Continuing on to college isn’t for everyone. One recent Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School graduate put his entrepreneurial skills to work without a college degree.

Levi Schimschock of Diamond Lake, owns a catering company, The Schimmy Shack, starting the business during his junior year of high school. He caters events such as graduation parties and weddings. Currently, he is saving money to buy a food truck and expand his reach to different locations.

“And the thing is, right now I’m just building capital to get (the truck) because that’s the biggest thing for me right now,” Schimschock said. “I’m just waiting for a good deal.”

During his high school years, Schimschock was part of a class called, Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, in Kandiyohi County area. The program helped him gain the skills and knowledge necessary to start his own food company. He was also able to connect with Rep. Dave Baker and worked at his restaurant, the Oaks at Eagle Creek, in Willmar.

“And I (did) everything from expoing where I sprinkled parsley out, and go hand it to older ladies their food and everything,” he said.

Local businesses partner with and fund the CEO program, which aims to help young people build real-world skills through on-the-job experience. The program includes juniors and seniors from ACGC, Willmar and New London-Spicer high schools. The class met from 7:15-9:45 a.m. Monday through Friday for nine months and at different business locations.

Making of an entrepreneur

An entrepreneurial mindset came naturally for Schimschock. At 10 years old, he started mowing his neighbors’ lawns for $20 each. Mowing lawns taught him money management and how to socialize with people, he said. He also has loved cooking since he was 8 years old.

When Schimschock turned 14, he applied to work for Dairy Queen and worked there for three years. He said he learned a lot at Dairy Queen.

“(It was) an awesome first job because it taught me how to deal with angry customers that wanted to throw cones at you,” Schimschock said. “And it just gave me the knowledge to deal with unhappy people, and really be happy when there are good (and) happy people. There (are) more good people than bad people, I’m telling you that.”

For his catering business, Schimschock uses a family recipe book that he found in his mother’s cupboard. He also gets ideas from Tasty videos, which is a website that includes an array of recipes and how-to videos. He also experiments and mixes recipes together to come up with his own ideas.

His menu includes seared pork chop with mushroom cream sauce, crepes, chili cheese dogs, rack of ribs, pork tenderloin and more. Schimschock said he is excited to take his business to the next level. He hopes to buy a food truck in the near future.

A future CEO

Tyler Gehrking, a CEO program teacher, said that although Schimschock had interests, he didn’t have any sense of direction or confidence to pursue something early in his career. But throughout the program, Schimschock realized he was good at talking to people and marketing himself, Gehrking said.

“It just gave him a whole bunch of confidence,” he said. “He realized he’s a natural public speaker. He realized he’s a kind of a natural schmoozer.”

ACGC Superintendent Nels Onstad said Schimschock has the ability to communicate well with people around him. This quality is vital for his future success, he said.

“Schimschock has taken advantage of opportunities provided throughout the region,” Onstad said. “Anyone that has met him, realized quickly that he has a knack for establishing relationships. He has an ability to connect with people and his pleasant and enthusiastic demeanor is certainly one of the characteristics that will continue to be a key to his success.”

Gehrking said that Schimschock’s catering business is one of the most successful ones for several reasons.

“Schimschock picked an appropriate scope,” Gehrking said. “Instead of buying a (food) truck (right away), he started small … and he was fearless and relentless. (He) called everyone, … made mistakes, kept going … and (received) feedback. (These were) all of the things that we want young people to be able to do.”

Schimschock said that even though his business is doing well financially, leaving a legacy and positive impression on people is more important. He said he wants to seize every opportunity without hesitation and be OK with setbacks.

“If there is an opportunity take it,” he said. “Let’s say you learn a new skill. You might not use it, but you (have) it in your back pocket and you can use it one day. … (And nobody regrets learning a new skill).”

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