January 24, 2012

Grade school students focus on entrepreneurship

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Today’s children are tomorrow’s business leaders, and a program from the Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit is once again giving local youths a jump-start on the road to entrepreneurial success.

The youth entrepreneurship program started about nine years ago when Carbondale grade school teacher Betsy Brown, an entrepreneur herself, and Emily Carter, the University’s director of entrepreneurship and business development, discussed the importance of children thinking entrepreneurially even at a young age.  Finding little in the way of existing programs to make this happen, Carter and Brown created their own program.

This year, members of the SalukiCEO Corps, a registered student organization on campus for those with an entrepreneurship interest, will assist staff from the SIU Carbondale Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit in working with fourth- and fifth-graders in Brown’s academically talented classes at Lewis School.  The mission of the CEO Corps is “to inform, support and inspire college students to be entrepreneurial and seek opportunity through enterprise creation” and Jenni Janssen, faculty adviser for the group and former entrepreneurship graduate assistant, said this project fits perfectly with that mission.

Janssen said the SalukiCEO Corps kicks off its spring semester activities on Wednesday, Jan. 25, and the approximately 20 members are looking forward to giving back to the community by working with the children.  This will be a great opportunity for younger students to learn from their college counterparts, she said. 

“SIU Carbondale Entrepreneurship is pleased to be partnering with SalukiCEO Corps this time so the University and the elementary entrepreneur-minded students can interact together as they go through the fundamentals of business development including marketing, positioning, customer development and product sales.  I’m hoping the kids, the college students and the ideas will feed and flow off one another as everyone brings their unique perspectives to the table,” said Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade for SIU Carbondale.

Brown’s students began the entrepreneurship curriculum Jan. 23 and the program continues through the end of the school year.  The interactive youth entrepreneurship activities include a business etiquette dinner Feb. 22 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.  This event features a multi-course dinner and a hands-on lesson in business etiquette.

Throughout the evening, the youngsters will learn about a variety of business etiquette topics and they’ll also hear from a community development specialist with the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.  He will offer information about the concept of “building wealth,” Russell said.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the youth business etiquette dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 150 E. Pleasant Hill Road.  For more information, contact Robyn Laur Russell at 618/453-3805 or by emailing rrussell@biz.siu.edu.


As the semester progresses, the students will also enjoy an international luncheon at the center, discovering how customs and business practices differ in other countries. They also will participate in a variety of learning experiences with the University entrepreneurship staff and SalukiCeo Corps members.  At the end of the school year, they will sell products at the Carbondale Farmer’s Market and will present business plans in a competition.

“Through this special partnership, my students will be exposed to concepts that most people don’t experience until much later in their educational careers.  They will see for themselves what it’s like to start a business and this opportunity will open their minds to a greater array of career choices and possibilities.  It’s empowering for them, giving them a look at opportunities they can explore if they have the motivation and zeal to do so,” Brown said.

To learn more about the youth entrepreneurship program or any of the other entrepreneurship initiatives and programs of the SIU Carbondale Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit, contact Russell at 618/453-3805 or email her at rrussell@biz.siu.edu.