Springfield, MO

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With six-figure sales in less than a year, Five Pound Apparel co-founder Bryan Simpson is optimistic about the store's future. The company already has outperformed sales expectations for 2011.
With six-figure sales in less than a year, Five Pound Apparel co-founder Bryan Simpson is optimistic about the store's future. The company already has outperformed sales expectations for 2011.

Bank survey shows uptick in optimism

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Roughly 75 percent of Missouri small-business owners believe the country is still in a recession, though that number has dropped from 83 percent last year, according to U.S. Bank’s 2011 Small Business Annual Survey released in late June.

Missouri respondents also held a more optimistic view of the Show-Me state’s economy than their peers in other states.  

The U.S. Bank survey defined small businesses as those with less than $10 million in annual revenues and is based on responses from 3,000 small-business owners in the bank’s 25-state service footprint, which includes Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.

Across the national sample, 41 percent of business owners rated their states’ economies less healthy than the nation’s, but only 25 percent of surveyed Missourians shared that sentiment.

With national data based on 1,000 poll responses, oversamples in other markets, including Missouri, provided more in-depth data about specific regions.

Local business owners and organizations say such figures reflect a cautious optimism in the business sector. The recession technically ended two years ago, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, but its end has been met with lackluster job growth and lingering uncertainty.

“Even though we know we’re in a recovery … the jobs are not coming back as fast as they should,” said Kelley Still, executive director of Drury University’s Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “At a time when businesses need capital the most, the banking industry has had a shake-up itself.”

There is, however, plenty of room for optimism in such a climate, especially in Missouri, Still said, which could explain Missouri business owners’ improved opinions about the state’s economy.

“We have a lot of diversity in our economy,” she said. “We probably do weather out recessions better.”

Still said the tone at the center’s conferences and meetings for local business owners and entrepreneurs is decidedly optimistic, with rising conference attendance and anecdotal signs of growth.

The Springfield chapter of SCORE – America’s Counselor’s to Small Businesses, which partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer free counseling to business owners, has seen the same surge in its workshops, said chapter President Bill McNeill. He noted, however, that attendance varies year-to-year.

“Most small businesses seem to have adjusted to the recession,” McNeill said. “The small business climate in Springfield is fairly healthy.”

Among local businesses that have adjusted to the recessionary landscape is Nixa-based advertising company DL Media Inc.

“We’ve had to make a huge focus on finding new business,” said DL Media President Dianne Davis.

Some of her clients are spending 50 percent to 75 percent less with DL Media than they have in the past, she said, making it harder for the company to maintain revenues.

“You end up working a whole lot harder, and I think that’s true of any business,” she added.  
Her company has seen flat revenues for the past few years, she said, and although the company recently hired a new employee, “We’re dog-paddling as hard as we can,” she said.

Her company’s clients include car dealers, construction companies, hospitals and schools, she said, and the pendulum seems to be on the upswing.

“Everybody’s cautiously optimistic, but still cautious,” she said.

Bryan Simpson, a recent Missouri State University graduate and co-founder of Five Pound Apparel in downtown Springfield, is highly optimistic about the outlook for his business. The clothing store launched in December and uses part of its revenues to donate peanut butter product in 5-pound increments to provide hunger relief in poverty-stricken Nepal.

With six-figure sales volume, sales have surpassed expectations for the entire year, Simpson said, though he did not disclose specifics.

“It’s going a lot better than we’d planned for,” he said.

Simpson said, too, that if the company can survive the recession, it should do well once the economy improves.

“We’re young and poor right now, so there’s no better time for us to start the business,” he said.

Online sales recently began at, and people have asked about franchising, Simpson said. While he knows that economic conditions have people keeping close tabs on spending, he’s confident in the company’s future.

“I’d say people are definitely cautious when they spend, but I also think they still are willing to spend on quality things,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]


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