City Money to Help Start Business Accelerator Program

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COLUMBIA - Entrepreneurs in Columbia will soon have the chance to work with a program being developed by Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) to help business startups.

The Columbia City Council allocated $150,000 earlier this month to REDI, with an original goal of providing loans for new small businesses. REDI has changed the focus to provide more than loans through a partnership with the University of Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Center.

President of REDI Mike Brooks said the idea is to implement a business accelerator program that would provide funding and training for startups during a summer program launched next year.

"It's a very focused effort in a short period of time," said Brooks. "To help early-stage companies understand their business model, their financial model and the market for their product."

Brooks also said the program is a combination of counseling, consulting, mentoring and a high dose of effort to build businesses to a place where they have greater opportunities for success.

"We're focused on entrepreneurship as a significant way to drive job facilitation in our community. The idea we can grow our own companies, as opposed to recruiting companies in the community, is a very viable and important strategy for job growth," said Brooks.

New entrepreneurs would apply, and a few companies with products or services with the potential to bring money into the community would be selected each year to participate. Companies working out of the downtown business incubator and those participating in REDI's #BOOM Bounce competition would also be candidates.

The director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center, Virginia Wilson, also works with REDI as a resource to help small businesses.

"Through one-on-one counseling, training seminars and workshops, we assist with business plans, financial projections, startup costs and things like that," said Wilson.

Sean Siebert, founder and CEO of Invest Yourself, said he is proud of the amount of accomplishments and success his clients have had through REDI.

"I have been the chairman of the task force for the #BOOM event and the BOOM pitch competition. The Boom event in January reached over 600 people via online and was one of the largest entrepreneurial events in Missouri. We also did the BOOM pitch competition in April where we put together the largest entrepreneurial event for higher education in the state of Missouri. It has created a culture of entrepreneurs--which is really the goal of REDI--to be the young entrepreneurial capital of the United States," said Siebert.

Columbia was recently ranked as second in the nation for small communities as CEO's under the age of 30 from CEO Magazine.

Matt Fisher is the president and founder of SportsFormulator.com, an online website that measures player and team performance and predicts sporting event outcomes. Fisher currently works with REDI and rebuilding his online website.

"REDI has helped me along the way. They don't have any problems with my asking questions and they have helped me map out my strategies of what I plan on doing," said Fisher.

Fisher started his business in December 2012 and has had about 42,000 online visitors and reaches over 150 countries.

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