The Children Are Our Future — So Let’s Help Them Succeed

GTR AREA, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Eric Hill, director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach at MSU, recently spoke to the Columbus Rotary Club: “I’ve always been interested in business since I was a kid,” Hill said. “My parents encouraged it when I was very young.” He spoke about revitalizing our local and state economy by nurturing youth talent and bringing in capital to help them to develop their own business ideas. His center currently provides anywhere from $500~7,500 each to over a hundred teams of students to help make their ideas into reality. School alumni are the primary source of funding for these projects.

Over time, the idea has grown and flourished. In the past three years alone, it has helped to form a handful of successful companies that are now valued at over $15 million in total. One such company is Starkville’s own Glo, valued at over $5 million. Glo sells glowing plastic cubes which it now sells worldwide, shipping to about three dozen countries.

Photo credit: Eric Hill, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach at MSU, speaks about successful student businesses during the Rotary Club of Columbus meeting on Tuesday at Lion Hills Center in Columbus
Claire Hassler, the Dispatch

Hill fells that one major hurdle that many young would-be entrepreneurs face — beyond a lack of funds — is simply the support they need to put these things in motion: “When we started that business in high school and sold it, I sort of never doubted that it was possible,” he told The Dispatch. “It struck me that not everybody felt that way, not everybody had been propped up that they were capable.”

“Mississippi is in a perfect position to be a leader in technology,” Hill said Tuesday. “We have so many right ingredients today ready to go, it’s almost silly it hasn’t happened yet…When you are coaching an entrepreneur, it’s about building judgment, mindset that someone in their early 20s doesn’t have yet,” Hill told Rotarians. “Each of you have some sort of skill set and some expertise that’s valuable to an entrepreneur.”

Former Columbus mayor Jeffrey Rupp also spoke on the topic of helping our young minds become tomorrow’s business leaders: “[We need to know:] What’s going to keep the next generation’s entrepreneurs here? Because they are going to be the ones sitting down at this table 10 years from now,” Rupp said.

Rupp was among those who helped launch the GTR area’s “Lemonade Day,” where kids are encouraged to “…do three things with the money: Save some, spend some and share some.”

“Imagine being 25 years old, you got a company that’s worth $1 million. You are going to stay in Starkville?” Rupp said. “But we have had companies stay because they felt the support was there.”

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