November 22, 2017  

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Southern Entrepreneurship Program Youth Series Set to Begin 11th Year

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The Southern Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) youth series will kick off its 11th year of competition with a special program set for Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Hinds Community College’s Clyde Muse Center in Pearl, Miss.

Setting a new registration record with approximately 560 high school students and educators, this statewide event is designed to provide students with an introduction to the entrepreneurial mindset, as well as the wealth of opportunities that exist in Mississippi.

The SEP, an outreach of The University of Southern Mississippi Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education, is a statewide youth initiative designed to advance innovation and entrepreneurship education in Mississippi.

In its decade of existence, the SEP has provided interactive training sessions for more than 4,000 high school students, with topics including opportunity recognition, business planning, and market validation.

“The Southern Entrepreneurship Program is an exemplar for how universities can reach out to their states to foster learning and growth of entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Faye Gilbert, dean of the USM College of Business. “Some of these students use concepts learned in the SEP to fund their college education. Others simply enjoy the collaborations and competitions that Mr. (James) Wilcox provides with this program.”

The SEP has steadily increased in popularity and participation across the state since its four-school pilot in 2007. The kickoff event itself has experienced a 40 percent growth over 2016 registration numbers. 

“There’s an increasing focus on entrepreneurship education in our state, and not a moment too soon,” said James Wilcox, director of the USM Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education. “Sit down with today's high school students, and you’ll find that there’s a resonating consensus that Mississippi holds no future for them. It’s a sobering conversation. The SEP and its focus on student opportunity allows us to apply direct pressure to that wounded perception of Mississippi, both externally and among our own students.”

Following a brief Q&A with Jackson-area guest entrepreneurs, student teams at this year’s SEP kickoff event will be presented with a unique Innovation Challenge, yet to be disclosed. Last year's challenge required student teams to identify a business opportunity within their individual high schools and develop strategies for launching new school-based enterprises.

Like last year, the 10 highest scoring teams will be selected during the live event to advance to an online round of voting where the top three ideas will be recognized in December. Each of these final three teams will receive seed funding, provided through the generous support of Georgia-Pacific Leaf River Cellulose, to help make their ideas a reality.

For more information about the Southern Entrepreneurship Program, contact Wilcox at: james.b.wilcox@usm.edu