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After receiving initial funding in October to launch an early-stage business boot camp, the Efactory and Missouri Small Business Development Center at Missouri State University are set to debut the program in February.
The application deadline is Dec. 31 for the boot camp, designed for minorities and women in southern Missouri who either currently own or aspire to own a business. A $30,000 donation from the U.S. Bank Foundation is allowing up to 10 applicants to participate in the program at no cost, according to Efactory Director Rachel Anderson.
Sandra Smart, technology and commercialization specialist with Missouri SBDC, said over 50 applications have been received as of Dec. 21 and Efactory and SBDC officials plan to select participants by late January. The eight-week program is set to begin Feb. 21 and run Tuesday evenings at the Efactory, MSU’s downtown business incubator. Those who attend all sessions will be eligible to receive a $3,000 stipend, which can be used to help with transportation needs, child care or business expenses, Smart said.
“It’s filling a need for small-business owners and allowing them access to educational resources, connections with other business owners and being part of a collaborative and supportive environment to help foster their business growth,” she said. “It will also help them understand all the resources that are available to help and support their passion. It’s really meeting them where they’re at.”
Darline Mabins, executive director of the Multicultural Business Association, said her organization is one of the program partners with Efactory and Missouri SBDC, along with U.S. Bank Foundation, United WE and the Missouri Women’s Council. Mabins said she’s been in on discussions for months to develop the boot camp.
“Being able to get that funding was kind of the last piece in getting it off the ground,” she said. “The partnership has been there, and we were extremely excited the funding was there and it will come to fruition for business owners. It was exciting because this could be a game changer in helping educate and give a lot of business owners the tools they need for that longevity piece that a lot of multicultural businesses can sometimes struggle with.”
In the classroom
During the program, attendees will learn best practices and discover local resources designed to help small businesses grow. Participants will receive ongoing coaching and mentoring through Missouri SBDC and Efactory to develop a growth plan and financial budget by the program’s conclusion, according to officials. Topics will include discovering customers, developing a marketing strategy and learning about business credit, funding and financial management.
The program also will cover details such as insurance and licensing requirements, Smart said, adding those are examples of “things a lot of small-business owners don’t necessarily understand or don’t have a lot of knowledge on until they’re in a situation where they need to know.”
Smart said the roster of instructors for the program is still being compiled but noted she and Missouri SBDC Director Chrystal Irons will be among them. She said subject matter experts also are still to be determined, but she expects participants to include Mabins, as well as officials with U.S. Bank and the Springfield Procurement Technical Center, which assists businesses, including small, disadvantaged and women-owned firms, in obtaining federal, state and local government contracts. Officials declined to disclose the investment to launch the program.
Mabins said she’s glad the stipend was available for participants, as they can attend classes for free.
“Sometimes, $3,000 is a big deal to someone,” she said, noting the Multicultural Business Association helped with some of the program’s planning and structure. “We’ll also be part of the ongoing education process for consulting and mentoring services during the program.”
Program officials say the need is there to bolster minority- and women-owned businesses.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual business survey, which was released in November and covers the calendar year 2020, roughly 1.15 million, or 19.9%, of employer businesses in the U.S. were minority owned. Around 1.24 million, or 21.4%, were owned by women. Data was not broken down by states. The totals are up slightly from the 2021 survey, in which minority-owned businesses numbered 1.1 million and women owned 1.2 million businesses.
“Obviously, we’d like to see more of women and BIPOC-owned businesses and small businesses in general because they are such heavy economic impact creators and job creators,” Smart said.
Small businesses have generated 12.9 million net new jobs over the past 25 years, accounting for two out of every three jobs added to the economy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Smart said officials will discuss the future of the program following its completion in April but noted there’s a desire to make it at least an annual offering.
“We would definitely like to offer more cohorts in the future,” she said.
The business boot camp arrives as a similar program in Branson, Elevate Entrepreneurs, graduated its first cohort on Dec. 13. Nonprofit Elevate Branson invested in the 12-week initiative, which seeks to aid those who want to own or already operate a venture by teaching business fundamentals. Its second cohort is scheduled for the spring, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
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