ELSEWORKS, the entrepreneurship program at Millsaps College, a small liberal arts institution in Jackson, Mississippi, has been working for over a decade to help revitalize the Midtown neighborhood, which is adjacent to its campus. The entrepreneurship program functions like a business consultancy firm and is led by faculty members, staff, and alumni in guiding student business analysts employing a deeply place-based model.
Working closely in partnership with Midtown Partners, the Business Association of Midtown, the Midtown Neighborhood Association, and others, ELSEWORKS provides a wide range of business assistance services, from business consulting and strategy, business planning, financial proformas and accounting, market research and reporting, marketing and operations, and community planning and events. In partnership with residents, community stakeholders, business leaders, and industry experts, the ELSEWORKS team has provided an increasingly deep level of support to an increasingly wide number of projects - including the recruitment and cultivation of new businesses - all while fostering Millsaps students as they acquire real world business experience and learn how to impact their surrounding communities.
Grounded by patient investment and student engagement, ELSEWORKS has gone beyond the typical anchor institution model of using their procurement to help spur economic growth in challenged communities to fostering creative entrepreneurship and urban growth in the Midtown neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi.
Since 2011, selected activities for our students include providing on-going consulting services to two incubators in Midtown, development of two community gathering spaces (a coffee shop and a beer garden), securing start up funds for three Midtown businesses, organizing a quarterly event for business owners (called Beer and Business), and on-going support for the website and bi-annual events for the Business Association of Midtown. Since inseption, 160 Millsaps students have served as ELSEWORKS business analysts, and roughly 400 Millsaps students have provided solutions to Midtown businesses through experiential classroom projects. This fall, ELSEWORKS is providing consulting services to 10 businesses, and 3 Else School of Management classes are conducting semester-long projects to benefit Midtown businesses. Through these experiences, ELSEWORKS students have been impacted by learning leadership, collaboration, and reasoning skills, as well as entrepreneurial expertise including the linkage between economic development and community engagement at a grassroots level.
An extensive socioeconomic impact study, conducted by ELSEWORKS students in 2022, documented positive, striking changes to the Midtown community including its physical attributes, business sentiment, and resident sentiment over the past decade. For example, the number of assets in the neighborhood, consisting of houses, businesses, and properties in suitable living conditions, increased by 74% over a ten-year time frame. Midtown is now experiencing increased home ownership, business creation, and improvement in the community's housing stock to the point conventional investment is beginning to resurface.
"We believe in placing our students in a position to have meaningful input into high-level decisions that have very real and potentially success-altering consequences. They learn to embrace diversity, risk, and important challenges-thus, how to be a leader. Meanwhile, the revitalization of the Midtown area improves the quality of life for those in Midtown and for our students."
Dr. David Culpepper | ELSEWORKS Chair, Prof. of Accounting & Entrepreneurship