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Entrepreneurship Investigation

Center for Rural Affairs

October 25, 2013

     Cody-Kilgore students attended the Business Discovery Day in Ord, Nebraska held October 23, 2013. The students listened to the speakers, one of which was an alumni of Cody-Kilgore, Eric Johnson, entrepreneur. The CK students gave a presentation of the Circle C Market, beginning from the first idea to the finished, working project. The students were interviewed on the local radio station, KRVN about their work on the store project.

      Our Cody-Kilgore students also presented an idea for the next project, a community library. They won third place in that competition and came home with $100 towards that project.

The following are articles from the Cody-Kilgore School newsletter, CK Beat. Articles were written by the students either involved in the project or in the Journalism class.

     The first delivery of groceries arrived at 6:45am on March 22, 2013. This was also the day scheduled for the Community Development Assistance presentation by the Village of Cody. Those receiving thanks were also given the opportunity to tour the Circle C Market and view the boxes of groceries.

Circle C Market Close to Completion

Dec. 12, 2012

     Four years ago, Cody, Nebraska needed something to bring people in. Something needed to put Cody on the map before it was forgotten completely. When the idea for a grocery store surfaced, community members started working. Grants were written and approved, contractors and architects were met with, and hours of phone calls were made. Here we are, to the end of 2012. The building is up, the final colored coat of paint was applied to the outside, the floor was laid and epoxy seal was applied. The ceiling boards are being covered in polyurethane, trim for the outside of the building is being painted, and the metal is being put on the roof as we speak. John Johnson, G.R.I.T. Committee Member said of the work being put into it, “Well, it’s been coming along over the past couple weeks. Progress has really been made.”

     Each day, Cody-Kilgore students travel to the site of the grocery store to pitch in. Each extra pair of hands is very helpful. If it weren’t for students, faculty, and community members, the grocery store wouldn’t have even made it this far. Though the building is almost complete, purchases will not be made for the Circle C Market quite yet. Grants are being written and much paperwork has to be completed before the shelves are stocked. Due to more work before the store is officially ready for business, an opening date has not been released to the public.

      Not every village in Nebraska can say that when the times got tough, the community stuck together and created something that would make the town grow. Cody, Nebraska did and thanks to our perseverance and dedication, the Circle C Market will be up and running in no time at all.

Hannah Jones


Volunteers Needed For Grocery Store

Nov. 30, 2012

     As many of you may know,our grocery store is making a lot of progress and continues to look awesome. With the hope of our store opening up on March1s , the store has a need for volunteer drivers to pick up groceries for our store.These food products and supplies are found in Valentine and it would be greatly appreciated if we could compile a list of volunteer drivers so that every driver would be able to pick up our groceries.Any volunteers that would like to do so please email sadamson@esu17.org for more details or call Cody-Kilgore Public Schools. (402-823-4117) I , Jalen Grant,gained much experience while working on this store. It’s very neat and provides perfect opportunities for other students to find an after school job. I would like to encourage people to take notice of our new grocery store and would greatly appreciate your support.

Jalen Grant


One Step Closer

Nov. 30, 2012

     As we all know, the idea of a student run grocery store has been around for four years. Personally, I am very excited to have a store in our town! Something I am also excited about is that they are going to let students sell stuff in the store. I myself LOVE this idea because you can start your own business as a kid. The students will also receive all of the profit that they make from the cool stuff that they sell. The students can pretty much sell whatever they want in the store. Which is really cool because you can have high schoolers with woodwork and elementary students can make crafts to sell in the store. If you have not seen the store you have to stop by. It is beautiful! John Johnson predicts that the equipment will be in place by January. This does not mean that the store will open in January, the inventory will have to be ordered, students will have to be trained, etc. Mrs. Adamson says that we have waited this long, so there is no point in rushing at the end. We want to make sure we do it right so the students have a successful learning experience. My true hope is that the community will utilize the store, because this has been a lot of work for many people! The Circle C Market is becoming a reality!

