November 17, 2006

Researcher studies small business start-up advice

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- According to the United States Small Business Administration, there are a record 24 million small businesses nationwide and the sector creates 75 percent of all new jobs in America. With that in mind, it's no surprise that more people are getting tips on how to start their own companies.

A researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale found that the majority of people receiving small business training provided by the Illinois Small Business Development Centers were extremely satisfied with the overall experience.

Kyle L. Harfst, interim executive director of the Southern Illinois Research Park and director of the Small Business Incubator program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Office of Economic and Regional Development, recently presented his findings to the Illinois Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth Association.

"Small business is the backbone of our economy," Harfst said. "The majority of people in the private sector work at companies of 50 employees or less."

That's why the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity funded Harfst's project: to find out if training helps aspiring business owners.

There are more than 40 small business development centers throughout the state with many conducting seminars.

"I performed a content analysis for 12 of the sites," Harfst said. He found that the overall desirability of starting a business increased after attending a seminar. Younger students and females had more positive entrepreneurial perceptions.

"The results will be helpful in planning for future training. This work is important as it demonstrates that training may influence desirability (and intent) of starting a business," Harfst said.

Leading in the development of regional human and financial capital needed for economic and business development is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.