November 06, 2019

SIU’s Grub Club luncheon is a way for entrepreneurs and businesses to connect

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Ribbon cuttings for two new businesses, a chili cook-off and a student food pantry donation drive were highlights of the recent Grub Club meeting and luncheon at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Where entrepreneurs and innovators connect

The Grub Club is a monthly luncheon sponsored by SIU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development. The club is open to all SIU Research Park tenants, affiliate co-working members, student entrepreneurs, Small Business Development Center clients and entrepreneurs from throughout the region.

Each month features a different theme and pot-luck luncheon. About 50 people attended the most recent event.

“Our monthly themed Grub Club luncheon is a great opportunity for innovative thinkers and entrepreneurial-minded people from throughout the region to connect, network and share ideas,” Deborah Barnett, director of Business Incubator Programs said.

Two new tenants

During the October Grub Club event, ribbon cuttings officially welcomed the business incubators’ newest tenants.

  • Saluki AdLab, a Saluki Ventures member currently led by student president Hannah Smith, a senior journalism major with an advertising specialization from Spring Valley. After taking an advertising class, Smith discovered her passion and switched majors. Saluki AdLab’s student staff is comprised of people with a wide variety of majors, including engineering, aviation, graphic design, hospitality/tourism, advertising and marketing.

The full-service student company offers advertising, public relations, graphic design, cinema, photography and other creative services and counts several well-known local businesses as clients. Bridget Lescelius, journalism instructor, is the faculty adviser. Chris Cole, a founding member and first president of Saluki AdLab, is the first SIU student chosen for the highly selective Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter master’s degree program, which admits just 100 students annually. Cole was chosen as a team manager, a top assistantship position, and he credits his success largely to the hands-on, team management experience in Saluki AdLab.

Joining Smith and Lescelius for the ribbon-cutting were Saluki AdLab student members Breyonna Mong-Delane (a master’s student in professional media and media management), Jesse Robertson (a senior journalism major), Louis Washkowiak (a recent photography graduate), Megan McCarthy (a senior journalism major) and Alex Hansen (a master’s student in professional media and media management.)

  • LeveeLock, a new incubator client. The company has created a patent-pending steel-reinforced concrete geotextile barrier that has a low environmental impact. The barrier provides a waterproof barrier with levee remediation, pollution control, agricultural waste containment and underground security applications. Co-founders Gerald DeNeal, Eric E. Gregg and Dr. James Lancaster have developed a minimally-invasive, cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, narrow-trench, cut-off wall system with numerous uses.

Two of the company founders are SIU alumni; Gregg is a 1985 communications graduate and DeNeal earned his bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science in 1974. DeNeal brings to the company 40 years of experience in the mining industry Company founders say they intend to become an industry leader with their patent-pending process and will work with several of the academic units at SIU to get their business fully operational. Their goal is to engage staff, faculty and students in every step of the process, utilizing the services and expertise available on campus while promoting the university and Research Park.

Cook-off honors

A chili cook-off resulted in the following finishes:

  • First place – LeveeLock Special, by Eric Gregg, co-founder of LeveeLock.
  • Second place – Spicy Vegan Chili, by Rashelle Runge, a senior biological sciences major with ecology specialization from Bunker Hill.
  • Third place – SAL’s Chili, by Hannah Smith of Saluki AdLab.

A challenge

A food drive donation collection was launched in conjunction with the SIU 150 Challenge, an ongoing series of events celebrating the university 150th anniversary. The items collected were donated to the Saluki Food Pantry. 

Check out Grub Club and Free Fridays

The monthly luncheons are sponsored by SIU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development and its Business Incubator Program. New participants are always welcome. 

Free Friday @ The Incubator, an opportunity for visitors to explore the facilities at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center and learn more about the programs offered, is presented prior to the luncheon. Visitors can also enjoy free access to the incubator’s co-working space, WiFi and café, have the opportunity to meet staff and other entrepreneurs and then enjoy Grub Club as a guest.

To sign up for the Grub Club or Free Friday program, visit

The next Free Friday and Grub Club luncheon is set for Nov. 22.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are alive and well in Southern Illinois. We see this first-hand every day,” Barnett said. “Whether someone is looking for business assistance through the SBDC, space to start or grow a business, or a co-working space or an entrepreneurial community such as the Grub Club, we encourage people to see the SIU Research Park as the go-to place for innovation and new ideas.”

To learn more

SIU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development and its units offer a wide variety of programs and services to SIU students, faculty and staff as well as community members. Visit the website at for more information.

For details about the Business Incubator Programs, contact Barnett at or by calling 618-536-2424. 

Levee Lock ribbon cutting

LeveeLock LLC co-founders (left to right) Eric Gregg, Dr. James Lancaster and Gerald DeNeal, and Deborah Barnett, director of SIU Business Incubator Programs, at the business ribbon cutting. (Photo provided)

Saluki AdLab ribbon cutting

Saluki AdLab, a Saluki Ventures company, recently became a tenant of the SIU Business Incubator Program. Pictured, left to right are: student members Breyonna Mong-Delane, Jesse Robertson, Louis Washkowiak, Megan McCarthy, Alex Hansen and Hannah Smith (president) along with Deborah Barnett, director of SIU Business Incubator Programs.  (Photo provided)