Connecting budding entrepreneurs and the resources to own a business has been the mission of Missouri Western State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship for the last five years.
The center, housed in the Craig School of Business, was founded by Annette Weeks and offers consultations for current business owners, people wanting to start a business and those looking to buy an existing business.
“Over 580 entrepreneurs have come through the center here in those five years,” Weeks said. “We have over 58 businesses that we’ve helped start. It’s just a joy to drive around town or walk around town and see the different ones that’s been started through the Center for Entrepreneurship.”
Weeks has been involved with starting several businesses herself and helped found the Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation, a nonprofit organization offering free business coaching.
“It was a natural flow for me to then come in and start the Missouri Western Center for Entrepreneurship and really just replicate the model of what I’d done before,” Weeks said.
People seeking assistance range from current business owners looking for advice to people who know they want to own a business but are unsure what it should and those who come in with a business plan already in hand. No matter what kind of consultation is needed, it is always free.
“It’s Missouri Western’s way of giving back to the community through this economic development way,” Weeks said. “As they had been working with the community, they identified it was the small businesses that they saw needed the most help. So they wanted a way also to bridge the School of Business with the community. So a Center for Entrepreneurship was a perfect match for that.”
Students in the School of Business taking senior classes have the chance to assist in business consultations. Some of those students later return in order to start their own business.
One of them is Justin Myers, who met Weeks when he took an applied learning class that gives students the opportunity to compete for their own franchise business. While Myers did not win a franchise store, he met Weeks and learned of a paint business for sale through her.
“(Weeks) presented me with this because of my background, working for my dad as a kid, painting houses, repairing houses, and then also retail leadership, that kind of became a natural progression of the combination,” Myers said.
Myers bought the business in 2015 and renamed it Heartland Paint. Even though Myers studied business at Missouri Western, the center was a big help when he took over the store.
“When it came to funding or guidance, even through just preparing different aspects of the business outside of the paint, just the fundamentals of admin or accounting, they really help put the right connections together,” Myers said.
Myers has joined the center’s steering committee and gives guidance to others who are in the same shoes he was four years ago.
“There’s a whole ecosystem of entrepreneurs that we start to build, and then connections and different things that come from those relationships that I really enjoy,” Myers said. “It’s not necessarily like giving back, but it’s community building among one another.”