STARTUP Jefferson County

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STARTUP Jefferson County provides entrepreneurs and small business owners the tools to succeed

November 13, 2017

By Elaine Craver

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ill. - We're all familiar with the phrase, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Well, that's what Jefferson County, Illinois said to itself almost three years ago when it found itself in real need of some good ideas.

In 2015, there were 35Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in Illinois. Today, that number is down to 28 due to state budget cuts. Jefferson County, a region with over 38,000 people about 90 miles southeast of St. Louis, is down to only three centers and all are south of Interstate 64, which means Jefferson County residents have to drive more than an hour for help navigating the minefield inherent in starting a small business.

To fill that void when local SBDCs closed in the area,STARTUP Jefferson County was created.

The group began as a joint effort by Pam Schallhorn, University of Illinois Extension Community and Economic Development educator and Jonathon Hallberg, executive director of Jefferson County Development Corporation. Their goal was to find a way to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and startup businesses in Jefferson County.

They hosted a public meeting in June to make a plan to meet these needs. The participants decided a monthly forum for networking and training would be the way to go. They created a Facebook group to schedule the forums, share upcoming topics and discuss relevant business issues. Some of the participants even offered to present sessions at the forums.

"Participants in the monthly STARTUP forums gain business knowledge, networking opportunities with other local business owners and an opportunity to ask questions about things they need to move forward in their businesses," explained Schallhorn. "The setting is laid-back and informal, but allows for open inquiry on business topics from local experts."

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