March 27, 2009

Aspiring entrepreneurs earn their ‘diplomas’

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- It was a different kind of graduation ceremony at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently.

Operation Bootstrap, a partnership between the University and the Delta Regional Authority, hosted its first graduation ceremony this month at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center. The entrepreneurship program is actually a business-training program for unemployed or underemployed low- and moderate-income residents of 16 Illinois Delta counties.

The free program provides the knowledge and tools to enable people to start their own businesses or formalize existing businesses. Thirty-one participants completed the program, becoming graduates, and 15 of them got a bonus -- $3,500 in start-up funding for their new enterprise.

“Operation Bootstrap, given our current economic challenges, has proven to be a great way to train aspiring entrepreneurs as well as provide some of the participants with vital seed capital that will enable them to launch new ventures and create their own job opportunity,” said Emily Carter, director of entrepreneurship and business development. “As we continue to follow the participants in the program through our research study over the next three years, we sincerely hope to see significant growth in both revenue and the creation of new jobs.

“Small business is the driving force of the economy and anything we can do as an institution to support entrepreneurs and area small business owners is a critical part of the outreach mission of the University and our commitment to serving the region,” added Carter, featured speaker for the evening.

Graduates, along with their proposed business name and a brief description of the product or service, listed by city, are:


• Home Air Direct, online HVAC sales and energy consulting, Jay Boyd.


• Illinois Delta Tours, Southern Illinois tourism, Fred Jones.

• Deborah’s Intimate Apparel, loungewear, Deborah Williamson.


• American Flooring, flooring sales and installation, Zachary Niemann.

• Bobcat Hill Spirits, lodging/distillery/restaurant, Karen Binder.

• Express Alterations, sewing boutique, Deborah Golden.

• Guide Right Enterprise, LLC, consulting and development, Aaron Mallory.

• Inter-City Merchant, retail women’s hair and accessory sales, Abdul Rahim Khalil.

• M & K Laboratories, wholesale optical lab, Martin Sherrill.

• Perfect Balance Natural Soap, Skin and Hair Care Products, soap, skin and hair products, Valerie Coney.

• Southern Que Barbeque Restaurant, barbecue restaurant, Hope Horace-Logwood.

• Survey Design Services, consulting service for survey research and design, Sharon Voirin.


• Judy’s Stables, horse stable and training facility, Judy Phipps.

• Picture Perfect, a home theater installation business, Bryan Riekena.

De Soto

• R & P Recyclable Salvage, recycling materials, Kevin and Rebecca Pierson.

Du Quoin

• Tilley’s Salvage Yard, scrap recycling of automotive parts and metals, Maria



• A Healthy Clean for Your Well-Being, personal services, Brandy Shirley.

• GreenEasy, curbside recycling service, Jeanie Kinsey.


• AJ Puppy Paws and Kitty Claws, pet grooming and care, Timara Kessler.


• McRoy’s Recovery, repossession business, Joshua McRoy.

• Your Professional Partners, Inc., target marketing, Heather Goines.


• J.W.H. Outfitter, hunting guide and lodging, Tina and Scott Winding.


• Children’s Choice Development, specialized children’s care, Dorothy Collins.

• Grammy B’s Catering & Gaylene’s Boutique, all-occasion hall and antique/second-hand retail shop, Susan Birkner and Gaylene Miller.

• Progressive Parenting, parenting education for divorced or separated parents, Danielle Blair.


• J & B Lawn Care & Trash Service, lawn care and trash service, Debra Gilliam.


• God’s Blessed Miracles, Christian retail store, Tara Hatley.

Tunnel Hill

• Doroscan’s Cattle and Poultry, organic farm, Marisela Sanchez.

• Pepy Mash Fruits and Veggies, organic fruits and vegetables, Petru Doroscan.


• Citation Station, restaurant, Wilma Raper.

Recipients of the monetary award at the March 17 ceremony were: Picture Perfect, Survey Design Services, Express Alterations, Youth Professional Partners, Inc., J & B Lawn Care & Trash Service, Inter-City Merchant, Progressive Parenting, Bobcat Hill Spirits, Tilley’s Salvage Yard, Home Air Direct, AJ Puppy Paws & Kitty Claws, M & K Laboratories, A Healthy Clean for Your Well-Being, American Flooring and Perfect Balance Natural Soap, Skin and Hair Care Products

The program, sponsored by the SIUC office of Economic and Regional Development’s Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit, isn’t over though. The second round of training and the competition for additional seed grant funding resumes beginning April 14.

Residents of Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Johnson, Hardin, Union, Jackson, Williamson, Randolph, Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Gallatin and Saline counties are eligible. For more information, call 618/453-2070 or e-mail