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Entrepreneurs play a vital role in economic development as key contributors to technological innovation and new job growth. Further, entrepreneurs help build communities in ways such as providing jobs, conducting business locally, creating and participating in entrepreneurial networks, investing in community projects, and giving to local charities. Realizing both the economic and social impact of entrepreneurship, many states and local communities have implemented aggressive strategies aimed at cultivating and nurturing entrepreneurs.
In order for governments to effectively develop policies that will foster entrepreneurship, they must first understand the difference between entrepreneurs and small business owners, common misconceptions about entrepreneurs, and where entrepreneurs are located. Using this information, combined with entrepreneurial strategies outlined by the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, state governments can develop specific and effective measures to support entrepreneurs.
While cursory inspection shows entrepreneurial growth companies (EGCs) and small business owners have a lot in common, there are certain distinct differences between the two. Controlled growth and continued profitability are the goal for many small businesses while EGCs are generally geared toward rapid growth and productivity gains. In addition, EGCs often have significant economic effects on a community, accounting for a large portion of new job growth, making the support of them essential.
To better understand entrepreneurs, several common myths must also be dispelled. Though there are always exceptions, most of the common perceptions of entrepreneurs do not apply to most EGCs. Common myths cite that entrepreneurs: take uncalculated risks; start companies with a break-through invention; have years of experience in their industry; have detailed business plans with extensive research; and start the company with ample financial resources. In fact, most of these factors are rarely the entrepreneurial norm.
Since entrepreneurs provide significant economic and social benefits, and can be found in nearly every industry sector in every Labor Market Region in the country, many states have implemented entrepreneur-friendly policies in an effort to support local entrepreneurial efforts. Leading states have specific entrepreneurial goals incorporated into their strategic plans. Several entrepreneurial strategies for state's have emerged as best practices identified by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.
Entrepreneurship in Missouri
Missouri has a variety of programs available for the entrepreneur and/or small business owner, many of which are in line with the best practices listed above. The Missouri Small Business Network is a comprehensive collection of resources for those starting or operating a business. Resources in the network include the Small Business Start-Up Kit, the Missouri Small Business Assistance Center, University of Missouri Outreach and Extension services, Missouri Small Business Development Centers, Small Business Incubators, the Missouri Innovation Center, as well as many others.
Missouri entrepreneurs seeking capital can turn to the Missouri Finance Network website that provides summaries of financial programs and incentives available through the Department of Economic Development (DED) and other federal, state and local financial programs. The network makes summaries of various DED programs available along with downloadable application forms for most of the programs. Some Missouri programs include the Small Business Incubator Tax Credit Program and the Action Fund Loan Program.
Other Missouri efforts to foster entrepreneurship involve streamlining securities regulation through programs designed to simplify the process of quickly raising relatively small amounts of capital and participating in multi-state securities offering procedures. In addition, several Missouri universities offer programs specifically geared toward entrepreneurs, including St. Louis University’s award-winning entrepreneurship education website.
Despite the extent of these programs, Missouri can still do more to support entrepreneurs in the state. To become a national leader in entrepreneurship, Missouri should consider implementing some of these suggestions: continuing to focus on helping entrepreneurs gain access to venture capital; incorporating entrepreneurship education into secondary and post-secondary institutions; and increasing access to the resources Missouri already has in place.
Raising awareness of Missouri’s programs and resources is another important improvements the state could make. By promoting education programs, the state can educate aspiring entrepreneurs early on. Advertising various resources at career fairs, in trade publications and through chambers of commerce will help raise awareness of the programs Missouri has in place for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Missouri is making strides, providing a variety of services and resources to its current and future entrepreneurs. Missouri’s ranking of 17th in the Small Business Survival Index indicates that measures are being taken to support entrepreneurship and small business in the state. With continued effort and by implementing some of its proven best practices outlined in this report, Missouri can take advantage of the opportunity to become a leader in entrepreneurship and reap the economic and social rewards that accompany that role.