Southern Entrepreneurship Program (SEP)

The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education is pleased to offer training on the Southern Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) and is currently seeking additional educational and sponsorship partners.


The Southern Entrepreneurship Program, founded in 2007 as the Southern Mississippi Youth Entrepreneurship Program (SMYEP), was developed as a critical response to the lack of existing entrepreneurship training within Mississippi’s 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 representative of Mississippi public school districts assisted in the initial development of the program in Forrest, Harrison, and Jones Counties.  SEP has since grown from the initial involvement of four Mississippi high schools to the inclusion of 20 school districts around the state and has successfully trained more than 2000 high school and community college students, educators, and displaced workers.


The Southern Entrepreneurship Program provides a forum for students, educators, business leaders, sponsors, and service providers to engage in a uniquely hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to entrepreneurship education and business development, enabling participants to recognize local opportunities and empowering them to actively benefit from their education and resources.

The Purpose of SEP is:

(1) to reach out to 15-30 young adults per school district and facilitate the development of new entrepreneurs by providing basic business development training over two nine-month courses; (2) to provide participants with mentors currently in business in the school districts; (3) to reduce youth brain drain by providing opportunities for youth to build futures locally and thereby promote regional economic development in an area significantly affected by Hurricane Katrina; (4) to help the University and its partners improve their effectiveness in the region by introducing an innovative and creative program in partnership with other regional organizations to meet critical needs of new and existing firms; (5) to conduct on-going evaluation efforts throughout the program development and implementation process to assure that all tasks are completed in an efficient and effective manner; and (6) to provide each successful program participant with access to funding support to start their businesses.

In brief, the SEP program will enable the program partners to empower the youth within their region to develop and maintain homegrown businesses. The intention of the partners is also to develop a practical and state-of-the-art youth entrepreneurship program that can be used throughout the Mid-South Region with the potential of being adopted, adapted, and applied at a broader level.

The Objective of SEP Is:

Objective 1. To identify one or two classes of fifteen students per school district to participate in the nine-month training program. Program participants will be identified in collaboration with the partnering school districts. School districts will engage the proposed training in their existing career discovery classes.

Objective 2. To provide entrepreneurship training through the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) program to the participants. This program includes basic accounting and marketing training and also results in the development of a business plan.

Objective 3. To provide students with QuickBooks training enabling them to be more effective in their fledgling business efforts.

Objective 4. To increase the likelihood of new entrepreneur success by engaging existing business leaders to serve as mentors for the program participants. Ideally, program participants will be partnered with mentors in similar business fields.

Objective 5. To provide stimulants for new business development by providing program graduates opportunities to obtain private funding options. Program participants will present business plans constructed in the program to panels of funders for funding consideration. Business plan competitions will also be held with monetary awards and support services provided to award winners.

Objective 6. To conduct on-going evaluation efforts throughout the program development and implementation process to assure that all tasks in the effort are completed in an efficient and effective manner.

Objective 7. To enhance and sustain the work of SEP partners by enhancing their ability to maintain an ongoing entrepreneurial development program with local funds.

SEP will enable its students to recognize opportunities for themselves in their region post-high school and college; assist the participating school districts in increasing educational opportunities for their students; enhance potential for homegrown businesses in partnering counties; encourage perspective university/college students to continue their education post-high school; and improve overall quality of life within the participating regions as our skilled and educated workforce is retained.

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