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A group of entrepreneurs after the Ozarks Small Business Incubator pitch competition in the Ozarks, Missouri

National Small Business Week Was Done Right in the Ozarks

A virtual reality game that is actually physical therapy, an app that allows freelance writers to document their submissions and a maternity and children’s boutique: what do these have in common? They are all rural entrepreneurs that recently participated in a pitch competition right here in Missouri.

The Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI) hosted its fifth annual National Small Business Week celebration on May 9.

For context, OzSBI is one of our many Resource Partners that are dedicated to helping aspiring entrepreneurs and established business owners grow their businesses with low- and no-cost services. OzSBI offers low-interest microloans that can be used as direct loans, seed capital or gap funding for several areas of need. Celebrating National Small Business Week, OzSBI hosted it’s fifth annual celebration on May 9, entitled EPIC 19 (that’s Entrepreneur Potential and Innovation Collaboration) with more than 60 attendees.

OzSBI’s guests had a full day of affirming and inspiring moments, starting with EPIC 19’s keynote speaker, Ellen Rohr. Nationally recognized as the “Business Makeover Expert,” Ellen’s presentation included tips on “Rockin’ Referral Marketing.” She has written for The Huffington Post and the New York Times and appeared as a business advisor on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. After nearly sinking her husband’s plumbing business, Ellen learned how to grow her business by tracking the numbers, resulting in a company that grew from zero to $40 million in franchise sales and 47 location in less than 2 years.

Attendees also had the opportunity to hear the journeys of three Ozark innovators at a round-table discussion. This year’s featured innovators were Melanie Stinnett of TheraCare Outpatient Services in Springfield, Phil Wages of Wages Brewing Company and Autumn Shirley of Fundraiser Software, both located in West Plains. Innovators discussed what they faced when starting their own business and what it took to become successful, giving those in attendance tangible advice and encouragement.

If that wasn’t phenomenal enough, EPIC 19 also included a Community Business Pitch Competition. Each participating entrepreneur presented a six-minute pitch to a panel of judges for a chance to win a first-place prize with a cash value of $350, professional mentoring sessions and one year of coworking space at OzSBI. Alice Barnes placed first with her pitch to create a virtual reality game to be used for physical therapy. Dave Malone placed second with The Write Track, a mobile and web-based service for writers to log and track submissions, and Rose Martin placed third with Little Llama and Mama Boutique, a maternity and children’s clothing boutique.

The day’s events were rounded out with the presentation of OzSBI’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Award and a Mix & Mingle on OzSBI’s newly renovated second floor. Determined by a People’s Choice vote during the event, Nadine Enlow of Spring Dipper, a local ice cream parlor in West Plains, took home the honor. The Mix & Mingle gave even more space for entrepreneurs and business owners to connect and take home new found collaborators as well as all the other gems from the day.

EPIC 19 was sponsored by Community First Banking Company, Fidelity Communications, AirMedCare, ABC Carpet One, Norman Orr Office Supply, Donahue Roofing, Inc., Adams Construction, Arvest Bank, The Fisher Firm, State Farm – Ramona Heiney, and Welch, Couch & Company, PA.

Cheers to OzSBI on another success National Business Week celebration!


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