March's Business Brief


Celebrating our Entrepreneurs

By Heather W. Fisher

Down our regional back roads and hidden in plain sight are many great businesses. Businesses right here are creating innovative products from the plastic tanks that every penny in the Unites States is dipped into to methane flares that grace landfills around the world. One local manufacturer even produced a part that was used on the space shuttle. Other Ozarks businesses have found unique niches selling movie posters, improving the hiring practices of corporations nationwide, and making handmade baby bonnets for photography props.


Celebrating the many businesses that call the Ozarks home is what the Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) will be doing on Tuesday, May 2, when it hosts EPIC 17.  EPIC ("Entrepreneur Potential and Innovation Collaboration”) takes place during National Small-Business Week, which since 1963 has recognized the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small-business owners. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. Those businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year. 


EPIC is designed to inspire entrepreneurs and business owners to grow their businesses. We will be celebrating successful regional businesses with our Ozark Innovators Roundtable, featuring nearby companies like Sun Solar in Houston, MO (listed as No. 156 in INC magazine’s 500 fastest growing private companies in the US) and Piney River Brewery in Bucyrus.

For even more inspiration, Ellen Rohr, a nationally recognized Business Makeover Expert, will be our keynote speaker. Rohr has appeared as a business advisor on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. After a rocky start managing a plumbing business in Rogersville, she learned how to succeed by making her business less complicated. Rohr now owns Bare Bonez Biz, where she teaches other business owners how they too can uncomplicate their organizations. To see a video of Ellen Rohr, visit OzSBI’s Facebook page.

As an example of how important motivation is to a business, Gary Wilbers has been the owner of multiple businesses in Missouri since 1990.  Wilbers will be our second keynote speaker. The first business Wilbers built was Mid-American Wireless, started as a two-man company, which culminated in ten regional storefronts and over 150 employees. Using this success as a foundation, he created “The High Achiever Mindset,” a program to train others to achieve their goals.


To see what new businesses are emerging locally, EPIC will also feature a Pitch Competition. This “Shark Tank”-style business competition will feature six individuals pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes and business mentoring. This year we will feature two rounds of pitches, one exclusive to Missouri State University-West Plains students and the other featuring community members. This exciting event is fun to watch. 


And of course a Small Business Celebration would not be complete without a business mixer. EPIC will end on OzSBI’s newly renovated second floor featuring local wine, beer and food. This is a chance to network with the speakers of the day and celebrate our truly innovative business commmunity.  


To learn more about EPIC 17 and register for the event, you can visit OzSBI’s website at

An event like EPIC would not be possible without the generous contributions of our sponsors. OzSBI would like to thank this year’s Presenting Sponsors: Community First Banking Company, KY3 and Restoring Hope; our Contributing Sponsors: Donahue Roofing and Air MedCare Network; and our Presenting Sponsors: Kemmons Insurance – John Coleman, Grisham Properties, Inspire Capital, Landmark Bank, Shelter Insurance--Dave Thomas, Arvest Bank and John Adams Construction.  


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