Springfield, Missouri Entrepreneurship Has A Home Called The efactoryDonette Lowe
The Queen City of the Ozarks is home to Pineapple Whip (look for the hula girl on top), cashew chicken (much different than your average carryout version) and an innovation center for multiple business-building resources that has become a household name for anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship. Yes, it’s here, in Springfield, Missouri, that you’ll find the efactory.
efactory came to town in 2013 as a part of the IDEA Commons District, an initiative headed by Missouri State University, the City of Springfield and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce / Springfield Business Development Corporation. It’s truly an urban innovation park. The building itself is a former poultry-processing plant, reinvented as a multi-floor innovation hub, shared with the university’s cooperative engineering department. It is also homebase for several entrepreneurship resource organizations: Missouri Small Business Development Center at Missouri State University, Missouri Office of Procurement Technical Assistance – Springfield, Minorities in Business, Missouri Enterprise – Southwest Missouri and Metropolitan Springfield, Rosie, SCORE – Southwest Missouri.
Designed to assist with incubation and growth of small businesses, efactory offers continuing education and business consulting for established businesses and provides a network of professionals ready to help at every business stage.
“We are the front door to entrepreneurship,” says Rachel Anderson, director of the efactory. “If you have an idea, or if you’re already in business and you need help growing your business, come here, and we can help you out.”
As one of the many Resource Partners in the MOSourceLink network, efactory recently opened its doors for our quarterly Resource Partner meeting. We took the time to chat with Rachel about efactory and why she does what she does.
MOSourceLink: What do you do here at efactory?
Rachel Anderson (RA): I joined the team almost five years ago. When I came on, we were just getting started and now we’ve been fully occupied for over two years and are home to more than 45 companies. I have been able to be part of building the efactory into what it is today. On your average day, I do a little bit of everything from working directly with entrepreneurs to operations. Each day is truly different and fulfilling.
I love meeting with clients and helping them solve problems. I like to think of the efactory as Springfield’s startup. We do whatever we can to help the companies coming out of the efactory succeed.
MOSourceLink: At what point in an entrepreneur’s business journey should they stop at efactory?
RA: I’m going to say all of them. I think everyone’s a little bit different, in terms of when you’re ready to talk to somebody, or when you’re ready for assistance. Through our suite of programs at the efactory (Small Business Development Center at MSU, Management Development Institute, Rosie), we can assist you no matter what stage you’re at – whether you have an idea and are just getting started or have a small business and are looking to grow. When you’re ready for help, we’re ready to help you.
MOSourceLink: When an entrepreneur comes to efactory and they say, “Rachel, I need your help,” what are the questions they usually ask you, and then what are the questions they should be asking you?
RA: It’s interesting to talk to so many different founders and see the similarities, but also differences. I think a lot of people are looking for free money, right? “Can I get a grant?” Financing is one thing that people often ask about, and should be asking about. Instead of asking, “Is there a grant?”, however, they should be asking, “What are my financing options?”
Another one that people should ask: “What can my network look like?” Because the reality of entrepreneurship is that your success depends on the people you surround yourself with. Your network is your source for your first customers, partners, mentors and even investors. At the efactory, that network is built into who we are and resources we provide for entrepreneurs. From introductions to collaborations, we definitely should get asked more about networking. Relationships are everything!
MOSourceLink: What’s the next resource entrepreneurs head to after working with efactory?
RA: After they come to the efactory their next stop is usually with one of our offerings or a resource partner. We were intentional about putting support services under one roof to better serve clients and make it easier to get help starting and growing your business.
We also work very closely with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Springfield.
MOSourceLink: Tell us about Springfield, Missouri?
RA: I love it! I grew up here, left for about 10 years, spent some time in Columbia, Missouri, and then Los Angeles, and New York and came back about 6 years ago. And Springfield, to me, is the best place. It’s easy to start and grow a business here.
The community is collaborative, which isn’t the case everywhere. And people are willing to take a chance on you. We’ve had some success stories, with companies like Bass Pro, and O’Reilly Auto Parts; name brand companies who got their start here in Springfield.
Executives in our community are accessible and want to be engaged with entrepreneurs. Some of the larger companies are willing to take startups on as clients, and they value the importance of their role.
Even just how the efactory came about – the role Missouri State University plays in our community and our commitment to economic development and how we work closely with the City of Springfield, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and all the players in our community.
MOSourceLink: How have you seen Springfield change over the years?
RA: When I first moved back about six years ago, I was working remotely for a human capital consulting/retained executive search firm as well as my own tech startup. Not many people I ran into had a tech startup or even knew somebody that worked at a tech startup. That’s changed.
We’ve come a long way – technology has really democratized entrepreneurship and opened up that opportunity for anyone.
That said, entrepreneurship is still very local, especially when you’re trying to raise funds. It’s still hard for local tech companies to take on financing, whether that’s a traditional bank loan or taking on investment. That’s a conversation we’re still having. That’s why we started our accelerator program, so that we could help get those companies capital and start their company here in Springfield instead of leaving our community.
MOSourceLink: You guys do a lot for entrepreneurs in Springfield, but let’s get to the core. Why do you do what you do, Rachel?
RA: I moved away to Los Angeles to try and get the opportunity I thought home was missing. I thought I would get to know people “doing” things like the Elon Musk’s of the world, or get to go to all these “cool” events where all of the movers and shakers were, but found myself reading Fast Company Inc., Forbes, etc. and finding that my Missouri connections were the ones that I was actually looking for, the people that were doing the “cool” things. I wanted to move back here and be a part of everything. There’s a lot of energy, opportunity and momentum right now in our community. I feel like I was afforded a lot of opportunity in my life, and want to help make sure other people have that opportunity.
For me, it’s about community connections, relationships. Anything really is possible. And in Springfield, people really are willing to work with you and take a chance on you. Springfield, Missouri – where dreams come true!