Entrepreneurship | St. Louis Public Radio

Entrepreneurship

The technology startup incubator in downtown St. Louis is currently home to nearly 230 businesses. About 40 others got their start at T-REX and have moved to other locations throughout the region.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Arch Grants is only 6 years old, but to date it has awarded more than $6 million in cash grants that have helped launch more than 100 companies.

Arch Grants is a non-profit organization that attracts and supports startup companies to St. Louis with its Global Startup Competition. The group released its annual report Tuesday, full of testimonials from startup founders, graphs and lots of numbers.  

Tony and Jack Erker are fifth-generation opticians who are challenging online vendors with a brick-and-mortar experience where customers can watch frames being made in a mini factory. June 2018
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

Brothers Jack and Tony Erker did not want to go into the family optical business.

They spent years pursuing other careers to take them far from the shop at Sixth and Olive streets in downtown St. Louis, where it all started in 1879. But it’s hard to resist five generations of history, not to mention the entrepreneurial DNA embedded in their genes.

This spring Jack and Tony opened Copper Hinge, a brick-and-mortar optical shop in the Delmar Loop.    The brothers envisioned a new way to sell eyeglasses, one that’s not available online or in other stores.

Flickr | Paul Sableman

In a Brookings Institution study of 70 older industrial cities, St. Louis ranks among the ones with stronger economies that are making progress on the road toward renewal and reinvention.

“It’s been one of the stronger economies in terms of job creation, in terms of good job creation,” explained Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and co-author of the study. 

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

Estie Cruz-Curoe knows black beans.

The Cuban native came to the United States in the early 1960s and grew up in Miami, where her mother added a Cuban mix of spices to canned black beans. But when Cruz-Curoe moved to the Midwest as an adult, she could no longer find the right black beans.

The summit gives entrepreneurs with big ideas to chance to connect directly to advisers who have been through the startup process and investors who are looking for the next big thing. This discussion took place at the 2016 event.
Missouri Venture Forum

Investors and entrepreneurs from throughout the region are gathering in St. Louis today for what organizers are describing as a "boot camp" for startups. The Missouri Venture Forum is organizing the summit designed to help people who have an idea, but no concept of how to launch a company. The group’s president says it helps strengthen the region’s startup sector and emulate some hotbeds that took years to develop.

Obinno Coley is the entrepreneurship teacher at Normandy High School.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Obinno Coley’s first day as a student teacher at McCluer North, his supervisor had to leave when his wife went to the hospital to have a baby.

“He gave me a book and said: ‘you’re on your own,'” Coley told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Monday. “I worked with that book for the next three months and at the end of it I said ‘wherever I go, I will bring this with me.’”

Dan Lauer, Allison Bischoff and Brian Dixon joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about entrepreneurship in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

A new business accelerator program seeks to put entrepreneurs on a fast track to advancing innovative energy solutions.

The application deadline to the competitive Ameren Accelerator program is May 12th.

Each year for the next three years, five to seven recipients will receive office space in the Cortex Innovation Community and $100,000 in exchange for 8 percent equity in the company – all told, about $1 million in perks and benefits that are part of the highly structured 12-week program.

Natalie Clay, a program coordinator at Bio STL, is managing a new collaborative focused on making the local startup community more inclusive to women and people of color.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

Even though St. Louis’ tech startup scene is growing, it is not always the most inclusive environment for women and people of color. A group of 12 local nonprofits and government organizations want to change that. 

It's called the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective. Members range from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership to Arch Grants. Their goal is to help ensure women and men of color have equal access to everything an entrepreneur needs, from capital to business support services.  

Calvin Payne, 44, stands in his newly leased space for CQ Custom Designs in the Grove neighborhood.  11/18/16
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Weaving between an ensemble of printers and T-shirt presses kept in the back of a tattoo parlor, Calvin Payne fills custom orders from all over the country.

“These shirts are going to Tupelo, Mississippi. And those other shirts are going to Millington, Tennessee,” Payne said, pointing to packages sitting on the counter. “I do a lot of breast cancer awareness shirts… and these are my favorite, because I know that they go for a good cause.”

Payne started his printing business while working as a server at Sweetie Pie’s restaurant in the Grove neighborhood, buying equipment with his savings and learning how to use it with tutorials on YouTube. This month, the 44-year-old entrepreneur is moving CQ Custom Designs into his own storefront for the first time.