Sydney Adamson

Jr. Hi. Times

Cody Market Takes Shape

Sept 2012

     As you can tell from just driving through Cody, the Circle C Market has made serious progress. The foundation was started in May, and thanks to numerous volunteers, has been worked on throughout the summer. Almost 550 bales of straw were brought in from storage in the country to be used for the building of the store. The bales were packed tightly into the walls to help the building be better insulated. The first layer of stucco was put on the outside of the building this summer, with the help of many volunteers. Recent work includes wiring, duct work, sheet rock installation, and insulation. The list of things to do this fall includes interior and exte rior stucco, a metal roof, and putting a finish on the cement floors. Once the physical building is completed, the interior will begin taking shape. An approximate opening date has not yet been set, but the store will be up and running before we know it!

Currently, Mrs. Stacey Adamson and Mrs. Janet Shelbourn both teach a class 8th hour that involves how to prepare, oper ate, and help manage the grocery store. The students who take the class help with the manual labor, work with the health department, and have even found out about a school in Missouri that also has a student-run grocery store! Even though you can’t buy groceries in the store yet, you should stop by and take a look! There has been amazing progress. Hard work is paying off!

Hannah Jones


Circle C Market represented at K-State rural grocery gathering

July 2012

     MANHATTAN, KS - The Cody Circle C Market was represented at the Rural Grocery Initiative (RGI) conference last Tuesday at Kansas State University. k-State invited the Circle C Market to present about the project in Manhattan, calling the future grocery store and business incubator a "model of [grocery] operation".

     The Circle C Market wasn't the only school-based grocery store invited to present at the RGI conference, however. 2012 Cody-Kilgore graduate Anlan Cheney, who presented the project at K-State, said she was joined by two other school-based grocery stores when she presented about the Circle C Market. A group with The Bulldog Express of Leeton, Missouri, and superintendent Warren Schmidt of Rothsay, Minnesota, also shared about their projects.

     "We're often cited as a really unique and one-of-a-kind project," said Cheney who is also a former GRIT member and has worked on the Cowboy GRIT committee and Circle C market project since its beginnings, "it was eye opening to see that there are other schools doing the same thing!"

     Cheney's presentation, entitled "Cody Circle C Market: Bringing groceries to a Food Desert", detailed the preparation for and development of the student-run, non-profit grocery store and student entrepreneurial center.

     K-State's Rural Grocery Initiative (RGI) was founded in response to the struggle of rural grocery stores. "Unfortunately, we to frequently hear of yet another rural grocery store shutting its doors and closing for busi ness," said a RGI pamphlet about its cause. The RGI is supported by a USDA Rural Business Opportunity Grant and funding from Kansas State University.

     The RGI claims that "rural grocery stores...represent a critical piece of infrastructure that keeps our rural communities alive". According to RGI, rural grocery stores are often the "only source of healthful, affordable food...a primary local economic driver....[and] a symbol of a healthy, vibrant community."

     The Circle C Market, besides making groceries accessible to a rural community, will hopefully further stimulate the local economy and entrepreneurial spirit in the area. Indeed, the Circle C Market is near to becoming a reality. While Cheney was in Manhattan presenting the project to a gathering of rural grocers, construction workers and volunteers were hard at work in Cody putting a frame on the Circle C Market founda tion. The store and student entrepreneurial center are expected to open this fall.

Planning for the Store

May 2012

     The Village of Cody received a grant in September of 2009. This innovative grant is intended to ignite growth in our community and move our students to 21st century learning.

     Originally the site of the community grocery store was going to be at Cody Oil, but plans changed. Research was done; unfortunately a place was not found that would meet certain codes. Some representatives from the steering committee, village board, and community business owners met and the consensus was to write another grant for a building.

     If we receive the grant it will be a straw building similar to George Johnson’s. Hopefully it will be a fun project that gets everyone involved. Because it will be a straw building everyone can help.

     We are anxiously awaiting fall, so we can find out if the Village of Cody has been successful in getting another grant.

Hannah Jones and Stacey Adamson


Worth the Wait, Cody breaks groundon grocery store

May 2012

     Cody-Kilgore community members welcomed the long-awaited groundbreaking of their future student-run grocery store and business incubator in Cody last Monday, April 23rd. The store, now named the “Circle C Market”, will be a 3,000 square foot straw-bale building. The Circle C Market is expected to open this fall on its Highway 20 location.

