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Business mentoring program launches

Efactory and Missouri State business center team up for pilot

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A new mentorship program is set to commence this month via a partnership of the Efactory and the Small Business Development Center at Missouri State University.

The organizations brought on nine businesspeople spanning multiple industries as mentors in the sessions, with the first scheduled Oct. 21. Paige Oxendine, program coordinator at the Efactory, said the mentoring sessions will run over the next eight weeks as part of a pilot. Organizers envision the program running in the spring and fall each year.

“It really was a new idea and one our staff team developed,” Oxendine said. “We’ve been thinking strategically how we can help people and their businesses more and we thought this would be a great entry point.”

Each one-on-one session will last 30 minutes with the volunteer mentors scheduled in 90-minute blocks at the Efactory. There is no cost to participate, but applications are required. Organizers say ideal candidates are entrepreneurs and existing business owners.

The Efactory and SBDC submitted a joint grant application to the Missouri Technology Corp. last year and were approved for $350,000 in March, said Chrystal Irons, SBDC director. Part of the application included a proposal for the mentorship program, which she said is entirely covered by the three-year grant.

“We put the program in place as a result of that funding,” Irons said.

With the funding, the Efactory also plans to add staff and other entrepreneurial and corporate programs. Officials at the MSU business incubator expect the MTC investments to result in $40 million in new local research and capital investment funding, 900 new jobs and 100 new investment-grade startups in the next five years, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Mentors signed on include Scott Rogers of CoxHealth, Luke Kuschmeader of Kuat Innovations LLC and Jordan McAdoo of Stitch Fix Inc. (Nasdaq: SFIX).

“The willingness of those mentors to give their time is a huge value to us, but to the small-business community, as well,” Irons said, adding several sessions are still being scheduled.

SBDC already offers one-on-one consulting services, but Irons said the collaboration would build upon that.

She said the pilot program is open to all 16 counties in the SBDC service area.

The application forms, available on the Efactory and SBDC websites, ask for brief business descriptions, mentor preferences and specific questions or topics of interest.

Each mentor is being scheduled for a total of six 30-minute sessions.

One of the mentors, Tamera de Wild, recently became involved in mentorship for the first time through the Efactory’s three-month accelerator program, which concluded its fourth cohort in August.

As deputy general counsel and vice president of legal services for O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY), de Wild mentored startup software company Compat.io.

“I’m very interested in supporting entrepreneurs in Springfield and thought that was a good way to do it,” she said.

“I’m excited to work with even more companies.”

While de Wild is new to mentoring, another program mentor, Jeff Schrag, owner of Mother’s Brewing Co., said he’s had multiple opportunities to serve in the role.

He’s been involved in past mentorship work while serving on the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

“You learn as much as the person you’re supposed to be mentoring,” he said, noting the value in different perspectives, education and experience.

“That closeness you get from talking with anybody about business and career, I find those subjects very interesting.”

Schrag said his business experience, which includes ownership of legal publication The Daily Events, allows him to offer a bit of perspective on risk – tolerance, management and its realities.

“I have pretty much worked for myself all my life,” he said.

Oxendine declined to disclose the number of applications received so far but said she expects to fill all sessions.

Organizers would begin plans for the next one before year’s end, if the pilot program goes as anticipated.

“We’re looking to give people some really helpful and honest feedback for those who have built businesses, scaled operations and done a lot of other interesting things,” Oxendine said.

Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.

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