Inside the Kit Bond Science and Technology Incubator at Missouri Western State University, regional business facilitators from Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri all found themselves in one room to share their best ideas and practices this week — and they all became one another’s best resource.
A room full of business professionals of many ages and various experiences harbors nothing.
During their day-long time together, they worked in small groups and explained how important networking and targeting surrounding communities helps them facilitate during the most difficult of times for small businesses.
“As we’ve gone through the pandemic, of course, our small businesses have gone through great challenges. We are reenergizing and sharing information to make us the best business facilitators support for the entrepreneurs we serve,” said Annette Weeks, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Western State University.
As facilitators, it’s their job to work with entrepreneurs to figure out what exactly their clients want to do with their ideas. Building a business plan, marketing strategies and helping entrepreneurs find funding resources such as PPP and EIDL for their clients are certainly integral parts to their mission. Before accomplishing that, they have to take a step back and jot down which groups in their communities are able to help them find those clients so they can hit the ground running, and that’s exactly what they were able to do in their small groupings.
Shelbie Berkemeier works for North Central Missouri Business Facilitation, and she knows how important meeting with her local chamber of commerce, commissioners and city council members is for her line of work. She also felt re-emphasizing those relationships during the gathering with her peers will help her find entrepreneurs near her.
“My biggest takeaway today is to build bigger relationships with those officials and they can help submerge me more into those communities and make me feel like a community member myself and then my clients will find it easier to talk to me,” Berkemeier said.
These regional professionals knew where their clients could be found, and after taking the time to write down and present the counties with which they serve, they were pleased to know those surrounding communities are broader than originally thought.
Keli Morris of Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation said the exercises were great for targeting purposes. Morris interacts with what her organization likes to call “dreamers.” Dreamers can be anyone who has an idea worthy of building a business and worthy of pursuance.
Morris said that while sometimes their greatest success can be telling people that those dreams may not be in their best interest before diving in head first, immediately getting back into those communities where those dreamers can be found is still going to be a supreme focus.
“We are seeing more dreamers right now because they’ve had the time to think because they’ve been at home. So I have talked with lots of people that have had just this idea that ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Morris said.
Weeks has reaffirmed these annual meetings will continue to take place because of how much they benefit not only the business professionals in attendance, but the entrepreneurs they serve. Both Berkemeier and Morris agree that the sharing of practices during these annual gatherings made possible by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation will be beneficial to each other’s success.