Belleville entrepreneur Jim Allsup has committed to a $2.2 million long-term gift to the Center for Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis Universitys John Cook School of Business.
Allsup founded Allsup Inc. in Belleville, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal and Medicare services. His gift will enable expansion of outreach programs for youth and high school students throughout the region.
This significant and generous gift will strengthen SLUs commitment to serving our community by allowing us to reach even more young people through our nationally recognized entrepreneurship center, University President the Rev. Lawrence Biondi said in a released statement.
Growing up in poor areas of Cahokia and East St. Louis, Allsup, now 59, recalled how difficult it was to start a business with no money and no support system.
Allsup said the lack of support for entrepreneurs is one of the primary reasons for stagnant growth in the region. You dont have enough entrepreneurs, he said. Most of them leave, because theres no support system.
Allsup hopes to change that with his donation. It starts with exposing kids to the concept of entrepreneurship at a young age, he said.
Allsup has been working with SLU for several years, sponsoring the Allsup Summer Entrepreneurship Academy, a weeklong immersive program at the Cook School and at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
The academy brings high school students from across the country together to find solutions to real world market needs. Allsup travels from his home in Arizona every year to work with the students.
Allsup said his donation will help expand the Entrepreneurship Academy beyond the summer program. Ultimately, we want to grow beyond that and have a year-round program as part of the curriculum in high schools, he said.
A portion of his donation will go toward funding an additional staff member at SLU, according to Allsup.
Allsup is looking to duplicate a program he witnessed firsthand at California State University in Fresno, Calif.
He explained the program in Fresno is a collaboration between California State University, 12 community colleges and 20 high schools.
Kids have a high school class and earn credits that are transferable to one of the community colleges or the university, Allsup said. We want to get kids the same access to entrepreneurship at a young age.
Allsup said he would like to get universities, colleges and high schools on both sides of the river involved.
When he started his company with no money, Allsup said the odds were against him, but now he leads a successful company that employs more than 800 people.
I want to share what Ive learned and help other kids get started at an earlier age, he said. Theres nothing more valuable to a community than to start and grow a business. The only way you can grow is to have successful start-up businesses.
Allsup declined to comment on specifics surrounding his donation, including how much the center will receive each year and for how many years.
Ellen Harshman, dean of the Cook School, praises the commitment of successful entrepreneurs in helping develop the entrepreneurial leaders of the future.
Jim Allsups generous gift, along with his commitment to developing the entrepreneurial spirit, is the foundation that helps provides budding entrepreneurs with the tools and knowledge to turn an idea into an actual product or service, Harshman said.