February 18, 2009

‘Operation Bootstrap’ offers business training

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A unique entrepreneurship opportunity is available to the unemployed and underemployed in 16 Southern Illinois counties.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Delta Regional Authority are offering a new business training program to unemployed or underemployed low-income and moderate-income residents residing in the 16 Illinois Delta counties. “Operation Bootstrap: Seeding Southern Illinois Start-ups,” is an intensive six-week program open to those living in Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Johnson, Hardin, Union, Jackson, Williamson, Randolph, Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Gallatin and Saline counties. It’s a chance for them to start their own business or formalize a business they already have.

“Simply put, this program will train people to run businesses and can put money in their hands to help them do just that,” said Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade at SIUC. “We are excited because, to our knowledge, this is the only program in Southern Illinois that allows us to give seed grant funding directly to individuals to start their own businesses.”

Sponsored through the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development’s Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit, the program is open to entrepreneurs of all types -- from those wanting to start a small business on Main Street to those planning a high-growth, global company. Those who successfully complete the Operation Bootstrap program and develop an individual business plan are eligible to compete for a $3,500 start-up funding award. The award will go to 15 people to help them launch their businesses and create new jobs in Southern Illinois.

The first round of classes for this program is under way. However, a second round kicks off with a series of orientation sessions beginning next week and continuing into March at a variety of locations throughout the region. The orientation sessions give interested individuals information about the program and answer any questions they may have. You can also apply to participate in the program and secure a spot in the upcoming round of in-depth training that starts April 14 at the Man-Tra-Con building in Du Quoin.

Laur Russell said SIUC, working in conjunction with the city of Du Quoin and Man-Tra-Con, is excited to bring this significant business opportunity to the region. Kim Sanders, assistant director for entrepreneurship and business development, is the Operation Bootstrap program coordinator. Anja Meksem, entrepreneurship specialist, serves as assistant coordinator.

The orientation session schedule includes:

• Monday, Feb. 23, 4 p.m. at Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 150 E. Pleasant Hill Road, SIUC campus, Carbondale.

• Wednesday, Feb. 25, 3 p.m. at Du Quoin City Hall, 302 E. Poplar St., Du Quoin.

• Thursday, Feb. 26, 2 p.m. at University of Illinois Extension Center, 1306 N. Atchison Ave., Suite A, Marion.

• March 2, 2 p.m. at Perry County Government Building, 3764 Illinois Highway 13/127, Pinckneyville.

• March 4, 2 p.m. at University of Illinois Extension Center, 313 W. Belmont St., Sparta.

• March 5, 2 p.m. at Chester City Hall, 1330 Swanwick St., Chester.

• March 18, 3 p.m. at Farm Bureau office, 362 Highway 14 West, Benton.

• March 19, 3 p.m. at West Frankfort Public Library, 402 E. Poplar St., West Frankfort.

For more information or to make reservations to attend one of the free orientation sessions, call 618/453-2070 or e-mail startbiz@siu.edu.