February's Business Brief

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Lauching Businesses

By Heather W. Fisher

According to the Bloomberg Financial website, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn. The Small Business Administration is not quite so grim. Their research puts the number closer to 50%, with half of small businesses surviving for five years or more and around a third surviving for more than 10 years. Why is the failure rate so high for small businesses? 

Many are undercapitalized. They are not realistic about how long it will take to turn a profit and lack capital to carry them during their lean startup years. Others have not tested the market feasibility of their idea before investing their life savings or quitting their job. They just went for it with a head full of ideas and no real plan. 

LaunchU seeks to remedy this problem. So what is LaunchU? LaunchU is an intensive 36 hour program designed to help entrepreneurs test the feasibility of their idea before they invest time and money in their venture. It helps existing businesses create a plan for profitability and growth. LaunchU challenges entrepreneurs to analyze their business from every angle.They must clearly define their product and services, research customer demand and industry trends, identify their target markets, develop marketing strategies, determine their start-up and operating costs, understand their break-even, profitability, and develop cash flow projections.

The LaunchU curriculum was developed by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, one of the largest private foundations in the US, whose primary goal is to foster entrepreneurship.OzSBI has offered this program six times in the past and graduated 60 entrepreneurs from it; some of whom have gone on to develop and expand businesses like Scans-4-U, Wages Brewing Company, West Plains Lock and Key, and Platinum Salon Tampa.

Once again the lights are burning late at the Ozarks Small Business Incubator. Since February 4th, 15 entrepreneurs have been meeting weekly from 6 to 9 pm to create a plan for their business ideas. These entrepreneurs drive from 5 cities and 3 counties (Howell, Oregon, and Texas) to participate in OzSBI’s LaunchU program.They include 4 students from West Plains High School, a young man taking over a family business, an individual rebooting his manufacturing company, and entrepreneurs selling products and services online and in storefronts.

The synergy is infectious and the work is challenging, but they are up to the task. LaunchU is truly a community effort with guest speakers, sponsorships and facilitators coming from West Plains Bank and Trust, FundRaiser Software, Ray & Fisher Attorneys, Great Scrubs and More, West Plains Noon Rotary, West Plains Lion Club, Downtown Antiques, University of Missouri Extension Howell County and Ozark Action. As Ewing Kauffman said, “All the money in the world cannot solve problems unless we work together. And if we work together, there is no problem in the world that can stop us, as we seek to develop people to their highest potential.”  

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