Small Business | St. Louis Public Radio

Small Business

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.


Jas Thomas of Girls With Goals (left) is the lead organizer of Saturday's Black Business Expo in St. Louis.
Jas Thomas | Girls With Goals

A St. Louis woman saw a need: Black business owners struggling to connect with potential customers. So, she decided to do something about it. Jas Thomas and her organization, Girls With Goals, established the Black Business Expo, which is being held Saturday at Legacy Cafe in St. Louis.

Thomas says the goal of the event is to promote local black-owned businesses among consumers who might not be aware of them.

Entrepreneur and author Rebecca Clark started a company to self-publish her children's book series.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite shrinking income and education gaps between white and non-white families, black families in the United States still trail others in wealth accumulation, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said in a recent report.

Although black wealth increased at a faster rate than white wealth in 2016, blacks still owned less than 10 percent of whites’ wealth, according to the Fed.

Some black women entrepreneurs in St. Louis see starting their own businesses as an avenue to closing the wealth gap within their families and communities.

St. Louis store owners (from left) Vincent Hromadka, Maddie Earnest and Chris Goodson are each familiar with the challenges - and the joys - of running a smaller grocery store in the city.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The small Soulard grocery store that Vincent Hromadka’s grandfather first opened in 1912, shortly after emigrating from Bohemia, has seen its share of challenges over the past century.

From dealing with an influx of much larger competitors, to moving locations in order to make way for a highway, to maintaining customer loyalty, it’s a substantive list of struggles to overcome. But Hromadka also has many reasons for continuing his grandfather’s legacy – and for why their now-106-year-old family business has persisted as long as it has.

“I enjoy what I do,” he told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “My two sons work for me full time, and I’ve got a third son who also comes in, and we try to communicate with our customers and supply them with their needs – if they need something special and we can get it, we will do it.”

Before and after its facelift: Milque Toast Bar, 2212 S. Jefferson Ave., received a Community Development Block Grant to improve its facade.
provided | Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program

Leonard Johnson admits many run-down storefronts in St. Louis could use a facelift. He’d like to help “polish up” each and every one. But, for now, the director of the Neighborhood Commercial District Improvement Program only has a $1-million Community Development Block Grant to improve small-business facades. So, he plans to “spread the love” to businesses in the most underserved areas of the city.

“We understand that development happens downtown and in the central corridor,” Johnson said. “And it rarely spreads into north St. Louis or north city and even deeper in south city. We want to address that and be intentional about that, because that’s where our program had some shortcomings before.”

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.

Exterior of Nebula Coworking.
Nebula

Updated May 9 at 11 p.m. with comment from Sen. Claire McCaskill  — Last year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality, a set of regulations intended to protect internet users. Now, leaders of eight St. Louis co-working spaces are calling on Missouri congressional lawmakers to join national efforts that could reverse the commission’s decision.

Their call came Wednesday as U.S. Sen. Ed. Markey, D-Mass., filed a petition that would force the U.S. Senate to vote on the future of net neutrality. The 2015 regulations bar internet providers from controlling internet speeds, among other things. The Senate must vote by June 12 on whether to allow or block the FCC’s repeal.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner met with business owners in Edwardsville, Illinois on January 16.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged Tuesday to help small business owners by addressing “punishing” high property taxes and “too many” regulations.

Calling taxes and regulations burdens that drive small businesses to the neighboring states of Missouri and Indiana, Rauner said he wants to curtail them to bring businesses back.

“Every challenge we face in Illinois could be overcome if we have faster economic growth,” Rauner said after speaking to business owners in Edwardsville.

The Evening Whirl bills itself as St. Louis' uninterrupted crime-fighting publication for over 79 years.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

For nearly 80 years The St. Louis Evening Whirl has been reporting on crime in a way other news outlets wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do.

The weekly is sold in gas stations, convenience stores and by subscription for $1.50. Readers will find plenty of crime stories told in a distinct style, filled with slang and nicknames. Recent headlines have included “Prosecutor Seeks ‘Big Needle’ in Slaying of Pregnant Teacher” and “D-Boy Throws Bomb at Cops During Getaway.”

The city of St. Clair, Missouri, is issuing permits to help keep some order when it comes to parking as thousands arrive for the eclipse.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Jason Alexander's family has owned the Budget Lodging Hotel in St. Clair, Missouri, for nearly three decades. During that time, only one event has sparked a customer to book a room years in advance.

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.

Alderman Scott Ogilvie, D-24th Ward, is also on board with the business licensing streamline effort.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Small business owners in St. Louis who work exclusively out of their homes will get some relief from regulations under a measure expected to pass the Board of Aldermen on Friday.

The Fashions R Boutique was one of 13 businesses in Dellwood that burned down during Monday's riots following the announcement of the Darren Wilson grand jury decision.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

 

Echoing the mayor of neighboring city Ferguson, the mayor of Dellwood is adding his voice to the criticism of Gov. Jay Nixon and demanding answers in the aftermath of Monday's riots.

