June 08, 2011

$40,000 contest open to student entrepreneurs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is launching its first student entrepreneurship competition, offering winners a share of $40,000 in cash to help them start businesses in Southern Illinois.
Collegiate CampCEO 2011-Saluki Operation Bootstrap is a unique event bringing together the inaugural entrepreneurship contest with a new college incarnation of the popular CampCEO and the Operation Bootstrap entrepreneurship experience. This unique experience offers University students the opportunity to brainstorm, innovate, study and plan real-world businesses and present their proposals for business experts to judge. Then, through the infusion of seed capital and technical support, the program empowers students to launch their business ventures in Southern Illinois.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to jump-start successful careers in business,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. “When you combine their talents and creativity with the mentoring provided by our professional staff and local entrepreneurs, the outcome can only be positive for our students and our region’s economy.”
The eligibility criteria to participate in Collegiate Camp CEO 2011-Saluki Operation Bootstrap are simple. You must be an SIUC student, enrolled for the fall 2011 semester. You must be a U.S. citizen and must plan to start and operate a business in one of the 16 Delta Region counties of Southern Illinois. And, you must be available to participate in the entrepreneurship training and graduation/awards ceremony, set for Aug. 15-19 and Aug. 23, respectively.
Essentially, the program works like this. The application period opens June 13 and students can apply to participate until 5 p.m. on July 22 by submitting an application online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/salukibootstrap2011. For more information, call 618/453-3805 or email startbiz@siu.edu. Plans call for selection of up to 25 participants and selection and notification of successful applicants will occur no later than Aug. 5.
Then, the professional staff of the SIUC Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit will lead participants in a weeklong entrepreneurship training Aug. 15-19 on the SIUC campus. Each morning from 9 a.m. to noon there will be training with a specialized curriculum. Then, following the lunch break, there will be intense coaching sessions from 1 to 4 p.m., bringing together the students with the entrepreneurship staff and regional business mentors.
Camp participants will show what they’ve learned on Aug. 19. That afternoon they will make “pitch” presentations highlighting their business proposals for a group of entrepreneurs from the region. A graduation and awards ceremony for program participants will wrap things up on Aug. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. That evening, $40,000 in cash awards and nearly $5,000 in professional consulting services are at stake.
The first-place winner will claim a $7,500 cash award to leverage in securing additional start-up monies. The overall winner will also receive $2,500 in software, books and professional consulting services, bringing the value of their grand prize to $10,000.
Second place nets a $5,000 cash prize along with $1,500 in software, books and professional consulting. In addition, nine program graduates will each win $3,000. All student entrepreneurs who successfully complete the program will receive certificates along with a package of business planning software and entrepreneurship books valued at more than $100.
That’s not all, though. The entrepreneurship and business development staff at SIUC is offering continuing services to program graduates, including free consulting, evaluation, networking opportunities, and professional development assistance throughout the launch and operation of their business ventures.
“SIUC is joining the ranks of prestigious universities by hosting an entrepreneurship contest for students and we can actually award them seed capital funds to start their business or to leverage into a more substantial loan or investment capital. We are working to help stop the ‘brain drain’ and keep young, bright, talented graduates right here in Southern Illinois so they can have a positive impact on our regional economy,” said Emily Carter, director of entrepreneurship and business development for SIUC.
This new program adapts for SIUC students two popular and successful programs. In the past decade CampCEO has drawn scores of youths from a wide region for its intensive, nationally recognized youth entrepreneurship experience and this new program for SIUC students incorporates business development, training, financial advice, marketing concepts and other components of the program.
Collegiate CampCEO 2011-Saluki Operation Bootstrap also brings in the principles of the successful Operation Bootstrap, an entrepreneurship partnership between SIUC and the Delta Regional Authority. The Delta region includes Alexander, Pulaski, Massac, Pope, Johnson, Hardin, Union, Jackson, Williamson, Randolph, Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Gallatin and Saline counties.
“Starting a business and earning a degree wasn’t easy. I used every bit of advice I could get, including all of the help available at the Small Business Development Center. A student entrepreneurship training program would have been invaluable at the time when I went through all the steps necessary to launch my company. Saluki Operation Bootstrap greatly enhances a college education, especially if you possess the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Ben Weinberger, SIUC alumnus and CEO of Digitalsmiths, a multi-million dollar digital media business that began in Weinberger’s college residence hall room with help from other Salukis.
The Delta Regional Authority, through grants, is funding Collegiate CampCEO 2011-Saluki Operation Bootstrap in keeping with the organization’s mission of enhancing economic development and improving the quality of life for Southern Illinoisans.
For additional information, contact SIUC Entrepreneurship and Business Development by calling 618/453-3805 or send an email to startbiz@siu.edu.