Dunn-Richmond Center: The facility helping students and their businesses since 1990s


Nathaniel Jordan, Chief Executive Officer of SPREKK, operates a 3D printer inside the Dunn-Richmond Facility. Nov. 29th, 2018. (Chase Jordan|@chasejordande)

By Emily Cooper, Staff Reporter

Dunn-Richmond is a place in SIU’s Research Park where inventors and student-run businesses come to grow.

“I would call it a hidden gem,” Deborah Barnett, director of business incubator programs, said. “We’re really working to raise awareness of what we do here.”

Barnett described Dunn-Richmond as a place where people can come and create, innovate, dream, build a business and work with others in a startup community.


“We’re a forum for people interested in starting a business, or have already been in business for discovery of new ideas, and a lot of the gamuts in between,” Executive Director Kyle Harfst, said.

Ken Stoner, small business specialist, said whatever ideas that are shared or generated in a room stay in that room.

“Everything we do at Dunn-Richmond is confidential,” Stoner said.

Students and local businesses get access to people who help start businesses and work with businesses on a daily basis, Stoner said.

“The shared knowledge base in this building is astounding,” Stoner said.

Dunn-Richmond houses a number of successful entrepreneurs, including 40-Below Joe, a business that uses the same business process as Dippin’ Dots ice cream for their coffee products, Barnett said.

“We have a number of students who have also come through the program,” Barnett said. “An example of one is DigitalSmiths.”


DigitalSmiths started in their dorms initially starting up websites, but then they have expanded beyond that, Harfst said. They ended up landing in a research triangle and eventually were bought out by Tivo for $135 million just a few years ago.

The goal of the incubator program is to support businesses like DigitalSmiths, Barnett said.

Barnett said it’s the early, incubation stages that give businesses the support they need during those stages, so they can grow and develop.

“I would love to see more students over here,” Stoner said. “I’ve worked with over 500 business in my time with the Small Business Development Center, and there is something unique about working with student-run businesses. Especially at that young age, they’re very open-minded and are constantly coming up with new ways of doing things.”

How they can benefit from coming here is a difficult question to answer because a lot of people ask what does the SBDC does, Stoner said.

“I can list off some of the things we do, but that list is not complete,” Stoner said. “If someone comes in and needs something specific that’s what we do. We are here to help with whatever they need. I do new things every day. It’s a very open space. I mean it is changing, evolving, and expanding constantly.”

Nathaniel Jordan, a junior studying plant biology, found out about the Dunn-Richmond by the University Innovation Fellows program that he was applying to, he said.

“From there, I went onto their website, learned a little more about it and applied,” Jordan said.

Jordan said after his interview, he got into the Saluki Ventures program following the pitch of his business idea.

“Since then, I have been working with everyone in here,” Jordan said.

Jordan is the founder and owner of SPREKK Technology Services LLC, an on-demand phone repair.

“Think of Uber, but phone repair,” Jordan said. “In a nutshell, we don’t have a store, we just have employees that will go to you to fix your phone.”

Jordan said the employees at the Dunn-Richmond Center really care.

“It’s their full-time job to make sure students and faculty succeed, so it’s a great feeling being here,” Jordan said.

Jordan said you can get business advisement from Stoner and network with people that you would never normally meet.

Jordan said he started his company because his phone was broken and he wanted something that was more viable.

Jordan said he broke his phone and it took him over seven hours to fix it, and he still broke it in the end. He realized why people pay hundreds of dollars for others to fix their phones.

“I started fixing my friend’s phones, even though I was studying plant biology, I’m just fixing phones on the side,” Jordan said. “After a while, I got really good at it, where I could do it for 15 to 20 minutes compared to the seven hours. I realized that these other companies are charging so much.”

Jordan said from there, he had no choice but to go into the business of fixing phones with the understanding that he’s just learning how to do business.

Jordan said he fixed his first phone two summers ago, but has been in business since April.

There are multiple options to get an office in the center, Barnett said.

Harfst said one is the traditional program if you need an office. You will sign a lease, write a business plan, which they help with, in addition to filling out an application.

There is also an affiliate program where a lease is not required and you can use it on a part-time basis, Harfst said.

The Saluki Innovation lab provides proof of concept for activities, and then there’s the Saluki Ventures program.

“Our Saluki Ventures program, which is for students, and is only $30 a semester,” Barnett said.

Greg Bouhl, Director of Illinois SBDC, said they try to keep everything seamless, so people don’t have to understand how they all work.

There are 13 full-time tenants right now, Harfst said.

“That number does not consider the Dunn-Richmond’s affiliate members who are here part of the time, nor does it consider the students who are in the program right now, and there are around seven in the business program,” Harfst said.

Dunn-Richmond houses four 3D printers for inventors or businesses, Stoner said.

“If someone comes up with an idea in the morning, we can come in and do 3D modeling and run a prototype or scaled model the afternoon of the same day,” Stoner said.

Stoner said he uses them in waves, on average he uses them a few times a week.

“It is all done through the office of Economic Regional Development as well as the SBDC,” Stoner said. “The 3D printing lab is a joint effort between the two organizations.”

Stoner said one business was having problems with dust in the air. So, rather than being down for weeks or months, they had a custom part made using the 3D printer. They were back up and running the next day.

“It’s really neat some of the things that we are able to do,” Stoner said.

On the innovation side, Dunn-Richmond has a lot of very creative people who come through its doors, Harfst said.

Jordan said Dunn-Richmond has definitely helped his business a lot.

“For example, all of the legalities, the stuff that goes behind forming your business, they really do provide you a whole 360 view of how to run a successful business,” Jordan said. “Most importantly, they help you with how to get it off the ground. The biggest jump is starting.”

Staff reporter Emily Cooper can be reached at ecooper@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @ecooper212.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.