Tom Cohen, Christine Karslake, and Phyllis Ellison joined Don Marsh in studio Monday to dicsuss events in St. Louis during Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

If you’ve heard St. Louis referred to as hub for entrepreneurship and want to find out more for yourself, this is a good week to do it.

St. Louis is hosting two major events for Global Entrepreneurship Week. On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the STL Export Accelerator will take place at Saint Louis University’s John Cook School of Business from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

BYU-Hawaii Enactus students hold their 2015 championship trophy.
Enactus | provided

Updated May 19 with winning team — The La Sierra University Enactus team was chosen as the 2016 National Champion.

Two thousand college students from all across the country are in St. Louis through Tuesday for a socially-minded business competition called the Enactus National Expo.

The Enactus university teams are the winners of their regional expos and are competing for the title of national champion by presenting their projects to corporate executives who evaluate the impact of their work.

LockerDome Downtown Office
LockerDome

The Missouri Technology Corporation gets lots of praise for helping boost business creation in Missouri. But it’s not clear whether the legislature will reward it with more funding.

The nonprofit, funded partially by the state, helps promote entrepreneurship. It has provided $24 million in equity investments to 70 startups in the state since 2010.

Sparo Labs co-founders Abby Cohen (left) and Andrew Brimer (middle) spoke about entrepreneurship in St. Louis with Arch Grants' executive director Ginger Imster (right).
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Sparo Labs is a good poster child for where entrepreneurial spirit can take you in St. Louis. Co-founders Andrew Brimer and Abby Cohen went to Washington University together—Brimer is a St. Louis native, and Cohen moved from Michigan—and generated the idea for their product, the Wing, in their last year of college.

Maxim Schillebeeckx and Brett Maricque, back row far left, stand with the Balsa Foundation's Entry Program Finalists: Patrice Hill, JaNay Holmes, Talah Alem, Chico Weber, Andrew Yee, Bernard Mallala, Tom Spudich and Brad Postier.
J.R. Johnson / Courtesy of the Balsa Foundation

Do you have a business idea? A student-led nonprofit wants to help, and is offering free advice for St. Louis entrepreneurs.

The Balsa Group is led by Washington University graduate student volunteers who help advise St. Louis biotech and life-science companies at a discounted rate.

LockerDome

The startup scene in St. Louis is grabbing more national attention as the calendar year begins.

Revolution LLC

A high-profile entrepreneur is calling on the community to do more to support St. Louis-area startups.

"We just need to tell that story. That’s not to say that Silicon Valley won’t continue to be great and New York City isn’t great and Boston isn’t great, but St. Louis is great too," said A-O-L Co-Founder Steve Case during a stop on Friday at Washington University.

"There should be some degree of skepticism when people are talking about new ideas, but give entrepreneurs the benefit of the doubt."

Courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis

Paul Sorenson was working his way toward a master’s degree from Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work when he kept bumping into the same questions over and over again.  

As an intern for the nonprofit health-care provider Grace Hill, Sorenson was supposed to connect poor families with resources that could help get them caught up on rent and utility bills. But what if one of these agencies  had its funding reduced, moved its offices or was no longer open?  

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

 This is how the conversation usually goes when Dejah Cox tells her friends she has a job.

“They’re like, ‘oh really, what do you do?’” they’ll ask her.

Dejah: “I’m a beekeeper.”  

“They’re like, ‘no!’” Dejah said with a chuckle.  “They’re shocked.”

On a recent Saturday morning, the teenager donned full beekeeper regalia and flipped open the top of a hive in a vacant lot in north St. Louis.  The honey she harvests will be used for an array of products, from lotions to body butter under the label Honey Masters.  

Maria Altman (St. Louis Public Radio)

All but a handful of the 20 Arch Grants winners will be making a move, some farther than others.

While six companies already are based in St. Louis, two of the startups are coming from London, England, and another from Cali, Colombia. The rest will relocate from Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Columbia, Mo.

The global startup competition gives each winning business $50,000 and free support services, in exchange for moving to St. Louis for at least a year. The clock will begin ticking July 1.

(Flickr/Philip Leara)

It’s Tuesday, that magical day of the week when our thoughts turn to questions of economics, business, innovation, technology … and related topics that tickle our fancy but we haven’t been able to report on ourselves. It’s the day we say, “Don’t think we haven’t been paying attention, dear reader,” and we share some the things we’ve been reading on topics of interest. 

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