New Businesses Starting Up in the Bootheel

by News Bureau on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec 13, 2011 – Several new small businesses will open or expand in southeast Missouri in the next few months because of the help of an award-winning, nationally-recognized program that recently concluded in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

After six weeks of evening classes, 19 aspiring entrepreneurs graduated from the Operation JumpStart (OJS) small business training program held at the Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce in October and November.

The participants learned to develop the components of viable business feasibility plans and had the opportunity to submit their plans in late November in a competition for seed grant or start-up capital for their business concepts. In addition, entrepreneurs who graduate from the OJS program are eligible to apply for additional capital through ACCION Delta, a new microlender serving southeast Missouri, part of the larger organization ACCION Texas.

The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University sponsors Operation JumpStart. This Operation JumpStart program was additionally funded in part by the Delta Regional Authority, a federal-state partnership whose directive is to improve the quality of life for those living in 252 counties and parishes in the eight-state Mississippi River Delta Region.

Steve Halter, executive director of the Poplar Bluff Chamber, facilitated the Operation JumpStart class, and was instrumental in obtaining additional funding to support the seed capital funding from local banks, including First Community Bank, US Bank, Southern Bank, and First Midwest Bank.

“The impact Operation JumpStart has had on our local economy and the lives of the participants is very significant,” Halter stated. “These four local banks really stepped up to help ensure the maximum amount of potential for business start-ups in our community.”

Kim Stuckenschneider will open The Fit Room in Poplar Bluff with the help of funding awarded from the program. Stuckenschneider is a degreed exercise specialist and will assist individuals with custom-designed athletic training and conditioning after an initial needs assessment which includes flexibility analysis, body composition, muscular strength and metabolic rate, among other testing.

“The class provided me with information and resources I was not aware existed for small businesses,” Stuckenschneider said. “Emphasis on cash flow was an essential part of the program and really made me evaluate expenses and income in a realistic and practical manner. I would recommend this program to anyone thinking about starting a business.”

Marquis Adams is the owner of Impact Sports and KO Boxing Gym in Poplar Bluff. His business plan for KO Boxing Gym was another one of the business plan competition winners. Adams said he plans to buy additional gear and equipment for the patrons of his gym, which features amateur and professional boxing. Adams has owned the business for almost 10 years and prior to the OJS course, had no formal training business training.

“The materials provided through this program have given me a Jumpstart,” Adams said. “I’m now more driven and dedicated than ever before. I hope this program stays around, and continues to grow and help others just like me. I believe the sky truly is the limit to the growth of my business.”

“Marquis is just one of the several success stories that will come from this group of Operation JumpStart graduates,” said Gina Harper, CIE project coordinator. “There was so much heart and determination represented among the graduates, and our Center will help them in any way we can in the future.”

Local banker Dale Dickerson praised the program, saying “Entrepreneurs are at the very foundation of our communities and our country and their impact cannot be measured. First Midwest Bank of Poplar Bluff not only understands the challenges facing small business owners today, but it also understands how vital they are to a healthy community or region and is extremely honored to be a part of this program.”

Harper said that some participants drove quite a distance, just to be a part of the program. Counties represented were: Butler, Stoddard, Mississippi, Scott and Carter. The other two entrepreneurs who won the business plan competition are from outside of Poplar Bluff. They are Jarrod Brotherton of Fisk, Mo., who is starting Circle B. Auction Company, and Tammy Clark who owns Crowley Ridge Pottery in Dexter, Mo.

“The demand for entrepreneurial training remains widespread in the region,” she added “which is why our Center plans to offer about 10 additional OJS classes in 2012 throughout southeast Missouri.”

Operation JumpStart has been instrumental in assisting more than 650 individuals who have started or expanded more than 250 small businesses in Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois, Harper said. For more information about the OJS program and other services available from the CIE, contact the CIE at (573) 651-2929 or visit www.semo.edu/cie.

The CIE 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 advance the region’s economic appeal and strength by accelerating local and regional economic growth and development that improves the quality of lives, communities and businesses in southeast Missouri and the surrounding region. For more information about the CIE and the entrepreneurial support services it offers, contact (573) 651-2929 or visit www.semo.edu/cie.