An Interview with Madison CEO Entrepreneurial Education

entrepreneurship educationI was invited to be the guest speaker at a Madison CEO Entrepreneurial Education virtual event where I delivered a short discussion about my entrepreneurial and business experience. Following my discussion, an interactive exchange took place among me and the participating high school senior and junior student members of Madison CEO.

The Entrepreneurial Education organization is doing great work locally, mentoring students who have become Madison CEO members as a result of expressing an interest in one day launching their own businesses.

The objective of this blog is to introduce Suzanne and Michael Katschke, the Madison CEO founders, and to share their organization’s activities and how they are supporting business-focused students.

Jay: What exactly is the Madison CEO-Entrepreneurial Education and what are the organization’s ongoing activities?

Suzanne and Michael: The program was originally developed by the Midland Institute in Illinois. We adopted their concept and structured ours to accomplish their objective of supporting young entrepreneurial students preparing to enter the business world one day. Initially, Dr. Jason Greene, Dean of the College of Business at UAH and the Madison CEO Board, led the effort to bring the original Madison CEO concept to the city of Madison as the Madison CEO Entrepreneurial Education organization.

Normally, the Madison CEO program is face-to-face, but the COVID-19 pandemic has presented its own challenges.  Currently, we facilitate a series of virtual seminar-type events where we have a guest speaker from the local business area share their stories in a live Zoom environment with the students. Following the speaker’s discussion, the students enter into a live interchange and ask the guest speaker specific questions of interest to them.

Included in the students’ initial activity, they form a pseudo-company based on their vision of a company they would someday like to launch. We facilitate ongoing virtual classroom seminar-type events, during which the students will create a company or choose one or more of their individual envisioned companies and engage in open discussions on the company’s concept. These classroom events culminate in the students creating a tradeshow showcasing these pseudo-companies. The students learn real-life business principles from these activities and from the local community guest speaker events.  Michael and I are there to facilitate their learning, support them with their business ideas, and hold them accountable to the program’s objectives.

Jay: What motivated you to launch the Madison CEO – Entrepreneurial Education organization?

Suzanne and Michael: We have always had a passion for young people and love to cultivate potential. Plus, it is so fun to watch them grow!

Jay: How are the participating students chosen as members?

Suzanne and Michael: The students apply via a blind application process and are selected by the Madison CEO board.

Jay: What do you find most inspiring about the work you’re doing with these students?

Suzanne and Michael: To see “lightbulb” moments and to watch students begin to believe anything is possible with creativity, hard work, and determination.

Jay: What are some of the challenges you see facing young entrepreneurs today and how do you hope to help them overcome them?

Suzanne and Michael: One of the biggest challenges for our students are the distractions in our world. Too much input fills every moment and robs them of the ability to reflect and dream.

Jay: Who are the business speakers that participate in the virtual meetings with the students and do you hold local business visits?

Suzanne and Michael: We contact local business leaders and entrepreneurs to share the lessons they have learned; there is no textbook. This is real-world learning and application.

Jay: Who are the mentors and what do they do?

Suzanne and Michael: For mentors we reach out to business owners and entrepreneurs from our areas’ business communities and once they are involved the students are matched with one of the mentors. Ultimately, these relationships build generational bridges among the students and the business communities. The mentor activities include:

    1. Meeting with the students to discuss what they are learning.
    2. Attending Monthly Mentor Mornings.
    3. Reviewing the students’ business plans for their individual businesses.
    4. Supporting their protégé students through reading their journal entries which include what they are experiencing in the program.

Jay: How do you fund the organization’s operation?

Suzanne and Michael: That is accomplished through investors who are business owners and local entrepreneurs supporting us through investing $1000.00 per year to support the organization financially, which is making this program available to the schools and students at no cost.

Jay: Are most or all the activities being held virtually due to the pandemic and what are your strategies for continuing and expanding Madison CEO – Entrepreneurial Education objectives?

Suzanne and Michael: Normally we meet face to face, but, again, COVID-19 has us on Zoom for now. We hope to start a hybrid approach. We are doing everything we normally do, just adapting to the pandemic’s environment.

Jay: How can businesses and entrepreneurs get involved in supporting the work you’re doing?

Suzanne and Michael: There are so many ways to get involved. You can invest financially, mentor our students, share your experience, or allow us to visit your place of business.

Jay: Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about you and your organization that we haven’t covered here?

Suzanne and Michael: We teach our students that they can learn something from everyone. Truth is, we can also learn things from our students. We would love to talk with you about ways you can be involved. Please contact us at

Suzanne and Michael, thank you for continuing to do this important work. I know you are doing this as volunteers, and it takes continued planning and engagement with the students and the community leaders. Keep up this important work.

If those of you reading this blog have comments, please enter them below in the comment area. If you have questions or feedback for Suzanne and Michael, feel free to contact them directly or ask in the area below.