Innovation Center Gets Huge Response to Upcoming Entrepreneurial Training Sessions



April 8, 2005 – Enrollment in sessions slated to begin next week for individuals interested in owning and operating their own business has been enormously successful, according to representatives with the Southeast Missouri State University Innovation Center and Missouri Research Corporation.

Buz Sutherland, director of the Southeast Small Business Development Center, says 104 people are enrolled in the first set of training courses beginning next week in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Fredericktown and Park Hills, Mo., and April 19 in Kennett, Mo.

“There is so much awareness out there about entrepreneurship now,” Sutherland said, as he explained the large turnout. “You hear the word all the time.”

Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Division of Workforce Development, the free entrepreneurial training is being offered in southeast Missouri this spring, with four additional sets of classes to be scheduled in the coming year. Sutherland said he originally anticipated about 185 participants throughout the entire year.

“The grant has given us the resources to make this program available,” he said. “To have 104 people enrolled in the first set of sessions is a great predicament to have.”

Sutherland said at least 300 people could participate in the program before it ends early next year.

The program, known as the Southeast Missouri Entrepreneurial Development Initiative, begins next week and is being spearheaded by the Southeast Innovation Center and Missouri Research Corporation in conjunction with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.

 “Small businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy and help produce many good family-supporting jobs,” said Greg Steinhoff, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.   “We are pleased to support this initiative so that more Missourians have access to the education and support they need to succeed.”

A series of 12 three-hour sessions will be delivered two evenings per week beginning April 11 in Poplar Bluff; April 12 in Cape Girardeau, Fredericktown and Park Hills, Mo.; and April 19 in Kennett, Mo.

The next round of sessions will begin in June for those who were unable to enroll in those beginning next week, Sutherland said.

The curriculum is developed by the well-known Kauffman Foundation, which is devoted to small business ownership. The Kauffman Foundation provides quality coursework that generally retails for $450 to $700 per participant.

“This is a top-shelf program,” he said.

The initiative is a proactive, aggressive and innovative strategy to create jobs, self-employment opportunities and personal financial resources, Sutherland said, adding the initiative will support entrepreneurial development in southeast Missouri.

The sessions will provide business management and entrepreneurial training for individuals interested in starting business ventures and assisting existing businesses enhance their business management skills and, therefore, their chances for success. The project also will offer technical support and training for budding entrepreneurs, business management counseling, faculty and student resources, and business incubator space.

Enrollment in the program is open to the public, including low to moderate income individuals, recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), women, minorities and entrepreneurial college students. The Missouri Research Corporation is working closely with the Southeast Missouri Workforce Investment Board and Missouri Division of Workforce Development to deliver this program to dislocated workers in southeast Missouri.

The training will be offered using curricula called “FastTrac First Steps” and “FastTrac New Venture” developed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The training is being offered by the Missouri Research Corporation in collaboration with the Southeast Innovation Center, the University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Harrison College of Business.

Sutherland said six graduate assistants from Southeast’s MBA program will work as “business coaches” and will be assigned to individual entrepreneurs. The coaches will monitor their progress and facilitate their access to entrepreneurial and small business resources at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The business coaches will ‘hold the hands’ of the aspiring entrepreneurs as they work through the planning and implementation stages of their business concept,” Sutherland said.

The coaches, he added, will help link the entrepreneurs to the resources and services of the Missouri Research Corporation; the SBDC; technical services and training; graduate and undergraduate internships; faculty supervised student team projects; the Management Assistance Program, a hands-on Harrison College of Business faculty outreach program; and access to the Southeast Innovation Center Business Incubator and the Shared-Use Commercial Kitchen for specialty and gourmet food products.

Sutherland said the SBDC, as a unit of the Southeast Innovation Center, is a small business resource with a lending and reference library, a U.S. Census Data Center, a satellite office of the World Trade Center-St. Louis and a U.S. Small Business Administration Satellite Business Information Center. He said all of the SBDC’s resources and services will be available at no cost to entrepreneurs who participate in this initiative.

Additionally, the Missouri Research Corporation will provide detailed specialized training via three-hour sessions on marketing, finance and accounting, procurement, international trade, personnel policy and family business issues. He said University faculty and small business resource partners will serve as instructors.

Entrepreneurs also will participate in four customized workshops to be delivered in three locations around the region. Experts will provide the forums on “Women and Minority Business Development,” “How to Bring a New Product/Service to the Market,” “Value-Added Agriculture as a Business Opportunity” and “Worldwide Web Based Business Development Strategies.”

The program also encourages area banks to give special commercial loan consideration to participants who successfully complete the entrepreneurial training curriculum.

 For more information or to enroll in upcoming sessions, call Bill Vickery at the Small Business Development Center at (573) 986-6084. Pre-enrollment is required, and seating is limited.