October 12, 2009

New ‘Operation Bootstrap’ session starts Oct. 13

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- It’s time for round three of the popular “Operation Bootstrap: Seeding Southern Illinois Start-Ups” program from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Delta Regional Authority.

The newest session of the program to spur business creation begins Tuesday, Oct. 13, providing intensive business training through a 12-module unit low to moderate-income residents, whether currently unemployed or underemployed, in a 16-county region. Fifty aspiring entrepreneurs from Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Johnson, Hardin, Union, Jackson, Williamson, Randolph, Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Gallatin and Saline counties will participate in the program that will help them start their own businesses or formalize businesses they’re already operating.

The program, sponsored through the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development’s Business Development Unit, works with entrepreneurs of all kinds, whether they’re interested in opening up a small business downtown or if they’re looking at a high-growth operation spanning the globe. Participants successfully completing the Operation Bootstrap program and developing a business concept are eligible to compete for $3,000 in start-up funds to launch their business and get it operational. Up to 20 awards will help start businesses and create jobs in Southern Illinois.

“This third session is unique in that we are trying something new. We are pairing each participant with a mentor that will work with them both in class and in an online platform in a newly launched Web interface called ‘JourneyPage: Virtual Business Incubator,’” said Robyn Laur Russell, director of the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center.

She said JourneyPage is a daily accountability tool that helps entrepreneurs stop procrastinating and achieve more than they ever thought possible thanks to a dedicated coach, exclusive content and sophisticated back-end technology. She said that according to Michael Simmons, co-founder and CEO of JourneyPage, the virtual platform facilitates a mentor/protégé relationship that focuses on helping “individuals turn their passions into scalable businesses that make an impact” and that it’s “like having a gym buddy, but for all the most important parts of your business.”

“SIUC is really on the cutting edge of helping aspiring entrepreneurs take practical knowledge and turn it into real world results. Most programs provide the knowledge but not the follow-up,” said Simmons, a successful entrepreneur, co-founder of the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour and author of the bestselling “The Student Success Manifesto.”

A total of 66 entrepreneurs successfully completed the first two rounds of Operation Bootstrap, in March and May. They claimed $90,000 in start-up seed capital.

Plans for a fourth session, in February 2010, are already under way. Previous Operation Bootstrap graduates are welcome to join the virtual incubation program too, allowing them to also take advantage of the expertise of a business coach to help them grow and sustain their businesses, Laur Russell said.

Emily Carter, SIUC’s director of entrepreneurship and business development, who recently gained certification to facilitate the Kauffman Foundation curriculum, will lead the class. Assisting is Karen Cupp, entrepreneurship specialist and experienced business owner. For more information call 618/453-2070, e-mail startbiz@siu.edu or visit the new Web site at www.operationbootstrap.biz.