High school students from across the state who want to explore a future as an entrepreneur will take part in the first Southern Entrepreneurship Program symposium Sept. 30, hosted by The University of Southern Mississippi and supporting partners.
The symposium will be held at the Advanced Technology Center in Ellisville and is one of three scheduled for the academic year. Students will interact with entrepreneurs in panel and one-on-one sessions and then travel to Challenge Country to cap off the afternoon session.
The program has expanded to eight schools after beginning as a pilot program in the 2007-08 academic year.
Dr. Brent Hales, an assistant professor of economic and workforce development at Southern Miss who is coordinating the event, said the choice of the event’s panel of entrepreneurs was based on feedback from participating students.
“The expectation is for the students to get real-world, hands-on experience with entrepreneurs, particularly young people like themselves who started a business at a young age,” he said. “We want to show them it’s something they can do now, that it’s not just a theoretical argument.”
The program will feature entrepreneurs from RARE Design, Uniform Corner, Caliente Grille, South City Records, Catfish One, Off-road Research Technology, KC Jay’s and T & G Lawn Designs. Participating schools include Biloxi High School, Laurel High School, Hattiesburg High School, Petal High School, Gulfport High School, Stringer High School, Bay Springs High School and Columbus High School.
The symposium is sponsored by the following SEP partners:
• The Trent Lott National Center of Excellence for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship at The University of Southern Mississippi
• Jones County Junior College
• Montgomery Institute/WIRED Initiative
• Small Business Development Center
• Whitehead Advanced Technology Center
• East Mississippi Community College
• Challenge Country
Petal High School teacher Gary Graves, who runs his school’s entrepreneurship program, said interacting with established business owners gives his students a chance to gain more information about what it takes to succeed. “It’s a great opportunity for them to learn to hone their skills and continue to learn more by interacting with those who already have a business,” he said.
Graves says he has seven students in his program and will have 13 in the spring. Four have already started their own business, he said.
“Even if they just open a lawn mowing service to start, they still have to learn financial management and public relations skills needed to promote any business and interact with customers.”
For more information on this event, contact Hales at 601.266.6519 or e-mail
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.