaning behind it than most people realize and understand, but that is who we are and learning to become. Mr. Greg Bach was very real with us and helped and told us that there will be many sleepless nights, 7 day work weeks, not a whole lot of money to begin with, and a lot of hardships and troubles; however, in the future it is all worth it in the end, finally making money and doing something you love. That’s what we are all looking for in a job, and as young entrepreneurs we are still trying to learn and understand. This is what we all look forward to as we continue this process.

James Monken

James Monken
Friday, March 23, 2018Learn More About James

...we then visited Gas Light Vinyl and spoke with one of the founders, Greg Bach. The interesting part about this visit is learning about how Greg did not really have any prior knowledge of owning a business, and seemed to struggle with it for the first half of his startup. I liked how he did not give up on his business, even after having to struggle money wise for a good amount of time and while still paying off his loans. I think that he shows a true entrepreneurial spirit. Before this visit, I always thought that cars who had those designs and such were painted on, and always thought about how tedious and painstaking that process must have been for the people doing it. But now I know that cars actually have vinyl put on them, which makes a lot more sense.

I really started to understand the importance of core values for a business. The foundation of a business is built on core values. These values set a business on a certain path and the business is supposed to stay on that path. If not the business could be developing certain unhealthy practices that can drastically affect the business. I plan to set core values for my business to keep the moral compass of my business appropriate. I feel that if I do not come up with core values, it can lead to immoral practices in my company, mainly based off of greed. Money is still a very important factor but I do not want it to disrupt the practice of the core values I set for my business. I have seen many companies do immoral things, and which I believe would have not happened if they would have set core values and or have stayed loyal to their set core values.

Our visit to Gas Light Vinyl showed me another glimpse of what starting a business can truly be like. Greg Bach, the owner, explained to us how he did not know anything about starting and running a business when he started Gas Light Vinyl. He explains the mistakes he made, which I thought were very informative. I realized how much this class helps us to prepare for being an entrepreneur. There are many things you need to know to starting a business and trying to start one being business illiterate can put you in a big hole. Mr. Bach is still paying off a three year loan, that if he knew more about how business and money works, he could have avoided such problems. I thought that it was very interesting that he worked with Jo Ann Dimaggio-May to get help with making his business plan just like us. So, I am sure our business plans will only benefit us. Now I have seen what can happen when you are not prepared to start a business. It has inspired me to make sure I know what I am doing before I try something new or I would be hit with many unexpected problems I could have avoided.

Cam Wicks

Cam Wicks
Friday, March 23, 2018Learn More About Cam

Monday was Mentoring Monday, and I’m surprised only two mentors showed up, but I am happy that one of them was mine. There are a few things he cannot help me with, because he only does online sales, however, he was able to help me set up an online store. I do not know what I will use yet; whether it is Etsy, or eBay, or even Amazon, but he gave me some insight on which platforms offer the best deals, and the different shipping prices. I am thinking of starting out with eBay because that is the platform I am most familiar with. I have sold a few things on there before, so I’ll try that out.

On Tuesday, we went to Gaslight Vinyl, and that was probably one of the coolest places we’ve been to. That kind of stuff really excites me. I appreciated that Greg told us how it is in the real world too. They have really long hours, and they’re just not paying off all of their equipment. Running a business isn’t as easy as a lot of people think. It takes a lot of money and sacrifices, and the truth is, not everyone is going to be successful, so you have to make your decisions very carefully, and you have to be prepared to give it your all. Me, for instance; I always want to get the new, shiny, best thing, and that is not good in a business. You need to learn that getting the best of everything isn’t necessarily going to make your business or project the best. It’s how you can utilize the things you already have.

 It’s also good for a company, or a person, to have core values, or statements that everyone should live by. Sometimes, having core values is what makes customers choose you instead of the competitor. They show that you’re down to earth, and that you will work for them, and not for yourself. I am worried a little on how many lamps I am going to sell at the trade show, since I have sold none so far. I don’t know if it is the pricing, or what, but I’ll still make more, and we’ll see how it goes.

Last week I and my CEO class met with Greg Bach from Gas Light Vinyl. He is a very down to earth man whose business revolves around something he loves doing. Mr. Greg Bach came out straight forward and said I knew nothing about business when I was first getting started. He talked about how he and his brother went to different people to try to get his business started and how they kept getting turned down. These two brothers really had determination to try to keep pushing forward to get their business started. Greg really made it seem like he was one of us when he was talking about his startup of starting a business. Because I and my CEO class do not know everything about starting a business and sometimes it can get hard when you are doing all the work to try to start a business. Greg showed us how they put the stickers on the cars at Gaslight Vinyl. It is a really cool process to see it in person. I could really tell that Greg has found his passion and loves what he is doing because he has never given up on his business. Through all the struggles him and his brother went through trying to start this business, they never quit at it. Greg is the true definition of a good entrepreneur and I want to have the drive and passion for whatever business I may start in the future. Gaslight Vinyl is growing and growing each and every year, that business is going to keep succeeding every day because Gaslight Vinyl has two determined and hardworking owners behind it.

“You are the business.” Mr. Eric Schauster said this to me and my CEO class last week. But I really pondered on what he meant by this phrase, “You are the business.” I think what Mr. Schauster means by this is the person that is starting the business is the one who decides if this business fails or if this business succeeds. You are the sole person in making the business successful or not, and that is when hard work and determination come in. You have to treat your business like a baby child. When it first starting you have to watch over it a lot and take care of it. You have to give it everything it needs so it can function correctly. You might have to work for long hours and stay up on nights to make sure the baby (business) is going well. Then as the business you make sure it stays going in the right direction until it get old enough to where it can run correctly by itself.

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