“A strong submission shows a business idea that solves a unique problem with a unique solution,” says Di Maggio May. “This is also scalable with a good marketing strategy and strong management team. These are the prime aspects we look at in applications.” The purpose of this challenge is to increase the Metro East region’s interest in and excitement for business start-ups, identify growth-oriented start-ups with plans to operate in the region, generate a greater awareness of network resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners, and advance the academic mission of SIUE by strengthening relationships with private enterprise while expanding opportunities for students and faculty. “Do you stay in touch with those who have won in the past?” inquires Pembrook.
“Welcome to Segue, Jo Ann,” begins Pembrook. “Your office is always busy with exciting events. Let’s start with SIUE’s Metro East Start-up Challenge News Plan Competition.” Di Maggio May came back to SIUE in 2013 as a small business specialist and has served as SBDC director since August 2017. Currently, she serves as a member of the City of Edwardsville Advisory Board, the Latino Roundtable of Southwestern Illinois, and the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation.
“This is our 8th year hosting this competition,” explains Di Maggio May. “It is a regional entrepreneurial opportunity for start-ups and businesses less than three years old. We have roughly $25,000 in prize money that will be awarded to six participants. This year, we added prizes for a rural business of the year and a women, minority or veteran business of the year.” An SIUE alumna, Di Maggio May earned both a bachelor’s and master’s in business administration from the University. She served the SBDC as a graduate student and worked in banking and international business consulting upon graduation.
“This is an area we’d like to increase activity in,” says Di Maggio May. “70% of our activity is focused on start-ups and new ventures, but we do help existing businesses, too. For example, we help with human resource needs, finding employees, marketing tactics, government contracting and website updates.” “How did you see businesses change throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?” asks Pembrook. “What does the SBDC do on a daily basis for existing businesses?” asks Pembrook.
The competition has hosted a wide range of participants, including breweries, ice cream stores, gym facilities, phone applications, and behavioral therapists. All businesses, excluding those regarding gambling and cannabis, are invited to apply by the Aug. 8 deadline. For more information, visit siue.edu/metroeaststartup. “Definitely,” answers Di Maggio May. “We always try to maintain that relationship, even with those who participated but didn’t win a prize. I was recently at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a minority accounting firm that participated in 2019. They didn’t make it all the way but are steadily growing their accounting business.”
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- Di Maggio May, director of the Illinois Small News Development Center, visits the fair
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