     “It’s been a long process”, said C-K educator and community member Tracee Ford of preparing the grocery store project for construction, citing location challenges and meeting grant-related requirements as a cause for the long wait. Ford is also a member of Cowboy GRIT, an advisory committee that helped to develop the grocery store project from its conception in 2009. Both Ford and fellow GRIT member/C-K educator Stacey Adamson served on the Public Relations Committee at Cody-Kilgore High School, brainstorming ideas on how to bring more students to the C-K communities. “That’s when someone said, ‘Well let’s build a grocery store’”, remembered Adamson. “We all treated it like a joke, then I thought, ‘Why not?’”

     Adamson made a call to Arthur County’s “The Wolf Den Market”, a small community grocery store, eventually speaking with The Center for Rural Affairs. Only days later, Adamson and Ford found themselves scrambling to procure materials for a $75,000 rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

     Cody-Kilgore was awarded the grant to “finance and facilitate development…[of an] emerging rural business”. The Village of Cody then received another USDA grant in 2010 for $95,000 to fund the Circle C Market and business incubator building, specifically.

     Adamson and Ford invited students to join the grant Steering Committee—now called an advisory committee—in 2010. Ten students were interviewed and accepted into the Committee, though the membership increased to eleven in the 2011-2012 school year. Student members decided to name the committee Cowboy GRIT (Growing, Revitalizing, Investing, Teamwork) in 2010 were instrumental in naming the store the Circle C Market (after a local celebration called Circle C) in 2012. Indeed, students have been involved in all aspects of the grocery store and business incubator project, including the business plan, building layout, and startup inventory.

     “This project is about the students...It’s a promise to them,” said Village of Cody Board Chairmen John Johnson at Monday’s groundbreaking. In a small community where fewer opportunities exist for young people, especially those wanting to return after college, economic revitalization is key. The project will also cut the traveling distance residents must make for groceries by a significant margin and provide entrepreneurial support for the local economy.

     USDA representative Paul Bartlett, who was present at Monday’s groundbreaking, was quick to praise the project for a number of those reasons. “There are a lot of struggling small towns who can learn from this project,” he said, emphasizing the unique student, staff, and Village Board’s collaborative partnership.

     It’s true that good things come to those who wait. With a promising new business and an economic revitalization movement underway, prosperity for Cody-Kilgore is on the horizon. Some things are just worth waiting for.

Anlan Cheney


Cody grocery store to be a reality this spring

Jan 2012

     A midst the hustle and bustle of the season, Cody-Kilgore Cowboy G.R.I.T. committee members—those responsible for the future Cody grocery store— have continued preparing for the construction process.

     Indeed, the Cody Village Board— another driving force behind the grocery store project—hopes to have the store built and functioning by May 2012. A spring opening would ensure store function in time for the 50 th anniversary of Circle C, Cody’s primary "city celebration" and school alumni reunions.

     "It is a daunting goal," said Cowboy G.R.I.T. and C-K instructor Stacey Adamson aboutmeeting the building deadline, "but it’s also a feasible one." Currently, blue prints are being tweaked and construction, but construction cannot begin until the ground thaws this spring.

     Student Cowboy G.R.I.T. members, not shy to hands-on work with the grocery store project, are heavily involved with the building process as well. Functioning as sub-committees, students are working on various aspects of the building from lighting and wall color to inventory and financial collateral.

     "Every aspect is an important one," said adult Cowboy G.R.I.T. member Tracee Ford of the store’s details. Ford, who is also an art teacher at Cody-Kilgore High School, has volunteered to develop an interior décor scheme for the store in which she hopes to incorporate local history.

     Even community members have gotten involved in the store-building effort. Readers will remember the straw-bale-forming event held this October in which some 695 straw bales were formed and stored at the Fullerton Ranch near Cody. The bales will be used in the store’s unique straw-bale building plan modeled after the George Paul Vinegary structure, also located in Cody.

     Despite the rapid progress made this fall, the store has a long way to go to become a reality. To-dos include a store name, though a list has been compiled and reviewed, and the issue of a manager and other employees has yet to be resolved.

