Small Business Graduates Prepared to Launch New Ventures



CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 8, 2012 — Several new small businesses will open or expand in southeast Missouri in the next few months thanks to the help of an award-winning, nationally-recognized program that recently completed in Sikeston, Mo.

After six weeks of evening classes, about 20 aspiring entrepreneurs graduated from the Operation JumpStart small business training program led by certified facilitators from the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

In addition, the CIE and the Small Business Technology Development Center at Southeast Missouri State University provided professional business coaches and consultants to work one-on-one with the participants through each session of the six-week course. The participants learned to develop the components of a successful business feasibility plan, and all had the opportunity to submit their feasibility plans in late June in competition for start-up grants or micro-loans through ACCION Delta, a new micro-lender in Missouri, part of the larger organization ACCION Texas.

Program graduate and Sikeston native, Chris Carnell, has helped manage his family business, Carnell’s Collision Repair, for many years. Carnell plans to launch a new, Web-based platform whereby individuals can crowd-fund projects.

With the assistance and connections made through Operation JumpStart, Carnell said that he is prepared to launch his business by no later than early 2013 and has received commitments from a local advertising agency and web design company.

“The resources the CIE offers with business consultants, business statistics, connections and the network of others in Operation JumpStart is incredibly beneficial,” Carnell said.

Additional funding to launch his tech-based company comes from FOCUS Bank which services Scott and Mississippi Counties in southeast Missouri. FOCUS Bank helped sponsor the course, provided a $1,000 seed-grant scholarship and provided the refreshments on the night of graduation.

“With the receipt of additional funds from the Small Business Lending Fund, FOCUS Bank is better equipped to provide outreach services, such as participating in the Operation Jumpstart program,” said Anna Ferrell, marketing director. “FOCUS Bank recognizes the importance of serving the financial needs of the small businesses in our lending area and is committed to providing them with the best tools and information.”

Carnell said, “The funding is great. Given the chance to make your dream come to fruition, you can’t put a price tag on that. Operation JumpStart takes the learning process of developing a business plan and makes it interesting.”

Additional seed grant winners in the Sikeston Operation JumpStart program include Myrna McLaughlin-Burns who recently opened Thoughtful Things Gift Baskets in Sikeston; Dr. Vicki Roberts, current owner and physician at Family Medicine of southeast Missouri in Sikeston; and David Carnell who wishes to expand services that Carnell’s Collision Repair currently offers by providing additional auto warranty coverage.

Operation JumpStart has been instrumental in assisting more than 700 individuals who have started or expanded more than 250 small businesses in Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois, according to Gina Harper, CIE project coordinator for the local Operation JumpStart classes. The Sikeston OJS program was funded in part by the Delta Regional Authority, a federal-state partnership that works to improve the lives of those living in the 252 counties and parishes in eight Mississippi Delta states.

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 Operation JumpStart and other services available from the CIE, please contact the CIE at (573) 651-2929 or visit