Celina Maniece, who grew up in Du Quoin and is a proud double alumna of SIU, was quick to partner with the university's Small Business Development Center for help in developing, testing and marketing a new app and business.
Her BizClips project, which also involves SIU students and local businesses, seeks to connect businesses, professionals and consumers through video-based imagery.
Maniece, currently of Laredo, Texas, earned her bachelor's degree in psychology in 2006 and her master's in workforce education and development in 2010. After years of research, she conceived the concept for a company and app to help business owners decrease marketing expenses while streamlining their hiring process.
As Maniece began to develop her company and app, she reached out to the SIU Office of Economic and Regional Development for technical assistance in southern Illinois. The professional, interactive, video-based social media networking app and site is now in the research and development phase.
In early spring 2017, Maniece began collaborating with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU. Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade, and Greg Bouhl, SBDC director, are providing assistance to Maniece regarding conceptualization, development and programming of the app as well as business processes and how to monitor company and product development.
They also assisted her in the earlier stages of app development in learning to evaluate the work of programmers. In addition, they've lent their expertise in creating marketing messaging to make it appealing to the public.
The SBDC has helped her conceptualize different ways and places to market the app, which Russell characterizes as a "fun, interactive, turbo-charged link between students, companies, professionals and the public that could revolutionize how people and businesses connect."
BizClips is designed to help businesses and professionals seeking employment connect. Consumers can also get involved as they can learn about and rank businesses and their products or services. The SBDC is working to connect BizClips with SIU students and with businesses in the region to help test the app before it goes mainstream. Students who are interested in being involved in the cutting-edge product testing, providing feedback regarding functionality and utilization, can join a private beta test group which will launch in October.
Maniece, a member of the SIU Alumni Association, is looking for up to 200 SIU students from the region as well as additional businesses. Interested parties should send their email address (Android-based) or Apple ID, along with information as to whether they are SIU students or area businesses, to email@example.com by Friday, Oct. 13. They will in turn soon receive the beta version of the app.
Along with early free access to the app and the benefits it offers, those involved in the testing will also be able to connect with counterparts in Texas who are simultaneously testing it as well. The combined data and input from testing in the two pilot regions will be used to improve the app before it goes to market.
Maniece is also working with Norma Rodriguez, certified business adviser at the SBDC at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. Russell notes that Maniece, through working with the SBDCs in the national network, became "small business management certified" and that this entire project shows how people, universities and agencies can collaborate to foster success.
The SIU connection will continue in the future, too, Russell said. Chelsea Robbins, an SIU marketing alumna from Du Quoin who attended SIU in 2003 and 2004, is serving as the point person for BizClips in southern Illinois, and plans are underway for Maniece to work with SIU marketing classes as they offer their expertise, just as they frequently do for other area businesses.
"The collaboration involving SIU and the SBDC with BizClips is a perfect example of knowledge creation and expanding partnerships that support innovation," Russell said.