Graduate of Operation Main Street: Business Success Series Honored

by News Bureau on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 12, 2011 – Laurie Everett, owner of Annie Laurie’s Antiques in downtown Cape Girardeau, was honored last week at the Cape Area Chamber of Commerce for her entrepreneurial initiative.  Everett is a recent graduate of the Operation Main Street: Business Success Series, a multi-session training program offered by the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University, and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The CIE, in partnership with Old Town Cape (OTC) and the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, provided customized classes specifically to meet the needs of Cape Girardeau downtown business owners.  Classes offered were “Delivering Quality Customer Service,” “Introduction to QuickBooks,” “Financing Your Business,” “Search Engine Optimization” and others, before finishing with the course called “Listening to Your Business.”

Before classes began in July, all businesses participating in the program agreed to a mystery shopper report, financial analysis and an overall business assessment as part of a business development strategy. They later sat down with the CIE’s business counselor, Justin Pobst, to discuss the results.

“We hoped the owners were able to learn about what current and potential customers are seeing and feeling when they visit their physical stores and online presence,” Pobst said. “In addition, we also wanted them to gain an insight into their business’ financial pulse.”

According to Gina Harper, project coordinator for the CIE, helping downtown businesses reach new goals or even plan for the future was the premise of the Operation Main Street program. The CIE contracted with many local experts like Jennifer and Rhett Hendrickson, owners of Hendrickson Business Advisors, Dr. Dana Schwieger at Southeast Missouri State University and Elizabeth Shelton, owner of Write Results Marketing, to lead the classes.

“While one multi-session program cannot cover every topic that each business owner needs or wants to learn about,” Harper said, “the variety of experts offered something for everyone.”

Executive Director of Old Town Cape (OTC), Marla Mills, said, “The collaboration between the CIE and OTC was amazing and productive. All along, our objective with this program was to help strengthen the businesses we have in downtown and to raise the bar a bit.  This tailor-made process helped them develop a plan for moving their business to the next level and gave them some needed tools to achieve their goals.”

After graduating from Operation Main Street: Business Success Series, Everett submitted an action plan to the CIE for the chance to win a business expansion grant for $1,000.  Mills and Harper awarded the funding along with a plaque of recognition to Everett at the Cape Chamber’s First Friday Coffee event on Oct. 7 at the Show Me Center.

Everett said she plans to use the funds to upgrade her computer network and thus add to her overall competitiveness and increase customer service.

Everett said, “I want to thank the CIE for this amazing opportunity.  I am very excited to take my action plan and implement the changes.”

For more information about Annie Laurie’s Antiques, visit www.capeantiqueshop.com.

The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University is one of the most comprehensive entrepreneurship-focused university centers in the Midwest, offering a wide array of academic and outreach programs and services, including: innovation development and research; entrepreneurship education, training and mentorship; and business incubation and development services.  The CIE supports Southeast Missouri State University’s strategic priority to accelerating economic growth and development that improves the quality of lives, communities and businesses in southeast Missouri and the southeast region. For more information about the CIE and the entrepreneurial support services it offers, contact (573) 651-2929 or visit www.semo.edu/cie.