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Young entrepreneurs showcase businesses as annual Riverbend CEO program wraps up

Last Thursday evening, young entrepreneurs in the Riverbend CEO program launched businesses for an audience of community members, family and friends, showcasing the work that they have put in over the past two semesters.

Along with learning about entrepreneurship, Riverbend CEO students learn tools and skills that are essential to success in the business world. The Trade Show took place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, 2023, at the Best Western Premier Hotel in Alton. It marked the conclusion of the seventh year of Riverbend CEO.

“Riverbend CEO is an investor-funded entrepreneurship program that connects local high school seniors to businesses in our community. CEO gives students an incredible opportunity to start their own businesses and network with other business professionals in our community. Each year, students tour more than 30 local businesses and meet with 30 guest speakers to help them learn the ins and outs of running a business,” explained Director Katie Sabolo.

“While learning about businesses in our area, students launch their own small businesses with a product or service they market to the community at our annual Trade Show. This year, 11 students are completing the program and showcasing their businesses at our show. The Riverbend CEO Class of 2023 has a bright future ahead, thanks in part to the businesses who have taught them the value of determination, innovation, and hard work,” Sabalo further noted.

Jacob Schaper, a member of the Riverbend CEO Class of 2023 said, “Riverbend CEO has been the highlight of my year! I’m incredibly grateful for the behind the scenes tours, encouragement and speakers that being part of CEO has allowed me to experience.  I am grateful to launch Note to Self Piano Tuning in our very supportive community.”  Schaper launched his business, Note to Self Piano Tuning, as a part of the program. “If your piano is out of tune, make a Note To Self and get your piano tuned,” he added. Schaper received an Honorable Mention in Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship’s Annual Pitch Competition as a part of his Riverbend CEO participation. With over 800 students in the CEO program, receiving this award check and prize package is quite a further accomplishment.

Young entrepreneur and Riverbend CEO classmate Donald Holliday launched his business, Creased. He shared, “My business is called Creased and its mission is to help others unfold their creativity.  I do accept commission work; please send inquiries to” Holliday has a unique graphic design and creative arts talent that is expected to take him far.  He is pictured with a mixed media portrait he created of his father, Alton Firefighter Donald Holliday.

Riverbend CEO young entrepreneur Maireli Figueroa, owner of Mai’s Crochet, said, “For anyone wondering if you should take this class, just do it!  I’ve had some of the best memories made with this program and group of students and learned more than I ever thought I would.”

Among the Riverbend CEO Class of 2023 young entrepreneurs launching their businesses on April 27 were:

Jacob Schaper,
Note to Self Piano Tuning

Donald Holliday,

Maireli Figueroa,
Mai’s Crochet


Jake Brey,
Treat Yourself

Ben Werts,
Farm Flock

Joe Brangenberg,
Limits Undefined

For more information about the Riverbend CEO program and this year’s class, visit online at


Photos courtesy Riverbend CEO.




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