     Still, the future grocery store is on the horizon, so close that Cody-Kilgore community members can celebrate its progress no matter how busy their holidays might become. And who knows? Within a year, they just might be eating a Christmas turkey purchased in the new Cody grocery store.

Anlan Cheney


Grocery store might help town to survive

March 2011

     After their meeting with Nebraska Game and Parks in Lincoln on Monday, February 28th, members of the Cowboy G.R.I.T. committee discussed the visit and their project with a Lincoln Journal Star reporter. The following article, reprinted with permission, appeared in the March 1st issue of the Star.

     Cody calls itself a town too tough to die. But you’ve got to eat to survive. That’s why students from Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools want to build a grocery store in their community of 149 people west of Valentine. Over the weekend, five junior high and high school students from the school traveled 340 miles from the Sandhills to Lincoln, where they made a unique business pitch involving a little piece of the state’s longest recreational trail.

     The students, joined by local community and business leaders, want to lease a small plot of land in the Cowboy Trail right-of-way to build a store. The building would double as an entrepreneurship incubator, which the students hope would spin off other new businesses in a place where employment opportunities are on the decline.

     "It’s important because we need these things for people who want to come here and want to stay," said Kylee Stoner, a Cody-Kilgore eighth-grader.

     The students made their pitch Monday at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which owns the Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail.

     The trail follows a 321-mile former railroad corridor between Norfolk and Chadron, although the section open to hikers, bikers and equestrians encompasses nearly 200 miles from Norfolk to Valentine.

     Details need to be worked out and the proposal must be approved by Game and Parks commissioners, but the idea has merit, said Roger Kuhn, the agency’s parks administrator. "I think it’s a positive thing," he said Monday. "We try to do what we can to support the communities, because when communities are successful, we’re successful."

     The concept is the product of a local nonprofit group called Cowboy GRIT, an acronym for Growing, Revitalizing, Investing and Teaching. The group’s members include business owners, community leaders and students. Cowboy GRIT got a $75,000 federal stimulus grant to remodel a vacant business in Cody for the new grocery store. But after the group couldn’t find the perfect building, it came up with the plan to build from scratch and won another $95,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

     Both grants require a dollar-for-dollar match, which group leaders say they’ll get through contributions and in-kind donations of labor and professional services, said John Johnso, chairman of the Cody Village Board.

     They would like to build a 3,000-square-foot building, which would be accessible to travelers on U.S. 20, Johnson said. The closest full-service grocery store to Cody is about 40 miles east in Valentine. Cody lost its grocery about 10 years ago.

     Despite its diminutive size, Cody has a long history of trying to fight the tide of population loss and economic decline. This effort is different because it involves future leaders. "If we want this to happen, we have to get creative," Johnson said. "This is about our youth." Annie Cheney, a junior, and Jais Ford, a senior, said students put together a business plan that calls for hiring a full-time store manager, but much of the work would be done by community volunteers or students participating in work-study.

     In rural Cherry County, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for teenagers to get part-time jobs other than as ranch hands, Cheney said. The store project also could give students on-the-job experience with management, scheduling and accounting.

     "I’m so excited about it because it benefits our school," said Wyatt Schneider, an eighth-grader.

     Students, staff and residents are proud of the 126-student K-12 school system and want to keep it strong, said J.T. Adamson, a seventh-grader. Providing the goods and services that keep families in the district and attract new ones is one of the best ways to achieve that goal. "Our school offers a lot," he said. "I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else."

BY JOE DUGGAN Lincoln Journal Star

Cowboy GRIT Negotiates with Game and Parks

March 2011

     On Monday, February 28th, 5 members of the Cowboy G.R.I.T. Steering Committee, a school board member, a village board representative, a couple teachers, and our principal took a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to visit with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for a lease on the land for the upcoming grocery store/entrepreneurship center. When the long 6-hour road trip was over, we finally arrived at our motel, but we were disappointed to find that there was no swimming pool or exercise room. Since we didn’t stop anywhere on the way and we were all starving because it was 9:30 at night, we decided to treat ourselves to a scrumptious meal at the Cracker Barrel. When our plates were clear and our stomachs were full, we returned to the motel and retired for the night.

