Operation Jump-Start Posts Amazing Results in 2008

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Jan. 23, 2009 — The Southeast Innovation Center at Southeast Missouri State University has announced that 139 entrepreneurs graduated from its Operation Jump-Start® small business training course in 2008.

This resulted in about 50 small businesses being started or expanded with grant funding from either the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) of Southeast Missouri or the Delta Regional Authority (DRA).  In addition, DRA funding allowed the Innovation Center to offer the training classes in southern Illinois and northeastern Tennessee where another 37 entrepreneurs graduated, starting 15 new businesses in those areas. 

“Both WIB and the DRA are instrumental in the continuation of these types of training classes,” said Gina Harper, training coordinator.  “Our region’s small business owners deserve an opportunity to succeed, especially now, and our funding agencies allow us to give entrepreneurship a chance in our communities.” 

Operation Jump-Start, which began in early 2006, has become a nationally-recognized, highly successful training model delivered to individuals considering starting or expanding a small business.  The program teaches participants essential business planning and preparation skills with non-academic, practical training.   The Jump-Start model consistently produces businesses that are still in operation at an astounding rate of 95 percent after more than two years.

The Innovation Center has been involved in training more than 600 individuals who have started over 200 small businesses using the First Step FastTrac curriculum from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.  Training sessions using this effective curriculum would normally sell for about $500 per person.  However, funding from WIB and DRA has allowed it to be offered free to area entrepreneurs.  These participants, after completing training and a feasibility plan are encouraged to compete for business start-up grants.  In just 2008 alone, more than $140,000 in start-up funding was injected into the economy in southeast Missouri, with another $34,000 introduced into counties around Harrisburg, Ill., and Dyersburg, Tenn., due to partnerships forged with the local community colleges and economic development individuals.

Program graduate Chasity Doss, owner of Hometown Staffing in Dyersburg, Tenn., said, “I hope you are able to offer these type of classes in the future [because I] believe it would cut back dramatically on the number of failed businesses…your course can offer the necessary preparation necessary to improve the odds for serious entrepreneurs.”

Doss said she learned much more than she ever anticipated and networked with all of her classmates.  She also received a grant to help expand her staffing company.  There are instances though, when would-be entrepreneurs graduate from the class with a slightly different lesson learned.

“I am so happy that I attended every night and completed the homework,” said recent Ste. Genevieve class graduate Russell Britton.  “I was ready to start a business, but after all the research I had to do for this class, I realize that now is not the right time.” 

He said he is grateful that the class helped him realize he was just not ready financially to open a small business.

“Maybe in another two or three years when my home is paid off, but not right now,” Britton said.  “I still learned so much, and I’ll put it all to good use in a couple of years.”

In the spring of 2009, four new classes will begin.  Classes will be held in Portageville and Cape Girardeau, Mo., for workers dislocated due to recent layoffs or for those classified as low income. The other two locations are Bonne Terre and Piedmont, Mo., which are open to any and all participants.  Additional classes have been offered throughout southeast Missouri, including Park Hills, Potosi, Farmington, Ste. Genevieve, Malden, Sikeston, Poplar Bluff and Dexter, Mo.  The Innovation Center strives to make the training available in a variety of communities in an effort to provide assistance to as diverse a population as possible. 

For more information on this free course or to receive an application, please contact Gina Harper at (573) 651-2940 or via e-mail at gharper@semo.edu. Seating is limited and an application is required. Candidates will be pre-screened and notified of acceptance into the course.