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For students, SEP competition means getting down to serious business

Regional qualifying has been completed for next month’s Statewide Business Plan Competition in Hattiesburg organized by the Southern Entrepreneurship Program, an arm of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education.

Thirty juniors and seniors from 17 high schools across Mississippi will gather May 9 at USM’s Trent Lott National Center to present their plans for achieving entrepreneurial success.

The schedule involves three concurrent judging sessions in the morning and one consolidated session after lunch for the 10 finalists from the morning sessions.

The Southern Entrepreneurship Program is housed in the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education at USM. SEP encourages its student participants to develop and maintain homegrown businesses by helping them recognize opportunities in their communities and the potential within themselves, said James Wilcox, director of the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education.

Wilcox said SEP increases educational opportunities for the students, enhances the potential for homegrown businesses in the state and increases the likelihood the students will further their education post-high school.

Ultimately, SEP helps to create “an overall improvement of the quality of life within our participating regions as our  ‘best and brightest’ students find opportunities locally rather than leaving in search of them,” Wilcox said.

SEP began in four high schools in 2007 and is currently represented in 18 high school classrooms around the state. SEP founder Dr. Brent Hales, interim chair of USM’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development, works with Wilcox to expand and refine SEP’s efforts.

In addition to the business plan competition, SEP sponsors the “Bootstrapping Competition — Making Money Now” competition to emphasize business creativity and savvy within SEP’s students. They compete by using the “bootstrapping” method of business financing to launch multiple ventures during the school year.  The student who accrues the most wealth within the competition guidelines wins $500, awarded at the Statewide Business Plan Competition each May.

The student who won last year’s Making Money Now competition used five separate ventures and some on-hand supplies to generate nearly $8,000 in revenues ($7,873). Her initial business was offering private guitar lessons. During the length of the competition (Oct. 1 through April 15), she generated $4,490 through this service alone.

She made $500 face painting at Hub Fest last October in downtown Hattiesburg. She turned around and purchased additional painting supplies and sold her artwork for $1,150.  In November, she diversified into textiles, selling her hand-made clothing for $600. Freelance photography became her 5th venture. She generated $1,133 through her photography service, and this venture was the subject of her Business Plan presentation at last year’s Business Plan Competition.

Many of the students who took part in the business plan competition will be seeking the Bootstrap prize money. “Go out and make some money, and have fun doing it,” Dr. Hales told the students at the close of the North Regional business plan competition in Pearl.

Here are the South Regional winners who will compete in the state competition:

Entrepreneurship – first year students

>>1st Place: Zachary Hales / Brandon Dyer (Petal Lawn Care), Petal High School

>> 2nd Place: Emily Varnadoe / Ashton Alls (Gold Star Stables), Stone High School

>> 3rd Place: Arielle Cox / Carla Sunji (HairDo Headbands), Gulfport High School

Entrepreneurship 2 – second year students

>> 1st Place: Brandon Pace (BPace Productions), Biloxi High School

North Regional winners who will compete in the state competition:

Entrepreneurship 1 – first year students

>> 1st Place: Ellen Tichnell (Petal After-school Program), Petal High School

>> 2nd Place: Evonda Hollis (Pebbles),  est Bolivar High School

>> 3rd Place: Landon Williams (Carpe Diem Boardshop), Columbus High School

Entrepreneurship 2 – second year students

>> 1st Place: Nicolet Hopper & Lauren Ladnier (Simply Sunless: Custom Airbrush Tanning), Petal High School

>> 2nd Place: Randarius Cooley (Tiffany’s Etc), Heidelberg High School

>> 3rd Place: Cormeshia Bonner (Toe-Riffic Nails), Heidelberg High School


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