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Students seek to “Start-Up” the city

Communities across the country are trying to figure out the best ways to retain their best and brightest young people. In states like Indiana, recent trends have young people fleeing for major metropolitan areas, the coasts or the warmer air of the South.

In the South Bend-Elkhart region, leaders have found the secret formula to reverse that trend and instead solidify young people’s interest in planting deep roots here. Entrepreneurship. And it’s happening one student at a time. The students are part of the St. Joe CEO Program, which is in its second year in the community. It includes 40 students from seven area high schools. Plans are to expand the program into Elkhart County and to local colleges and universities in the near future.

The program is designed for seniors and covers the basics of conceptualizing, starting and running a small business. It seeks to teach the students to be responsible, enterprising individuals who become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers and contribute to economic development and sustainable communities.

The bottom line is the program aims to help students be successful in the future and at the same time help them to be successful business leaders right here where they grew up.

Concepts such as supply and demand, cost/benefit analysis, competitive advantage and opportunity recognition are covered. In addition, coursework includes: innovative thinking strategies, emotional intelligence, product development, business structure, marketing, financial strategies, record keeping, and preparing an income statement, balance sheet, income and cash flow statements. Entrepreneurial thinking (outside-the-box problem solving) is utilized throughout the course.

The program is funded solely by local business people who contribute to the program. In addition, local business leaders also actively participate in the program by hosting a class, communicating important lessons they have learned in business, or mentoring a student. Classes meet every day from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at different business locations throughout the community.

In year two of the program, several students have started businesses, others are working on business concepts, and many have changed their plans about what they want to do after high school. Their new plans include opportunities right here in our area.

The students have seen this region to be ripe for entrepreneurship and innovation and would like the community to know more about what they’ve seen. On Thursday evening of this week, they’ll host “Start-Up the City” at the Palais Royale, 105 W. Colfax Ave. The event opens at 5:30 p.m.; it is open to the public, but a ticket is required. More information is available at www.stjoeceo.org.

The event will showcase Venture Valley, where local startups, businesses and organizations igniting innovative ideas in the region and beyond will be featured. Attendees will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite Venture Valley business and gain a greater awareness of what’s happening in our community.

At 7 p.m., “Panel in the Park” will bring together diverse, local, business leaders who will discuss the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and how the South Bend-Elkhart region is changing.

If you are interested in knowing more about what our region has to offer, then this is the event for you. If you have students unsure what’s next for them, invite them to join you. In the end, you may discover local opportunities that you didn’t know existed. You or your young guest may decide, like the CEO program students have, that there is no better place to pursue your dream of starting and building your business than right here in north-central Indiana.

Jeff Rea is president and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at jrea@sbrchamber.com.

Source; SouthBendTribune.com

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