June 22, 2007

Entrepreneurship network helping businesses

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – In celebration of Illinois Small Business Week 2007, June 24-30, a variety of special activities and awards will honor businesses that thrive, rather than just survive, in Illinois.

The Illinois Entrepreneurship Network (IEN) is an integral part of Small Business Week and in providing essential services of all kinds to Southern Illinois businesses. The network includes the Illinois Small Business Development Center, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center and the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center, all hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Several IEN clients are among the winners of the INNOVATE Illinois 2007 awards announced this week by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Honorees include the Arthur Agency Inc. of Carbondale, Boon-Docks Equipment Inc. of Herrin and So iLL, Inc. of De Soto.

The Arthur Agency is an interactive advertising agency utilizing traditional advertising in conjunction with new media services including web design, CD-Roms, DVDs and 3-D animation. Boon-Docks Equipment designs and manufactures farm implement solutions for a variety of clients including contractors, landscapers, small farmers and hobbyists. So iLL manufactures indoor and outdoor hand and foot grips for artificial rock climbing walls.

Other INNOVATE Illinois 2007 winners include Colorlab Cosmetics Inc. of Rockford, K.W. Powell & Associates Inc. of Rockford, Leading Edge Hydraulics of Rockford, BrightStart Franchising LLC of Chicago, ClaimForce Inc. of Warrenville/Chicago, GoPicnic, Inc. of Chicago, Neat-Oh! International, LLC of Carthage, R Cubed Technologies of Galesburg and Vision Technology Inc. of Champaign. Southern Illinois semi-finalists for the competition include Clipius Technologies Inc. of Murphysboro and Mt. Vernon.Net Inc. of Mt. Vernon.

Thirteen INNOVATE Illinois 2007 winners come from nearly 100 applicants across the state. Each finalist will participate in an intensive six-month program providing access to various resources and expertise along with a $10,000 grant to help their business grow. Funding for the program is through the Opportunity Returns program. The winning companies will be involved in a program featuring mentoring, growth plans, education, peer networking, and access to sales and capital opportunities. Business strength and potential economic impact from their innovation are the primary selection criteria for honorees.

Emily Carter, Lynn Anderson Lindberg and Robyn Laur Russell, directors of the IEN centers at SIUC, praise this year's winners and look forward to continuing to work with these clients as the businesses progress in the six-month program.

"We are fortunate to be able to work with such high quality businesses in our area and are excited about the future of entrepreneurship," Laur Russell said. "Small businesses are the combined force that will cause our economy to grow and thrive and as a sector, they are receiving more attention now than ever before. The attention needs to be harnessed and utilized to help power a more entrepreneurial climate in Illinois."

For more information about the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network visit www.ieconnect.com or call 618/536-2424.