November 28, 2012
Members of the Knox College Business Club recently toured Galesburg's Sustainable Business Center (SBC), meeting with key officials there and getting an eye-opening look into business innovation in west-central Illinois.
The group interacted with Ryan Lilly, who heads The Entrepreneurship Center of West Central Illinois, based at the SBC; Eric Dilts, director of the SBC business incubator; and Gary Camarano, global strategies director at the SBC.
The Business Club's October 30 trip was led by club advisor John Spittell, Professor of Business and Management and Executive-in-Residence at Knox College. Students learned about the founding of the SBC, its mission, what makes it unique, and how Knox students could become involved with its work.
Camarano, Dilts, and Lilly discussed opportunities for the Business Club members to assist with marketing at the SBC and help promote the center's En Season café. En Season serves pesticide-free, locally produced lunches, and its certified commercial kitchen space is available for rent to entrepreneurs and other people.
The Sustainable Business Center occupies what previously was an 80,000-square-foot distribution center. The SBC's chief executive officer, Gretchen Garth, also heads the HumanLinks Foundation, and she works to connect the endeavors of both organizations. The SBC's strategic themes are entrepreneurship innovation, globalization, and environmental sustainability.
Business Club member Hannah Basil, a Knox senior from Chicago, Illinois, who is majoring in economics, said she was impressed with the size of the incubator and the variety of companies there. SBC tenants include Sitka Salmon Shares, Intellihot Green Technologies, Blackburn Sampling, and Lamboo.
"It was fascinating to witness a frozen fish distributor sharing workspace 10 yards away from a hot water tank manufacturer," she said. "You would not expect that kind of diversity in an incubator. Often, incubators are focused around technology or other specific industries."
The SBC provides more than business incubation. It also offers mentoring, office space, printing, telephone and other services -- allowing young companies to focus on growth while the SBC helps with items and activities that are peripheral to a company's core business model.
Knox students said they were pleased with the entire visit and were particularly eager to follow up on the idea of contributing their talents to the SBC.
"I was surprised and delighted to see how much innovation is integrated into the City of Galesburg, and we were fortunate enough to have the SBC show us that firsthand," said Business Club President Yazin Akkawi, a senior from Orland Park, Illinois, who is majoring in economics. "I am also excited to have established the relationship between the Sustainable Business Center and the Knox College Business Club."