CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 4, 2010 — For the past six months, entrepreneurship has been growing in St. Francois and Washington Counties. In addition, community gardens have sprouted in Farmington and Potosi, Mo.
Budding partnerships also have begun between area high school students, small business mentors, community leaders and local agencies; all in an effort to plant an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s youth and further small business development among each community’s adults.
The program is called the Revitalizing Rural Community Initiative (RRCI), and is sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University. The partner cities of Farmington and Potosi are hosting Operation Jump-Start small business training classes for adults. The communities also are sponsoring a business plan competition for their high school students who are currently preparing the soil and planting the seeds, and will be managing the community gardens this summer.
“The cities of Farmington and Potosi have been extremely positive about the program, and they understand the value of pairing youth and adults to work toward a common goal and forming an entrepreneurial mindset in the community,” said Gina Harper, CIE training coordinator. Farmington’s community garden is located behind Farmington High School, and Potosi’s garden is a couple of blocks from the Potosi High School on land donated by local businesswoman, Debby Bust. Volunteers and mentors are still needed to work with the students this summer, Harper said.
“Seeds of Success,” an informational program that will be the culmination of recent entrepreneurial activity in the area, is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 17 at Mineral Area College’s (MAC) North College Center. Featured events at “Seeds of Success” will be guest presentations from Dr. Paul Schnare, owner of Sunny Hill Gardens in Cape Girardeau; and from Kate Kammler, University of Missouri Extension. Schnare will discuss the current food crisis and the state of the food supply in this region and the world. Kammler’s appearance is to provide information on the health benefits of gardening and give additional information on vegetable facts for Missouri.
In addition, Farmington and Potosi high school students will showcase their business plan process and garden plans for the summer. Adults who have completed the CIE’s award-winning, signature training course, Operation Jump-Start (OJS), are invited to set up vendor displays, according to Harper. Recent graduates of the OJS class held in Farmington will be honored, and those winning seed-capital from the business plan competition will be announced.
Several local businesses have agreed to display their products by catering the hors d’oeuvres. They includ the Good Earth Bakery of Bonne Terre, Mo., TJ’s Smokey Meats of Farmington, Mo., Sweet Memories Catering of Potosi, Mo., the River Hills Restaurant of Park Hills, Mo., and Mario’s Pizza of Bonne Terre.
“It is my belief that in order for small communities to grow,” said Harper, “that every chance we get, we commend and utilize the local small businesses.”
During the evening, the cities of Potosi and Farmington will be awarded an “Entrepreneurship-Friendly” designation and recognized for their continued partnership with the CIE to sow the “Seeds of Success”.
The CIE supports Southeast University’s strategic priority to advance the region’s economic appeal and strength by accelerating local and regional economic growth and development that improves the quality of lives, communities, and businesses in southeast Missouri and the surrounding region.
Located at the Southeast Innovation Center, the CIE is one of the most comprehensive entrepreneurship-focused university centers in the Midwest, offering a vast array of academic and outreach programs and services including innovation development and research; entrepreneurship education, training, and mentoring; business incubation; business training and development; and network building and community development.
The East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA), a not-for-profit agency, is partnering with the CIE to deliver RRCI. EMAA has a mission to promote healthy communities and empower economically disadvantaged individuals and families. Their service area covers eight counties in northern area of southeast Missouri, including Washington and St. Francois.
The public is invited to attend the “Seeds of Success” event and should RSVP to Susan Sterling at firstname.lastname@example.org or (573) 651-2286. Participants will hear stories of the gardens; learn about gardening and food production in the region and nation; taste locally prepared foods; and meet new small business owners in the region The program is free, and participants will receive a seedling plan grown by MAC horticulture students.
“Seeds of Success” is co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the East Missouri Action Agency (EMAA) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the WIRED Initiative and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Funding has been provided by these entities to further small business development in the region.