     After a good night’s rest we showed up at the Game and Parks Commission office at ten ‘til 9 with bright and smiling faces. Duane Westerholt met us in the lobby and took us the long way around to the conference room so we could see all the exhibits. Once everyone introduced themselves, the meeting was underway. When the meeting first started the Game and Parks Commissions’ thoughts about the lease were a little pessimistic, but the two hours of discussion over the land, plans, and the students ended warmly. Needless to say, we will be getting the lease for the land signed soon. During the meeting we got word that Joe Duggan from the Lincoln Star Journal wanted to interview us about everything we have been doing to the this grocery store/business incubator up and going. The very next day the article was on the front page of the Lincoln Star Journal with all of the five students quoted. This trip was a fun and success ful experience that greatly influenced our thoughts about business in a good way. We even got to see the State Capital and Memorial Stadium. It is definitely one trip we will never forget.

Kylee Stoner and J.T. Adamson


Cowboy GRIT Teams Up with SIFE of Kearney

Nov. 2010

     Originally penned as Growing, Revitalizing, Investing, and Teamwork, the Cowboy GRIT Steering Committee has made considerable progress in the past month through which they hope to add the finishing touches on plans for their student-run grocery store and student entrepreneurship center in Cody, NE.

     Growing included the Cowboy GRIT committee adding four new members. Tessa Gale, Tyler O’Neill and Austin Wobig, all freshmen at Cody-Kilgore, and Seventh Grader J.T. Adamson, have brought fresh ideas to the table and have already contributed to the grocery store and business incubator project. As with the original GRIT members, these students filled out applications and were interviewed by judges.

     Even with growth every project needs some revitalization at some point. This renewal came in the form of two well-planned and smoothly executed fundraising events that benefited the grocery store and business incubator project. A jackpot team roping organized by J.T. Adamson and Austin Wobig, and a concert featuring the nationally acclaimed "Sweethearts in Carharts," organized by Marty and Donna Blocker, earned $1500 for the incubator project.

     Initiative couldn’t have come any handier when the GRIT committee finally set their sights on a prize piece of land directly next to highway 20, which runs straight through the little town of Cody. Scott Millard, the grocery store consultant, believed the lot north of Lancaster to be the ideal location. Cowboy GRIT set out to persuade Nebraska Game and Parks to sell them the esteemed portion of land in question.

     Primarily, Cowboy GRIT was given a decisive "No" to their perhaps outside chance request. With a little prayer and perfectly placed political pressure, however, the Committee was notified from Washington D.C. only two weeks ago that the land was theirs to use with an extended lease. "I’m thanking God right now," shared Cowboy GRIT leader Stacey Adamson, who also teaches Elementary and Junior High Math, "It was a long shot, but He provided!"

     Postponed by the impending situation with land, Cowboy GRIT has officially declared their intentions to start building in the spring. Meanwhile, the Committee has teamed up with a SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) group out of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK).

     Made up of business-minded college students and sponsored by the Dean of the UNK Business College, Shawn Kaskie, the group, which promotes itself with the slogan, "Head for business, heart for World," has stated its main aim is to empower the Cowboy GRIT Steering Committee through the resources and assistance it can provide.

     Already, connections have been made between the Kearney SIFE group and another on-campus organization that will aid in developing a floor plan for the grocery store. SIFE will also be meeting with the student members of the Steering Committee to impart customized business-oriented lessons on entrepreneurship, CO-Ops, marketing strategies, and the like.

     UNK’s SIFE, a part of a national organization, has selected the Cody Grocery Store and Business Incubator project as their own to develop for their contest in the spring. The team is looking at it as a long term project, as UNK SIFE Student Chairman Kasey Dietz remarked, "We are hoping to be around for a while." The Lopers and Cowboys may have more in common than you might think.

     Between Growing, Revitalizing, Initiating, and Teamwork, the Cowboy G.R.I.T. committee has plenty of room for success. The past month has proven to be a busy and exciting one for the Cody Grocery Store and Business Incubator project, but will doubtless expand and explode in the coming seasons into a full-fledged economic overhaul. Lucky for the Village of Cody, with a little thanks due to its "too tough to die" mentality and more to the UNK SIFE team and other helpful individuals, kids and families will eventually be able to come home to a budding community. The best part? They won’t have to lug their groceries from an hour away.

