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Culture

Ozarks Small Business Incubator Helps Would-Be Business Owners Realize Dreams

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/ozarks-small-business-incubator-helps-would-be-business-owners-realize-dreams_22747.mp3

It’s the quintessential part of the American dream to own your own business…but what if you have no idea where to start?  The Ozarks Small Business Incubator, or OzSBI, will be hosting its grand opening in West Plains next month. OzSBI is a nonprofit organization where start-up entrepreneurs can get some help in the initial stages of creating their businesses.  KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.

Five years ago, the now OzSBI Management Team started planning for a small business incubator that would help people either start a new business, or take an existing business and raise it to the next level. Toney Aid is part of that management team, and works as the director of OzSBI.

“We provide not only space in the incubator, but high-speed internet connections, telephones. We provide all types of classes, we take you through how to a business plan, cash flow. All kinds of things that you need to know before you start a business.”

OzSBI has also already set up a program with Missouri State University-West Plains, giving clients of the incubator a chance to take one business course each semester.

This incubator group actually started with the Downtown West Plains organization in 1998.

During this time, members were restoring the historical buildings in the downtown area. But one old brick building, the Butler Furniture Store, was too big for just one person to buy. So, the organization bought the building, and thus began the plans for the incubator.

“We’ve worked through the help of state and federal grants. So far, we’ve put almost three million dollars into the building. We have all types of shared facilities in there. If you’re a client in there, you can have an office, you can have all types of office equipment that you don’t necessarily need to buy by yourself; they can be shared.”

Also, the business just opened an idea center.  That’s a place where high school seniors or college students can learn how to start businesses of their own.

The idea center is somewhere they can brainstorm with each other, forming better ideas of what they want to do.

“We want to provide the space plus the educational services and mentoring. We want to make people successful. People that open a business on their own, 1 out of 5 is left in business after five years. People that go through incubators, 4 out of 5 remain in business after five years.”

With the grants they have in hand now, the OzSBI team plans to renovate more of the building, and have more conference room and classroom space by next spring.

For more information about the grand opening, or how you can participate in the incubator, you can visit KSMU.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.

For a link to OzSBI's website, click here.