Entrepreneurs receive support locally

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Cesar Suarez, speaks at Tuesday’s unveiling of Entrepreneurial Support Network in Galesburg. Suarez will also be the guest speaker at Thursday’s Feb. 25, 2010 “Road to Innovation for Small Businesses” workshop at Sandburg Mall’s Educational & Technology Center from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Entrepreneurial Support Network (ESN), a new resource for entrepreneurs in Henderson, Mercer, Warren and Knox counties was unveiled, corresponding with the third annual National Entrepreneurship Week -- Feb. 21-28 -- to celebrate the heritage of entrepreneurship in America.

ESN is a regional resource organized by regional service providers, dedicated to the advancement of local entrepreneurs, the promotion of innovation and the development of an entrepreneurial culture.

In addition to supporting the launch of the EPIC Club (Entrepreneurs, Pioneers, and Innovators) Club, participating counties and communities have been asked to adopt a proclamation in support of creating an entrepreneurial spirit-filled community. Proclamations in recognition of National Entrepreneur Week have been adopted by Mercer County, the cities of Aledo, Keithsburg and New Boston, and the Villages of Joy, North Henderson, Matherville, New Windsor, Seaton, Sherrard and Viola. Knox County, Henderson County, Warren County and their jurisdictions also issued proclamations.

Later this week, a workshop for entrepreneurs is being offered by ESN: "The Road to Innovation for Small Businesses," will be presented by Cesar Suarez, economic development director for the city of Galesburg. This workshop is at the Educational & Technology Center (ETC) at Sandburg Mall in Galesburg on Thursday, Feb, 25, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Suarez has more than 17 years of business development experience working with more than 500 business clients.

A Creativity Boot Camp is scheduled for Wednesday, March 24, at ETC from 6-9 p.m. under the direction of Paul Schuytema, an educational technology specialist for the University of Illinois Extension. He will help individuals gain an understanding of basic brain physiology and the core aspects of creativity. Schuytema has created more than 50 games and authored more than 200 professional articles. He has written a dozen books in the field of computer technology, computer gaming, game design and creativity.

Call (309) 344-1512 to register for either class.

Last year, ESN assisted with the creation of EPIC Club, which was formed to provide educational as well as networking and mentoring opportunities for regional entrepreneurs. The club received funding for the first year of operation from the Moline Foundation, the Business and Technology Center, The University of Illinois Extension and the Workforce Investment Board of Western Illinois. The club is to be maintained in the future through $25 annual dues as well as sponsorships. The vision of EPIC is to be a dynamic group of entrepreneurs who work collectively to gain new insight and develop new ways to start and grow business opportunities.

The committee meets regularly on the second Tuesday of the month. For more information on EPIC see the web site at www.epicillinois.com.

To accomplish the EPIC vision the club is guided by five primary components:

• "Spark Sessions" with speakers on a variety of topics and networking time.

• "Idea Bounces" where entrepreneurs interested in starting a new business or a new product or line can come and bounce their idea off a panel of experts who can give them feedback and direct them towards additional resources.

• "Entrepreneurial Retreat" - an annual event combining technical topics, inspirational speakers, panel discussions with ample time for entrepreneurs to network and build connections.

• "Entrepreneur Swaps" where groups of entrepreneurs from our area will visit other clubs in the region.

• "Entrepreneurial Awards" to recognize the contributions of entrepreneurs to our local economy.

ESN has been created by and will have the continued assistance of an entrepreneurial support network comprised of Prairie Tech Learning Center, Workforce Investment Board of Western Illinois, The Galesburg Business and Technology Center, The City of Galesburg, The University of Illinois Extension, The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, The Mercer Economic Development Partnership and the Entrepreneurship Center.