June 23, 2021
Center for Entrepreneurship
DEFINITION: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
What does it take to turn a business idea into a thriving reality? In St. Joseph, the formula for success is well-defined: The spark or “drive” to make it happen; the willingness to make a plan; and the expert-level guidance from the Center for Entrepreneurship, a unique initiative of Missouri Western State University (MWSU).
Founded in 2014, the Center for Entrepreneurship helps train, mentor and support local business owners and budding entrepreneurs. Led by Annette Weeks, a long-time area professional business development expert, the Center’s services can be considered part business coaching; part entrepreneurial think tank; and part support and guidance for the fundamental building blocks of a successful venture.
She adds that many times, the Center receives a “thank you” from clients who have achieved their goals and didn’t even realize they had the skills inside themselves. In fact, in a recent survey, St. Joseph was named #17 in good places to start a small business. Weeks says the ability for the Center for Entrepreneurship to work so proactively within the community for startups, and to determine key points of entry as people seek assistance and advice contributes to this rank. “Small business owners know they have the community support and that we value their contributions and creativity. You don’t find that in every city our size.”
“Our ability to involve the ideas and talent of university students, alongside our own Center leadership, creates a special and impactful program,” says Weeks. “This is a special university and business community partnership – especially because all the services offered are available to community members at no cost to them.”
Outside the classrooms, Weeks explains, there’s s space for the interactions and relationships across the independently-owned shops and restaurants local students enjoy. It creates a kind of synergy that can only become more impactful as new generations of business owners and students come together. “When we create new and exciting businesses that students want to visit, we create an atmosphere where more younger people and younger families can eventually choose to stay and put their talents into.”
“We’ve always been about investing in people as they grow their business. Entrepreneurship is very personal because it involves people’s dreams. Through our work to bring those dreams to life, we also fuel the local economy and keep the creative spark going,” Weeks says. “It’s a privilege to be located at the University campus and to tie our efforts in with student and adult learning opportunities whenever possible.”
As a natural outcome of this work, the Center is also helping fuel the “Grow Prosperity” goal of the Imagine St. Joseph 2040 plan. As Weeks explains, it’s about growing the entire community and one business growth benefits others.
“Prosperity from small business helps boost job creation, boosts our tax base and adds so much personality to our community and uniqueness to our whole region,” she says. “It means more students, individuals and families can choose to build their lives here, and as they bring their own business dreams to life, the cycle just keeps going.”
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