“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance…” --Steve Jobs
The founder of Apple may not have been from the Ozarks, but Steve Jobs’s assertion has never been proven truer than it has been here in the last few weeks.
According to the City of West Plains, the flooding in April affected 129 businesses in West Plains, not to mention the countless businesses in Thomasville, Mountain View, Eminence, and Ozark County. On a recent float trip down the North Fork River with outfitter Sunburst Ranch, I saw firsthand the extent of the devastation both to the river and those who resided and operated businesses there. I had seen an aerial video of Sunburst Ranch after the flood, but it was still shocking to see the campground wiped clean, and trees, cabins and the camp store all swept away. What I found in its place was a bright yellow storage building set up as a temporary office, crowded with people renting kayaks. The proprietor, Amy Spencer, showed her unflappable spirit of “we will build again!” Amid the devastation, resilience and perseverance never flailed.
By now, most businesses have cleaned up their locations and the “open for business” signs are up. Others, that experienced complete devastation, have moved to new locations. The Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) was able to provide temporary offices to two flood refugees, providing them furnished office space until they could get back on their feet. Fortunately, our building did not take on water. The night of the flood, Toney Aid, our CEO, watched as water came within two inches of flooding our building.
The Monday after the flood was the day before OzSBI’s biggest event of the year, EPIC. This half-day event is our celebration of National Small Business Week and brings together entrepreneurs from across the region. We had speakers coming in from Jefferson City, Rogersville and Houston, as well as 65 people signed up to attend. That morning we did not know whether to hold EPIC. We called our guest speakers and they all said the same thing, “If the entrepreneurs will come, we will be there.” With that attitude, we went on to hold EPIC to an even larger crowd than the previous year. Entrepreneurs from across the region braved downed bridges and detours to spend the afternoon with us to be inspired to grow their businesses. Once again the spirit of resilience and perseverance shown in the face of adversity.
And finally, in another show of OzSBI’s own spirit of perseverance, we renovated the second floor. It was a major renovation, one of five in my seven years working with OzSBI. Through the tireless efforts of Toney and our board, we completed an additional 10,500 square feet of space that includes five large offices, a large meeting room, kitchenette and coworking space, as well as an elevator. Coordinating federal funding, local fundraising, contractors and architects, while still operating, has been a challenge, but we have persevered and the space is now complete and ready for use.
We are excited to show off this space that will serve us all, and invite the community to an Open House of our Second Floor on July 25 at 5:30 pm. This will be a true celebration of perseverance, and the entrepreneurial spirit of our clients, donors and board.