August 21, 2009

‘Operation Bootstrap’ available to entrepreneurs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- If you’ve ever thought of starting your own business, now’s the time to connect with the Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Office of Economic and Regional Development.

The University is partnering with the Delta Regional Authority to offer a third round of “Operation Bootstrap: Seeding Southern Illinois Start-Ups,” for low- to moderate-income residents in the state’s 16 Delta Counties.

In anticipation of another year of funding, the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center (SIEC) is now accepting applications for the training class. The class is set to meet 3-6 p.m. each Tuesday from Oct. 13 through Dec. 1, excluding Thanksgiving week. It will also meet 3-6 p.m. on two Thursdays, Oct. 15 and Nov. 19, with graduation scheduled for 5-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10.

The program is open to entrepreneurs of all kinds -- from those wanting to start a small shop on Main Street to those whose goal is a high-growth global business. Those who complete the program successfully and develop a business plan are eligible to compete for 20 individual awards of $3,000 each in start-up funding to get their new business off the ground.

“This program, funded through the Delta Regional Authority, will train people to run businesses and put money in their hands to help them do just that,” said Robyn Laur Russell, director of the SIEC, which manages the Operation Bootstrap program. “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.”

Operation Bootstrap is an intensive eight-week training program open to residents of Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Johnson, Hardin, Union, Jackson, Williamson, Randolph, Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Gallatin and Saline counties. The first two rounds of Operation Bootstrap have produced more than 65 program graduates claiming $90,000 in seed grant funding for Southern Illinois small businesses.

“We have high hopes for the entrepreneurs who have taken part in the training. We plan to continue to work with them as their businesses grow,” said Russell.

But, in order to apply to participate, interested individuals must attend an orientation session to learn all the details, requirements and outcomes for the program. They’ll be able to ask questions too and will complete an application packet required for acceptance into the program.

Three orientation sessions have already been set with more possible in coming weeks. The preliminary schedule is:

• Tuesday, Aug. 25, 3-4:30 p.m., Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center at 150 E. Pleasant Hill Road, Carbondale.

• Wednesday, Aug. 26, 3-4:30 p.m., Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

• Wednesday, Sept. 9, 3-4:30 p. m, Du Quoin City Hall at 28 S. Washington St., Du Quoin.

All completed applications are due no later than Sept. 18. Applicants will know by Oct. 1 if they’ll get to participate.

The Operation Bootstrap Program coordinator is Kim Sanders, assistant director for entrepreneurship and business development. To find out more about Operation Bootstrap or to let organizers know you’ll be attending one of the orientation sessions, call 618/453-2070 or e-mail Likewise call or e-mail if you’re interested in the program but unable to attend one of the three orientation sessions.