From the April 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

A new program created by the Illinois Department of Commerce and the Community Affairs Bureau of Energy and Recycling offers small-business owners free energy audits.

Creating Energy Management Opportunities for Industries (CEMOI) is operated in conjunction with Central Illinois Public Service Co. and trains college students majoring in engineering and marketing to identify areas where a business can conserve energy and save money.

Prior to an audit, the students and their advisors review a firm's utility bills. A team of two to three auditors then spends up to 15 hours at the company's facility examining energy usage; when the audit is complete, they present written recommendations to the business owner. While the audits are not guaranteed to save money, past audits have been successful in helping companies reduce energy costs.

Currently audits and recommendation reports are free; however, CEMOI is considering charging a fee for the reports.

For more details, contact Southern Illinois University-Carbondale at (618) 453-3221 or the Edwardsville campus at (618) 692-2161.

Inventors Wanted

National

Inventors looking for national recognition and a little cash to take their ideas to the next level can enter the Search for Invention '98 contest sponsored by catalog retailer Hammacher Schlemmer. The grand prize winner receives a $5,000 grant; entries must be submitted by May 15.

Entries are being accepted in four categories: recreation, personal care, personal electronics, and utilitarian home and garden. Each submission must be a patented, tangible product, be a working or nonworking prototype, be for general consumer use, and cannot have been advertised or offered for sale in a catalog or retail outlet.

In addition to the grand-prize winner, the top inventions in each category receive $1,000 grants. The grand-prize winner's invention will be displayed at Hammacher Schlemmer's New York City store. To obtain a Search for Invention '98 entry kit, call (773) INVENT-1.

Web Resources For Entrepreneurs

National

The internet has become a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs. Following are some new and valuable Web sites:

  • The American Express Small Business Exchange (http://www.americanexpress.com/smallbusiness) features a number of helpful pages. Business Planning and Resources assists you with business management, expansion, globalization, nontraditional sources of capital, and tax matters. There is also a time-management quiz that provides personalized advice.

Each month, an in-depth report is presented on a particular topic (an index of past subjects is available). And you can get your questions answered online by a business expert. You can even advertise free in the site's online classified or business-to-business directory.

  • If you plan to do business in or with Japan, the Global Window Project?http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/research/japan) should be your first stop. Using research compiled by the University of California, Los Angeles' Anderson Graduate School of Management, and Meikai and Asahi universities in Japan, the site introduces you to Japan's people, language, business etiquette, consumers, economics and more. There are also tips on conducting business in Japan and keeping abreast of legal issues.
  • The Big Apple won't seem so big when you visit the city's business Web site (http://www.newyorkbiz.com). You'll find profiles that detail New York City's hottest industries and various incentives available to firms in the area.

There's also a section that explores starting and expanding a business and the city resources that can help. You'll find tips on selling to city agencies as well as a business-to-business directory where you can list your company. Finally, a separate incentives section gives details on 50 special programs ranging from energy to financing.