About Us

The Southern Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) is a statewide youth entrepreneurship initiative coordinated by the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education (CEEE) at The University of Southern Mississippi. The SEP consists of an annual series of regional and statewide student opportunities designed to complement and enhance existing classes, curricula, and clubs with the goal of furthering the advancement of high school innovation and student entrepreneurship in the state of Mississippi.


The mission of the Southern Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) is to provide business development and opportunity recognition skills to students and educators in Mississippi high schools through an annual series of experiential, interdisciplinary trainings and competitive opportunities.


  • Local Opportunity Recognition
  • Personal Asset Mapping (inventories)
  • Business Plans & Development
  • Business Ethics (reputation)
  • Business & Bootstrap Financing
  • Networking (growth and promotion)
  • Furthering Education (training/degrees)
  • Business Etiquette (soft skills)


  • Symposium I - "Getting Connected": A statewide introduction to the fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship, engaging students through interactive discussion panels and competitive tasks
  • Symposium II - "I Am My Own Boss": A regional event, developed to introduce students to the basics of business etiquette, networking, and market research
  • Symposium III - "My Future, Today": A regional business plan “qualifier” competition
  • Statewide Business Plan Competition: An invitation-only competition for the top 25 student businesses from the regional qualifiers
  • Making Money Now! Competition: A supplementary competition for SEP participants, requiring student action and ingenuity


Founded in 2007 as the Southern Mississippi Youth Entrepreneurship Program (SMYEP), the SEP was developed as a critical response to the lack of existing entrepreneurship training within Mississippi’s K-12 educational system. The University of Southern Mississippi, Jones County Junior College, the Area Development Partnership, Harrison County Economic Development Authority, the Economic Development Authority of Jones County, and a small pilot group of four Mississippi public high schools participated in the initial development of the program in Forrest, Harrison, and Jones Counties. The SEP has since grown to engage more than 40 high schools across the state and annually trains more than 500 middle school, high school, and community college students and educators in the application of critical business development, personal finance, and economic principles.


  1. To identify and engage at least one class of fifteen students per Mississippi school district to participate in the nine-month training program. Program participants will be identified in collaboration with the partnering school districts.
  2. To provide participants (students and teachers) with entrepreneurship training through a variety of educational and competitive opportunities. This program includes basic research and marketing training and results in the development of a business plan.
  3. To provide students with opportunities to apply accounting and financial understanding, enabling them to be more effective in their fledgling business efforts.
  4. To increase the likelihood of student venture success by engaging business leaders and advocating student mentorship. Ideally, program participants will be partnered with mentors in similar business fields.
  5. To provide program participants with opportunities to solicit private startup funding. Program participants will present business plans constructed in the program to panels of potential funders for feedback and consideration. Business plan competitions will also be held with monetary awards provided to award winners.
  6. To conduct ongoing evaluation efforts and implement processes to assure program efficiency and efficacy. Annual pre and post-evaluations are conducted to monitor changes in student perceptions, plans, and business understanding.
  7. To enhance the sustainability of SEP partners through a network of locally-sourced resources.

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