Mayor Reggie Jones said Dellwood was promised its business district would be protected by National Guard troopers, but he said "they failed to arrive."

While Ferguson has "gotten more attention," Jones said, his city saw the most damage and he wants to make sure his city also gets the resources it needs to recover. 

(Courtesy Square Inc.)

One of the hurdles small businesses face is the potential loss of a sale if they don't have the infrastructure in place to accept credit card and debit card payments.

St. Louis native Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square Inc., a mobile payments device company, makes that hurdle easier to jump but he says the company has more to offer than concrete tools of the trade.

(via Flickr/pasa47)

The owner of Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis was one of 15 small business owners who met with President Obama today.

Lew Prince is a member of Business for Shared Prosperity, an organization that is pushing Congress to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the top two percent.

Prince says the meeting at the White House this afternoon was unusual because no one was asking for anything for themselves.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

The Third Degree Glass Factory is loaded this weekend with everything from quirky t-shirts to handmade jewelry.

Jessi Cerutti is an organizer for the Rock n’ Roll Craft Show and stands in the back of the room while a band tunes up before serenading shoppers. 

She says they felt the impact of the sluggish economy for a couple of years, but attendance for the annual event, now in its ninth year, has steadily grown.   

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 25, 2012 - Amid the back-and-forth over what President Barack Obama said or meant with his “You didn’t build that” remark, Cathy Bononi of Webster Groves says the key point is that small business owners feel under siege from federal regulations and mandates.

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 appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 13, 2012 - The head of a leading insurance industry trade association tried to reassure consumers on Tuesday that many of its member companies would keep certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act in place even if the law is voided by the Supreme Court.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 11, 2012 - When Victor Washington was growing up in a hardscrabble neighborhood near Union and St. Louis Avenue, he never dreamed of owning a landscaping business, let alone getting free legal help from Lewis, Rice & Fingersh, a prominent law firm downtown. Connections count, even in the world of very small businesses. The lawyer and the landscaper were brought together as a result of an economic development program started by Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 24, 2011 - As area members of Congress have fanned across the state for this month's recess, they're all business. Preferably, small business.

Not town halls.

Republican or Democrat, the common thread is striking.

Nixon: Mo. gets $27 million in incentives program

Mar 22, 2011
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated at 1:10 p.m.  March 22, 2011 with comment from Nixon.

Missouri is receiving $27 million in federal money to boost small business growth and job creation.

The State Small Business Credit Initiative supports state-level, small business lending programs and is part of the Small Business Jobs Act signed by President Obama last fall.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 4, 2011 - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned on Tuesday that repeal of the health-care overhaul law would add to the federal deficit and bring back the "worst abuses of the insurance industry."

Commentary: A government role in job creation

Aug 9, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 9, 2010 - To succeed, small businesses need fertile ground in which to grow as well as protection against predators and unfair competition. Whether we like it or not, government plays the role of "traffic cop" in our economy; ensuring for everyone, including small businesses, that we are headed in the right direction and avoiding calamitous outcomes.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 8, 2010 - This Friday, the unemployment numbers for July were released. This means another month has passed with Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress doing nothing meaningful to address unemployment. Instead, they keep pushing more taxes, more federal spending and more red tape. If we want to encourage job growth, these are exactly the wrong things to do.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 11, 2010 - When Anthem Blue Cross of California recently proposed double-digit hike in some insurance premiums, the news jolted Arlene Zarembka, a lawyer in Clayton. The owner of a solo law practice, Zarembka has watched helplessly as the cost of health insurance has risen over the years for herself and her office employee.

Zarembka was concerned because she usually hears about her own premiums this time of year. But this year, she and other small business owners are getting a little good news about health-care costs for their employees. The federal health-reform law is expected to make insurance more affordable for some small businesses.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 27, 2010 - Timothy McBride was among economists and social scientists who forecast last year that the time was ripe for health reform. That prediction looked like a certainty until last week's Senate race in Massachusetts when Scott Brown, a Republican, was elected to replace the legendary late Sen. Edward Kennedy. The election deprives Senate Democrats of the magic filibuster-proof 60 votes needed to enact a sweeping health-reform bill.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 17, 2009 - Ask small business owners about the U.S. House's health-reform legislation, and some will say it will take them a while to wade through the proposal. That's understandable because the bill is 2,000 pages long and filled with lots of jargon, such as "health-insurance exchange" and "bundling."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 9, 2009 - On the website for his roofing supply company, Crown C Supply in St. Louis, President Mike Connelly takes a friendly, helpful approach to his potential customers:

"I am well aware of the needs of the guys doing the job," Connelly says. "You want to be profitable. You want the job to turn out well. And most of all, you want the job to go smoothly." He ends with a heartfelt message: "We're Here For You."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 21, 2009 - As a second-generation business owner, Jim Henderson, president of Dynamic Sales of St. Louis, knows all about supplying contractors with everything from extension cords and safety goggles to all manner of steel fasteners -- screws, bolts and clamps.

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