OzSBI Business Brief
By Heather W. Fisher
The Ozarks Small Business Incubator is starting its sixth year of operation in West Plains, yet we still meet people who don’t know what we do. We hope through this monthly column to dispel some of the mystery and to celebrate the amazing companies we support. The Ozarks Small Business Incubator or as we like to call it OzSBI is a nonprofit business resource center. Simply put we help businesses grow. We work with both existing businesses and entrepreneurs with new ideas. We work with business of all kinds from industry and manufacturing to medical, IT, professional services, retail and food related businesses.
How does OzSBI help businesses grow? OzSBI provides mentoring, money, training and all-inclusive office space. Some businesses join us as tenant clients. They occupy one of the 21 offices located in the incubator and work with a team of business mentors to set milestones to propel their business toward success. They also receive free of charge business workshops, monthly networking events, and promotion of their business. Other businesses join OzSBI as an Affiliate Client. They receive the same benefits but are located outside our facility. This program enables us to work with growing business like Paintmasters Collision Repair, Great Scrubs and More, Wages Brewing Company, Healthy Lifestyles, VoxDis and Suit 7 Development.
Many of our clients take advantage of OzSBI microloan program. To date OzSBI has loaned over $279,000 to 15 businesses. You do not have to be a client to utilize OzSBI’s microloan program or to attend our monthly free Lunch & Learns and business workshops. These are open to the public. Our goal is to improve the business acumen, supervisory skills and leadership ability of business owners and professionals so they can more effectively and profitably run their companies.
Some may wonder why spend so much energy supporting small businesses. Well, small businesses are the engine that propels America’s economy, and the impact to our economy and the workforce is by no means small. They create more jobs than any other group of businesses in the United States. Small businesses make up 99.7% of US employer firms and 64% of net new private-sector jobs, according to the Small Business Administration. When you consider theses statistics, it’s obvious that what is “small” can be a relative term. For that reason, it’s important to understand how the term “small business” is defined and what that means for West Plains.
The Small Business Administration defines a small business as any company with fewer than 500 employees. By this definition, most employers in West Plains and the surrounding area would be considered small. To better understand the contribution of small businesses by size, Jobenomics, a grassroots small business advocacy group, has segmented them by size and found that over the last ten years (2006-2016) small businesses with less than 499 employees created 9-times more jobs than large businesses with over 500 employees. Moreover, microbusinesses, those with less than 19 employees, created 9-times more jobs than large institutions with over 1,000 employees.
While a robust industrial sector is important to prosperity, microbusinesses should not be overlooked as an economic driver. Locally, microbusinesses include everything from manufacturers of steel buildings to a mobile x-ray business and a microbrewery. These businesses are locally grown by individuals with roots in our community. They are the fabric of our community and are what make it strong. The prosperity of these businesses hinge on local patronization and utilization.
In order for microbusinesses to continue be an engine of economic growth, there must be new business startups. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of private sector’s net new jobs are created by startup businesses minus closures. Chuck Vollmer with Jobenomics was right when he said, “Business startups are the seed corn of the U.S. economy. Without the planting and fertilization of these seedlings the fields of American commerce would remain fallow.”
How as a community can we support new startups? By putting the tools of smart business development in the hands of entrepreneurs; helping them determine the feasibility of their idea before they invest time and money into it; encouraging them to create a business plan with cash flow projections; and letting them know the value of working with a business mentor who can help them navigate the roadblocks and create a pathway to smart growth.
The Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) is a community resource. It is a nonprofit whose sole purpose is to help businesses grow. As the 9th incubator in the state and one of only a handful in rural Missouri, it is the go to place for small businesses, both existing and startup and from all industry sectors. OzSBI works with businesses of all size. According to the SBA, they are all small, but they are making a big impact. Since opening our doors in 2012, OzSBI has helped start over 70 new businesses, created over 235 new jobs, and trained 1200 individuals. To learn more about what OzSBI does and how it can help your business, visit our website at www.ozsbi.com or come by for a tour at 408 Washington Avenue in downtown West Plains.