The Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) is pleased to announce that they are the recipients of a Community Revitalization Grant, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The grant, administered by the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), is focused on investing in communities of all sizes to support local priorities, encourage economic recovery, and build resilience for the future.
OzSBI will use the grant funding to implement a new Start and Grow: Business Mentoring & Training for Success initiative. This program will expand and improve OzSBI’s existing mentoring programs by recruiting mentors from each of the seven counties OzSBI serves; implementing an improved mentor and mentee training program called “We Love Mentors”; creating Office Hours for on-demand counseling with experts in marketing, finance and legal issues; and expanding OzSBI’s outreach in the adjoining communities through business workshops and a robust mentor network.
One-on-one business mentoring provided by trained staff and business professionals is the most-requested service that OzSBI offers. Pre-pandemic requests for these services numbered approximately 120 per year. Last year, OzSBI processed over 350 requests for business assistance. In order to keep up with this demand, OzSBI will hire additional staff to help manage the expanded mentor network and double the number of volunteer mentors in its network.
The purpose of OzSBI’s Start and Grow: Business Mentoring & Training for Success program is to help new businesses access the counseling and resources they need to start a business, and to help existing businesses still experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 to prosper. Funding for this program will help OzSBI create greater economic stability in the entrepreneurial communities throughout the seven-county region. Over the course of this three-year grant program, OzSBI’s goal is to work with 775 businesses and help to create 80 new jobs.
“We are thrilled to be one of the recipients of the Community Revitalization Grant.” said OzSBI CEO Heather Fisher, “This will give us the opportunity to expand our popular mentoring services so we can assist even more business owners in our area. One exciting thing to come out of this will be Pop Up Mentoring for on-demand business counseling throughout our whole service area.”
A total of $100 million was allocated to the Community Revitalization Grant program. A portion of the funding total was reserved for each Missouri region based on population, and OzSBI fell into the Southeast Region, which was awarded a total of $10 million. All applicants were required to contribute at least 50% of the total project costs and the minimum grant amount was $250,000. OzSBI applied for and received $376,992.00, which will fund the Start and Grow: Mentoring & Training for Success program through June of 2026.