South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program

For those in difficult circumstances who are trying to start or grow a business

The South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program seeks to help those in the South Bend community facing economic or other hardships to start and grow businesses of their own. The program lasts 12 months.

The McKenna Center manages the program in close partnership with local nonprofit groups, government offices, small businesses, and other university partners across South Bend. 

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We seek to:

  • Foster the creation of new, profitable ventures by those facing economic or other disadvantages
  • Assist existing small businesses owned by those with disadvantages in becoming sustainable and growing
  • Work with community members on the development of both the person as an entrepreneur and the business as a successful venture
  • Identify and share best practices in poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship
  • Measure and track the development and performance of entrepreneurs and their ventures based on program participation
  • Celebrate entrepreneurial achievements of those facing/overcoming adversity

An Integrated Approach to Community Empowerment

The South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program is an integrated, multi-faceted program that involves six core elements:

  • Training Programs: Community members participate in a six-week boot camp, held on Saturday mornings, that introduces basic tools, concepts, and principles relevant to launching and growing a successful venture. The boot camp is designed for people with little to no resources or background.
  • One-on-One Consulting: Following the training, a consulting initiative pairs faculty, graduate students, and other partners with entrepreneurs to work one-on-one to solve particular problems.
  • Mentoring: Participants can receive mentorship from a successful entrepreneur who, where possible, has experiences related to the type of business the entrepreneur is working on. In addition, an ‘expertise pool’ of mentors is available with advice on specific problem areas.
  • Community Connect: Entrepreneurs are connected to valuable resources in the community through quarterly community forums, an internet platform, and other communication vehicles. Another component is the Co-Marketing program, which encourages community members to do business with the program’s entrepreneurs.
  • Microcredit: Local organizations and financial institutions create a micro-credit fund that provides low-interest and no-interest loans and grants to individuals as they attempt to launch ventures.
  • Research and Tracking: The program conducts research documenting the challenges facing entrepreneurs, tracking their progress, and identifying elements that are successful in helping them to move forward.

Program Preview

Program Timeline


How to Get Involved:

After applying and receiving acceptance into the South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program, participants will begin their experience with the Community Bootcamp for Entrepreneurs.

Community Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs

Program participants will benefit immensely from the South Bend Community Boot Camp—an intense, hands-on exposure to the fundamentals of launching and growing a successful venture taught by seasoned faculty, subject matter experts, and successful entrepreneurs. The boot camp occurs on six consecutive Saturday mornings in the spring. 

Topics covered in the Community Boot Camp address all facets of a successful venture, ranging from the development of a viable business concept to understanding your market, designing your profit model, setting up operations properly, marketing your venture, and understanding the basic numbers. Our underlying focus is how to think and act in entrepreneurial ways—including how to do more with less—and how to grow a venture when you have little in the way of resources. The approach will be interactive, so participants will be encouraged to bring business ideas and challenges into the weekly discussions.

Who is eligible to participate?

Anyone in the community who suffers from adverse economic, physical, or related circumstances is eligible to participate in the program. We focus on supporting community members living in poverty who have a dream of starting and growing a venture, including those who have already started a venture but are struggling.

What is the cost?

The price of the Community Boot Camp is $500. However, scholarships of $475 are available for anyone with financial need. All applicants are considered for scholarships.

How do I apply?

The application deadline is February 1, 2024. 

How can I support the program?

We welcome the involvement of community members as volunteers, mentors, and donors. Please contact program director Michael Morris at to learn more.

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Contact the program director, Michael Morris

Boot Camp Details:

Six consecutive Saturday mornings, 8:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.*
*Most Saturdays will also include an extra session from 12:00-1:00 p.m. that digs deeper into a particular topic with local experts (lawyers, bankers, social media professionals, experts in government contracts).

2022 Boot Camp Dates:

Week One: Feb 10, 2024
Week Two: Feb 17, 2024
Week Three: Feb 24, 2024
Week Four: Mar 2, 2024
Week Five: Mar 9, 2024
Week Six (Final Session Graduation): Mar 16, 2024

Boot Camp Location:

Charles Martin Youth Center
802 Lincoln Way W., South Bend, IN 46616

Program Partners