Entrepreneurs | St. Louis Public Radio


Brandin Vaughn lays out fabric to make face masks in his Cherokee Street-based boutique. Demand for the product is soaring, and it's helping him pay the bills until clothing sales pick up.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Brandin Vaughn didn’t intend to get in the mask-making business. In fact, he was kind of dreading it.

“It’s really not something that I like doing. You know, I want to create fashion — I’m a fashion designer,” said the owner of Cherokee Street boutique Brandin Vaughn Collection.

But these days, customers are only calling him for one product — face masks. Vaughn has made nearly 1,000 since reluctantly making one for his aunt in early April.

Arriel Biggs poses for a portrait at St. Louis Public Radio on Oct. 8, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Arriel Biggs always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. But the journey to becoming the founder of Young Biz Kidz, an organization that teaches kids to manage money and run their own business, was not an easy.

In 2010, Biggs and her husband found themselves living paycheck to paycheck even though they were both working full-time jobs. Eventually, they sat down and looked over their finances and found that they were not living in a financially responsible way. In order to get back on track, they decided to move their entire family back in with her parents for 18 months.

Sarah Schlafly, co-founder of Mighty Cricket, measures cricket powder on March 14, 2019 for a batch of dark cocoa oatmeal at Urban Eats Cafe.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah Schlafly isn’t squeamish when it comes to eating insects.

For her, crickets are just “land shrimp.”

The St. Louis-based entrepreneur co-founded Mighty Cricket in 2017, a startup that produces breakfast foods with an unusual addition: crickets. The company now sells several products at local grocery stores and online, including pancake mix, oatmeal and protein powder — all made with powdered, roasted crickets.

Creative Reaction Lab was one of the first winners of the stARTup Creative Competition 2/17/19
Arts and Education Council

Calling all arts entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region: the third-annual stARTup Creative Competition is underway. A $20,000 prize is at stake.

The Arts and Education Council devised the contest to give a boost to new ventures.

Either one winner will receive $20,000, or two will split it. The prize also includes work space in Arts and Education Council’s arts incubator at the Centene Center for the Arts in Grand Center, including internet access and other logistical support.

We the People is Singapore-based retail chain that promotes crowdfuded products.
We the People

When four young entrepreneurs in Singapore realized that they needed to go beyond the internet to sell new products, they opened a store called We The People. The idea was to showcase creations that had gotten off the ground thanks to successful crowdfunding.

We The People opened its sixth store last month in St. Louis at the West County Center shopping mall. It’s the company’s first foray outside of Asia, and it plans to make St. Louis its U.S. headquarters. Founded in 2016, the company expects sales to surpass $1.5 million this year.

Nov. 16, 2018 MADE makerspace opens on Delmar with Jim McKelvey leading effort.
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

Jim McKelvey has come to the rescue of the St. Louis maker movement.

Today, the serial entrepreneur officially opened MADE, a 32,000-square-foot building at 5127 Delmar Blvd., with tools and machines for makers, artists, designers and entrepreneurs.

Microsoft Technology Center opens in Cortex Innovation Community
Melody Walker|St. Louis Public Radio

There have been many ribbon cuttings in the Cortex district this year. The debut of a new MetroLink station, a new building called Innovation Hall and the Aloft Hotel groundbreaking were big events, to name a few. But Wednesday's ribbon cutting at the Microsoft Technology Center had politicians, entrepreneurs and techies buzzing more than usual.

The $50 million, 30,000-square-foot center occupies the entire fifth floor of the new Innovation Hall on Duncan Avenue.  The software giant chose St. Louis to join an elite group of 50 cities around the world to lay claim to one of its tech centers. There are only 15 located in the U.S.

Ag Innovation Showcase marks 10th anniversary

Sep 10, 2018
The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

More than 400 researchers, entrepreneurs and investors are expected to attend Ag Innovation Showcase this week, the 10th year it’s been hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The three-day event has been described as part research conference, part Shark Tank competition, where startups pitch the latest technology to improve crop yields that are safe for farmers, consumers and the environment.

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove. She married at 14, then came to St. Louis at 20, after her first husband died, to join her brothers who worked as barbers.
Madam Walker Family Archives/A'Lelia Bundles

In 1888, a young, African-American woman left Louisiana to join her brothers in St. Louis.

The future Madam C.J. Walker earned a living by doing laundry, then began selling beauty products. Eventually she founded her own company and went on to become one of the nation’s first black, female millionaires. Warner Brothers is producing a TV series for Netflix about her life.

Walker’s time in St. Louis was transformational, according to her great-great granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, who wrote the book on which the series is based.

Aloft hotel breaks ground in Cortex

Jul 25, 2018
Aloft Hotel in Cortex; artist rendering
Cortex Innovation Community

A hotel designed for millennials and young professionals is coming to the Cortex innovation district in St. Louis.


Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the $25 million hotel. St. Louis-based Midas Hospitality and MC Construction are building the 129-room hotel under the “Aloft by Mariott” brand at the corner Boyle and Duncan avenues.


They had a dream - and now local couple has a business and locally made product

Dec 27, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2012 - Mark Harris and Dana Askew-Harris had an idea for a simple gadget that they would call “the easiest way to hold an iPad or tablet since . . . HANDS!” Ten months later, they have an inventory of several thousand that they’re selling at a kiosk at the Galleria. And they’re talking about seeking the necessary capital and distribution agreements to take their product nationwide.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 17, 2012 - Kevin Carroll may be in his early 50s but he doesn’t look like a man pushing middle age.

“I like to tell people I’ve got a little bit of that Benjamin Button gene in me,” said the Philadelphia native with a chuckle.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 2, 2012 - Ronald Reim saw the end coming.

And with it a new beginning.

“Literally, within three or four days, we decided we were going to make a run at this thing,” said the 53-year-old Reim. “We had a company formed and had taken over contracts within about a three-week period of time.”

This article first appear in the St. Louis Beacon, June 20, 2012 - Like a lot of Washington University undergraduates, Raymond Gobberg and Mark Sawyier found it difficult to locate a decent apartment off campus -- a problem that's not particularly unique.

Their solution certainly was.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 9, 2012 - Sam Fiorello sits comfortably in his office at the Danforth Plant Science Center while he relates a story about a search firm that went through a list of hundreds of candidates seeking a position to head a cutting-edge company.

As Fiorello, president of BRDG Park, a local life sciences campus, tells it, the winning candidate noted that he had started six failed companies and he was glad the firm had chosen him despite that.

Genius that begins small

May 9, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 9, 2012 - Soda and beer may have been the beverages of choice, and neither the spartan décor nor the disposable trays of fruit and cheese bespoke luxury, but the amenities weren’t the point. Tuesday afternoon’s Start-up Connection was all about genius that begins small.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 3, 2012 - Where will the next multimillion dollar idea come from? One newly formed area organization is hoping it’s the Gateway City.

And it's putting its money where its mouth is.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 2, 2012 - Christine Walsh has often seen entrepreneurs display twin streaks of creativity and drive in her role as executive director of Invest Midwest. She recalls an evening when she found an entrepreneur who was preparing a presentation for investors to be given the following day. He was standing not behind, but atop a podium which he had turned on its side and labeled to look like a bar of Dial soap.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 21, 2011 - As a youth, Brian Risinger made money mowing and caring for lawns.

Now 25, Risinger has an undergraduate degree. But unlike many business students who applied for jobs at some of St. Louis's largest corporations, he stuck with the business he knows best: lawn care.