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Opinion: 2019 ends with surprises in business, fundraising

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.

There was Jeff Houghton on a Facebook video, spontaneously announcing with his family that the Great Ozarks Forgive-a-Thon had met its $27,000 fundraising goal. To be honest, when the campaign was announced, I didn’t give it much of a chance.

I mean, there are just so many nonprofits asking for money and especially at this time of year. But Houghton and his team at the late-night talk show, “The Mystery Hour,” did it. On Christmas Eve.

Here’s what it means: “The Mystery Hour” partnered with RIP Medical Debt, which buys bundles of medical debt, on average, for pennies on the dollar. So, $2.7 million worth of medical debt in the Ozarks will be erased. That is incredible.

Houghton sounded equally impressed.

“We are just amazed, but not surprised, by the community coming together like this. The impact will be profound for the recipients,” Houghton told SBJ Web Editor Geoff Pickle via email. “We’re a TV show, not a nonprofit, so we went into this fairly blindly – we just thought we could get the word out. For the community to respond the way they did is incredible.”

The impact is expected to be felt in Greene County and 19 others in southwest Missouri. In one post, Houghton detailed the amounts in the counties effected: Greene was $122,000 and Christian similar at $139,000. Then you see McDonald County at a whopping $734,000 in medical debt erased and Jasper’s $606,000 – really highlighting the need of families in the southwest corner of our state.

This is something to celebrate – by entrepreneurs, businesses and other individuals. Here are a few of the donors that were credited on Facebook announcements: Brentwood Christian Church, TEK Cleaning Co. and A Color Story LLC, as well as individuals Charlie O’Reilly, Joy Robertson and Hal Higdon.

As Houghton said in a post leading up to the finale, it is a Christmas miracle for some families in the Ozarks. It’s sure to save more than a few bankruptcy filings. But it took a bold step first by a Springfield entrepreneur. Well done, Houghton and crew.

There have been other big surprises to end the year.

Cane’s is coming
Just before this issue went to press, the Springfield Business Journal newsroom staff discovered Louisiana-based fried-chicken franchise Raising Cane’s is headed to town. If you haven’t tried Raising Cane’s chicken strips yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s been a regular stop for me and my kids when visiting Kansas City or St. Louis. What I appreciate about the business model is the restaurant only does a few things, but they do those things really well.

It’s kind of like a book I’m reading, “Seven Days at the Links of Utopia.” Part of the emphasis is to choose the things you’re good at and work on perfecting them. I feel like Raising Cane’s has perfected the chicken finger. There are only three items on the menu: chicken fingers, chicken fingers and a chicken finger sandwich.

To be fair, not everyone I’ve talked to in Springfield who’s tried Cane’s is a fan. But soon we’ll be getting one and you can decide for yourself. Check the corner of Campbell Avenue and Sunshine Street, kitty-corner from Bass Pro Shops. It should be a hit there. And it’s worth noting, it’ll go head to head in chicken strip competition with Chick-fil-A on the other side of the street.

Whether you like Raising Cane’s or not, it’s worth the thought entering the new year: Focus on a few things you do well and work on perfecting them.

Weed seed snub
Southwest Missouri was snubbed when state officials chose the 60 applicants to receive state medical marijuana cultivation facility licenses. There was none in the Springfield area. Eleven applications in Springfield had been submitted.

Some of the closest approved are in Humansville, Cassville, and two in Joplin. The biggest surprise were the applications by former NFL player Grant Wistrom’s Revival 98 LLC and Desmond Morris’ The Wholesome Bud Co. LLC. Both entrepreneurs planned vertically integrated business models, meaning they’d handle each step of growing, manufacturing the infused products and distributing its components.

Already a lawsuit has been filed – from a family in Sarcoxie outside of Joplin. The Callicoat family applied to open Sarcoxie Nursery to grow marijuana for state-approved medicinal purposes. Their suit alleges the state’s 60-license limit on cultivation facilities violates their “right to farm,” a clause in the Missouri constitution added in 2014. The family seeks to get a cultivation license awarded to them and for the state to declare the previously approved limit of 60 growing licenses in Missouri unconstitutional.

There will be more lawsuits to come. And we will be covering all the action in 2020.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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