Former metro-east resident and business owner Jim Allsup now spends his days at his house in Arizona.
From his mountainside home there he monitors his Belleville-based business operations via a video link over a 60-inch high definition television monitor. There isn't much that could come up that would require him to disturb his view or leave the air conditioning if he didn't want to.
But Allsup, founder of Allsup Inc., the country's first nationwide, private, Social Security disability claims company, said he feels an obligation, since he has made it in the business world, to come back to the metro-east every summer to try to help others follow in his successful footsteps.
"I grew up in that area," Allsup said. "I may live in Arizona now. But my business is going to stay there and I want to give back to the area. Give back to the St. Louis region -- and even more on the east side."
So he sponsors an annual Allsup High School Entrepreneurship Academy at Southwestern Illinois College.
"There is a dying need for entrepreneurship," he said. "The region isn't growing and it isn't growing for a reason. Entrepreneurs have a different way of looking at the world. A glass half-full outlook. They aren't always A students. They're the kid that's raising hell in the classroom. I know that to be true because that was me. And I want to help those kids learn how to start a business and be successful."
The academy, which will return to Southwestern Illinois College July 29 through Aug. 2 features a bus tour of the Cahokia and East St. Louis neighborhoods where Allsup grew up and of the glass building on Illinois 15 where his business is headquartered. Allsup, as well as other speakers, will address the students.
"I thought it was very informational," said 2012 academy student Abigail Carpenter, of Freeburg. "I didn't know that much about business. That's why I went. I felt like I knew a lot more about it when it was over."
The week of activities, lectures and workshops, hosted by SWIC, is open to regional high school students who are interested in some day owning their own business.
The academy offers students a chance to study existing business models and develop their own ideas. Students will create basic business plans and present them in a competition for prize money at the end of the week.
Carpenter said she appreciated the competitive aspect of the week-long program.
"I thought the business competition was a good simulation of what it was like to try to pitch your products to people," Carpenter said. "I felt it was very inspirational after Mr. Allsup told us how he came to be the businessman he is, " Carpenter added. "And I made a lot of good friends there."
Amani Franklin, of Belleville, also attended the 2012 Allsup event.
"It was great," Franklin said. "I learned how to start your own business and a lot of things you need to know about how to keep a business going."
Allsup said he'd like to see the program, which is also presented at St. Louis University on the west side of the Mississippi River, spread to be offered at community colleges and high schools across the region in a program that would count as college credit.
"That's the ultimate goal, to make it available for everyone and to give everyone a chance to succeed with their own business."
Registration, which is open through July 23, requires a $25 deposit, which will be refunded upon completion of the workshop.
The event is open to current high school students or students who will enter high school this fall.
For more information, call 618-235-2700, ext. 5472, or visit swic.edu/allsup-academy.