StartUP Jefferson City
Fostering Entrepreneurs, Bolstering the Economy: StartUP Jefferson City
Last spring, when StartUP Jefferson City scheduled its first of four free entrepreneurial events, the organization was a bit apprehensive.
“We thought we would be lucky if we had 12 people show up,” says StartUP organizer Mike Honeywell. With the rest of the StartUP team, Honeywell wondered if there was enough interest in the capital city to support their endeavor, a grassroots effort to pair budding entrepreneurs with skilled specialists to turn business ideas into reality, with the ultimate goal of bringing jobs to the Jefferson City economy.
But when more than 100 current and aspiring business owners filled the room for the first event on April 28, followed by another successful event in May, their worries were put to rest. Today, StartUP Jefferson City events are quickly becoming the go-to place for hopeful entrepreneurs to learn the nuts and bolts of launching a successful business. With an informative website, a downtown presence and angel investors to boot, StartUP hopes to become Jefferson City’s onestop entrepreneurial service.
Honeywell, owner of KA-Neckt Marketing and Garage Harmony, says the concept of StartUP Jefferson City originated over a cup of coffee in the fall of 2011 with Darla Porter, owner of Modern Litho Print Company. Discussing local business opportunities, they concluded there was a need for more guidance and support for area entrepreneurs. In the weeks that followed, Honeywell and Porter talked with other local business owners, and soon a group of 10 key supporters emerged. Along with Honeywell and Porter, the group includes Ivan Turner, owner of AeroDry; Donna Deetz, owner of High Street Business and Conference Center; Mike Odneal, manager of Better Business Bureau; Leslie Tanner, Central Bank; Shaun Sappenfield, Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Eric Burgess, Dr. Troy Frank and Kathy Pabst from Lincoln University; and Chris Thompson, University of Missouri.
To decide how they would assist would-be business owners, the group researched various entrepreneurial support programs, such as StartUP Weekends, but none of the available programs seemed to fit Jefferson City. “Jefferson City is very unique,” Honeywell says. “We may not be as far along as some other cities, and we’re definitively a smaller city.” As a result, StartUP Jefferson City was created and initially offered a series of four two-hour events to help individuals develop a successful business plan and sales pitch.
The April 28 event emphasized motivation and featured 17 local business owners who shared their startup experiences. Speaker Bert Doerhoff, C.P.A. and founder of Accubiz, stressed the importance of focusing on helping others: “Whatever business you’re in, you’re really in the business to help others; when you realize that, you’ll start getting where you need to be.”
The May 19 event focused on collaboration. With a variety of business-building experts on hand to answer questions, attendees received individual advice about critical business concerns such as human resources, marketing, legal and insurance issues. Both events also offered numerous opportunities for individuals to network. “There was networking with the people who sat at the tables as well as networking happening with the actual speakers,” Honeywell says.
Carrie Renfrow, independent senior fashion consultant for Beijo Bags, attended both events and says she benefited from the personal attention she received. “Educating myself is important to me,” she says. “The events were great opportunities for anyone interested in expanding or creating a new business.”
With demonstration set as the theme for the next StartUp event on Aug. 18, participants will have the chance to practice and hone their sales pitches before a panel that will provide constructive comments and suggestions. Then in October, following the planned theme of presentation, everyone will have the opportunity to present their business plans and polished pitches to angel investors for a chance of receiving startup money.
“Business is what drives the economy; it’s what hires people, where people go to spend their money,” Honeywell says. “It’s what makes things happen. If one business gets started, research shows that they hire on average about four people.” He adds that a grassroots project such as StartUP Jefferson City can significantly revitalize a local economy.
Although excited about the initial response to their events, StartUP organizers aren’t resting on their laurels. In addition to the event series, which they plan to continue, they are working on additional ways to encourage and support local entrepreneurs. Their website, mainstreetmotivations.com, for instance, provides entrepreneurial advice, local success stories and newsworthy items 24 hours a day, and their new brickand- mortar location at 411 Madison St. gives entrepreneurs a place to meet with mentors by appointment or as walk-ins. Additionally, StartUP is attracting more angel investors interested in investing in new business plans.
Dreams in Jefferson City
In the future, StartUP Jefferson City is hoping to be the first place hopeful entrepreneurs go to for advice, encouragement and support. StartUP organizers believe the community is ripe for an entrepreneurial identity and that those who dream can make their dreams come true in Jefferson City. “StartUP Jeff City is more than just an event,” Honeywell says. “It’s an experience that includes motivational stories, sessions where you can put together your own business plan and ideas to help launch a business. But it’s also a physical place to get advice on the spot or work to incubate your idea. It’s very boot-strappy, but we’re working to refine it. For now, we’re just trying to go with it and see where it leads.”
The Aug. 18 and Oct. 6 events are open to anyone, regardless of whether they attended the first two events, by registering at mainstreetmotivations.com.