Anlan Cheney


Long Wait Worth the C-K Grocery Store Building

Sept. 2010

     Students at Cody-Kilgore were just settling down into their school routine on August 31, 2010, when big news hit. Cody-Kilgore, currently in the midst of a Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, were notified of their selection as one in 61 projects to be awarded funds for further "Student Education and Economic Development in the Sandhills."

     Many will remember the funding for a business incubator received by Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools last year. The new subsidy, which was awarded to the Village of Cody by the USDA (United states Department of Agriculture) and the Center for Rural Affairs, will provide the building to purpose the entrepreneurship and area-building activities form the first grant.

     John Johnson, a Cody community member who helped to write the building Grant, hopes to have the straw-bale building up by first snow. Both John and his brother, George, serve on the Cody Village Board and have been proactive with the ‘business incubator’ project. George, who built his own straw-bale building for his vinegary, pointed out the benefits of such a structure: "They are extremely efficient with very low energy costs….stable temperatures and the quiet make them nice to work in."

     Obstacles still stand in the way ofa building, however. Straw must first be found for the structure, however. Straw must first be found for the structure, but not just any straw. Approximately 600 wheat straw bales, tied with wire, are ideal. (Anyone with suggestions should call Cody-Kilgore High School at 402-823-4227)

     Location also needs to be pinpointed, as previous arrangements did not work out. Community volunteers and the C-K steering committee and sponsors have begun working overtime after a standstill wait for news on the building funds.

     “After all of the hard work we’ve put in, I’ll be excited to see the impact this store will have for our community and school,” stated Jais Ford, a CKHS Senior and member of the Steering Committee. “Just think of all the benefits; kids will get REAL business experience and they’ll have the opportunity to start their own business if they want. It’s a win-win situation!”

     There’s more to the project, however, as John Johnson will add, “It’s infrastructure. People—they change, they come and go—but a project with an infrastructure offers our community stability." Groceries may be a gain, but the overall goal of the business incubator is to build up this community. Cody has created a legacy, milk and eggs included.

Anlan Cheney


C-K Steering Committee Learns to Lead at Governor’s Conference

Nov. 20

     Lead through Innovation. This was the advice of Terry Jones as he addressed around a hundred Nebraskan businesspersons at Governor Dave Heineman’s Rural Development Conference in Kearney on Friday, November 6th. Jones was the founder of Travelocity, the first online travel agent service. The C-K adults and students that attended the conference learned not only how to implement numerous helpful business strategies into the recent acquisition of a federal grant. Unfortunately, Governor Heineman was detained for business in Lincoln, but the C-K attendees received instruction on such business staples as websites, investing, and involving the community nonetheless.

     Mayor, Randy Schneider, and Village of Cody board member, Molly Gale, attended the conference along with CKUS principal Kate Fullerton. Stacey Adamson and Tracee Ford, teachers at CKHS and the two heading the grocery store grant, also benefited from the venture. Students who made the trip to Kearney were a part of the grants student Steering Committee.

     The Steering Committee members included Chelsea Fullerton, Jana Nollette, Nathan Van Winkle, Jais Ford, Karisa Lamle, Lindsay Adamson, Kelli Bowlin, Annie Cheney, Wyatt Schneider, and Kylee Stoner. The group was selected based upon their personal talents that would pertain to working on the grant project. The applicants were required to complete a written essay explaining what they could do for the project and why they wanted to be on the committee. The Eleven, who were the only that applied, were interviewed by non C-K employees from the surrounding community. Interviewees included Mike Burge from Valentine, and George Johnson and Paul Zysset, both from Cody.

     "The Governor’s Conference was eye opening, motivational, and educational," gushed Stacey Adamson. The conference proved to be helpful in other ways as well, as student Jais Ford shared: "[The Conference] helped us to build relationships with other individuals that are addressing the same issues."

     The student steering committee and its sponsors are now working on the business plan for the student run grocery store. They will also be introducing the rest of the C-K student body to entrepreneurship. Even with the absence of the Governor at his very own conference, the C-K group left Kearney with a wealth of new found knowledge and numerous business principles to ponder and practice.

By Anlan Cheney


It's more than a store. It's our future.

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