By Kim Jansen
News Report Staff
When Keith Sutterfield, of Effingham, was enrolled in the CEO class at Effingham High School, he, like all CEO students, was asked to launch a business.
The 2010 EHS graduate decided on a video production company where he would work with musicians to make music videos.
It sounded like the dream job.
However, Sutterfield’s business quickly failed because he hadn’t considered the need for music videos, and quickly found out that there are two brackets of musicians — ones with no money, that couldn’t afford a video; and ones with lots of money, who didn’t want a high school senior producing their videos.
“That was my first video production company, and it wasn’t very successful,” laughed Sutterfield.
But, just like he was taught through the CEO program, he didn’t give up, and later in life, he took another approach to a video production company — this time focusing on corporate videos, which proved to be a better market in the Effingham area.
After high school, Sutterfield attended Eastern Illinois University, where his studies concentrated on electronic media production. In college, he was able to work on video projects on the side, along with video projects through the college, giving him the experience he needed to open his own business.
Although many of Sutterfield’s friends in the video production field had made their way to Chicago and larger areas, Sutterfield thought back to his time in CEO and the opportunities he could have by locating his production company in Effingham.
“Thinking back to the CEO program and my ties to the Effingham community, I made the decision that I wanted to try to make a go of it back here,” said Sutterfield, which led to him opening Sutterfield Media in the spring of 2014.
Sutterfield recalls how the CEO class opened his eyes to the number of businesses and entrepreneurs in Effingham.
“The community really offers a lot for its size,” he said. “I am continually amazed by the kind of stuff going on here.”
As a CEO student, Sutterfield was able to tour different businesses, to talk to different local businessmen and businesswomen, and to learn how to communicate in the business world.
Sutterfield, who is a graduate of the second CEO class, has continued to follow the progress of the program and recently became a member of the CEO program’s board of directors.
“I always tended to stay involved in the program because it shaped my professional life quite a bit,” said Sutterfield.
Over the past 10 years, the CEO class has changed in many ways, including its expansion throughout the Midwest and the creation of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship.
A program that began through the direction of Craig Lindvahl and Joe Fatheree has grown to include classes in Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and Indiana.
“The class I went to is approaching unrecognizable. The class has matured a lot in the last 10 years,” said Sutterfield, but added the mission of the class remains the same.
As a member of the board, Sutterfield is seeing the class from a different perspective this time around and is amazed by the students’ work.
“To come back and see it again is pretty amazing,” said Sutterfield. “It is so far from your traditional high school class, and the students who come out of it are so far from your average high school students.”
Sutterfield never gets tired of listening to the students’ ideas.
“The ideas the students come up with are great, and it is really neat to see them work on them. Whether they succeed or fail, they are learning,” he said.
As far as how the CEO class helped shape his career path, he credits his business’s success on the relationships he made through CEO and his continued ties to the program.
“When I started, I felt like there was a network here of businesses and individuals involved in CEO and that I wouldn’t be starting from scratch,” said Sutterfield. “The CEO program gives me a thread of a relationship with a lot of businesses in the area.”
Sutterfield said with the support from the business community, he has been able to create a full-time job doing what he loves.
“The community has been exceptionally supportive,” said Sutterfield.