OXFORD, Miss. – A grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation is expanding the capacity of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The $370,500 grant will provide support for the center’s student-led consulting program for three years.
Through the Student Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development Program, the center will create a student-led consulting program that focuses on helping startup and early-stage Mississippi businesses achieve growth, profitability and success.
“This grant is extremely important to get the center off the ground and to help us provide the knowledge and skills so our students can start businesses and engage in the economy,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “I believe this is a watershed moment for the Mississippi and regional economy and I am hopeful that the center will provide the catalyst for many startup firms that are successful, in addition to better innovation in existing businesses. We look forward to the focus the center will bring to entrepreneurship and to funding Rebel-led businesses for many years. ”
The program, which will launch during the fall 2014 semester, will provide employment for up to 10 UM business students. Working under faculty supervision, the students will assist entrepreneurs throughout Mississippi, including those in UM’s Office of Technology Transfer, Small Business Development Center and to businesses located within UM’s Insight Park business incubator. The students will also participate in the projects and initiatives developed by the center.
“A primary goal of the business school is to provide our students with opportunities to gain real-world work experience,” said Clay Dibrell, UM professor of business management and the center’s executive director. “The Hearin Foundation grant provides us with an avenue for students to be able to work on actual entrepreneurship projects, which will help their entrepreneurial clients be more successful. This experience will allow the students to use the skills they learn in the classroom and to apply these skills, which we anticipate will enable them to be more competitive in the job market or enhance their probabilities of success if they choose to start their own business.”
Student teams will provide a broad range of services aimed at helping startups develop and implement stable business plans. Services will include social media marketing, payment system development, accounting system implementation, marketing design, customer outreach, promotions, process reengineering, bank document preparation and more. Students may also connect clients to other university resources as needed.
A separate, $1.6 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will support the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, which seeks to increase entrepreneurship and promote economic development in rural Mississippi communities. The McLean Institute and the business school plan to collaborate on projects that will help improve economic development through both traditional and social entrepreneurship programs.
“The entrepreneurship faculty envision the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be a catalyst in continuing to develop and enhance the Ole Miss entrepreneurial ecosystem to benefit our stakeholders,” Dibrell said. “This grant enables us to further develop our collaborative relationships with other departments on campus, as well as increasing the likelihood for entrepreneurial ventures coming out of Ole Miss to be successful, which is good not only for the university but also for the state of Mississippi.”