Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship receives two SBA grants totaling more than $245,000

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two grants totaling $246,476 have been awarded to Southeast Missouri State University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship based on its success starting new local businesses.

The center was the only organization in Missouri to receive a grant from the Small Business Administration's Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME), and the only organization in the U.S. to receive two awards. This is the first year the center has received PRIME funding from the Small Business Administration.

"We are involved the business of helping folks who want to found businesses," said Dr. James Stapleton, center director. "This program is specifically geared toward small, startup companies."

A microentrepreneur is the founder of a business with fewer than five employees.

A PRIME grant award of $148,912 will allow the center's staff to teach others how to implement successful training programs to help low-income entrepreneurs. Its Operation Jump Start program will be a model for others in the eight-state Delta Regional Authority, a federal-state economic development partnership, Stapleton said.

Since it began in 2006, more than 750 people have completed the Center's Operation Jump Start program. The program includes training on product development, marketing and basic accounting. Participants complete a business plan as part of the six- to eight-week course.

"It's very practical, hands-on and how-to. It's not academic," Stapleton said.

A total of 350 people have started new businesses after attending the Center's Operation Jump Start program and of those, 92 percent are still in business after two years, Stapleton said.

"Nationally, the SBA tracks this data, the failure rate for new businesses in the first two years is about 40 percent, so with ours being less than 10 percent, we're doing really well," Stapleton said. "It's a big part of why we're getting this SBA funding."

Stapleton said people underestimate small business' ability to create new jobs. The average small business started by an Operation Jump Start graduate has 1.8 employees.

"Most of them are employing themselves and a second person at least part-time," he said. "Those businesses literally helped create over 700 jobs."

The center's second grant award, $97,564, will provide technical assistance to help new businesses grow. The funds will help small business owners with product development, market research and access to capital needed to take their businesses to the next level, Stapleton said.

"One of the reasons businesses fail during that first period is that you're so busy running the business you don't get to work on the business. You miss the first growth phase and all the sudden find yourself in trouble and you can't sustain the business," Stapleton said.

Staff from the center will provide one-on-one counseling to small business owners to help them with their first phase of growth in it's 29-county region covering Southeast Missouri. It will also help the center to reconnect with individuals who went through jump start training, but didn't start a business right away.

mmiller@semissourian.com

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