‘Idea Jam’ slated for Jan. 3 - Republic-Times | News

‘Idea Jam’ slated for Jan. 3

By on December 27, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Dr. Birton Cowden

Hecker native Dr. Birton Cowden, University of Massachusettes director of new venture development, is returning to Monroe County for another session of sharing ideas about new business and economic development.

Idea Jam is the first in a series of programs, sponsored by the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation, focused on helping entrepreneurs in southwest Illinois to be successful.

The program series will strategically foster a safe environment for entrepreneurs to try, fail, learn, build, explore, and connect to other like-minded individuals while developing business concepts and models.

“Entrepreneurs play such a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs,” MCEDC Executive Director Edie Koch said. “That’s why we are launching this business start-up program series in southwest Illinois. Our hope is that this campaign will help to knock down the barriers in the path of men and women hoping to take a chance, follow a dream and start a business.”

Added MCEDC Chairman Terry Liefer: “Our organization quickly realized that if we wanted to jumpstart economic development in our service area, we needed to think regionally. This program is doing just that. We hope to see potential entrepreneurs from all corners of southwest Illinois at the Idea Jam, and at the workshops and mentoring sessions that will follow.”

Cowden works at the Berthiaume Center for Entrentrepreneurship, which promotes “entrepreneurship and innovation across the UMass Amherst campus and throughout the region and state,” the organization’s mission statement reads. Cowden also recently founded the initiative Entrepreneurship Everywhere to bring “cutting edge entrepreneurship programs to communities,” the Idea Jam Facebook event states.

“The Idea Jam is just the first step in the quest to start a business,” Cowden commented. “The Monroe County Economic Development Corporation is spearheading additional workshops and mentoring sessions that will allow entrepreneurs to start vetting ideas for feasibility and desirability; find collaborators and mentors; and get connected to money, space, general resources, and business advice, to take things to the next level.”

Cowden is a 2001 Waterloo High School graduate who wants to bring his experience in promoting entrepreneurship and fostering ideas for new business to southwestern Illinois. Also collaborating with the MCEDC on this initiative is the Metro East Small Business Development Center at SIUE.

The event takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 3 at Stubborn German Brewing Co. in Waterloo. For more information, contact Cowden at birtoncowden@gmail.com. Anyone with an idea can give a 60-second presentation during the event.

After ideas are shared, Cowden recommends staying to network with people to start the process of getting some of the ideas off the ground. The purpose of the event is to start conversations, look for collaborators, and contribute to a growing, creative, and entrepreneurial culture in the area. Cowden coordinated an idea session called “Ideas Over Beers” in August at Stubborn German.

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Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net