CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 7, 2011 -- A dozen downtown Cape Girardeau business owners recently completed Operation Main Street: Business Success Series, a multi-session training program offered by the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University and funded in part by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The CIE, in partnership with Old Town Cape (OTC) and the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, provided customized classes to help downtown businesses realize their potential and become more profitable.
Before classes began in July, all businesses participating in the program agreed to a mystery shopper report, financial analysis and an overall business assessment. They later sat down with the CIE’s business counselor, Justin Pobst, to discuss the results.
“We hoped the owners were able to learn about what current and potential customers are seeing and feeling when they visit their physical stores and online presence,” Pobst said. “In addition, we also wanted them to gain an insight into their business' financial pulse.”
Pobst went on to say that he hopes the counseling relationship that was started will
develop into a relationship that will continue into the future to help the businesses
reach their goals.
According to Gina Harper, project coordinator for the CIE, helping downtown businesses reach new goals or even plan for the future was the premise of the Operation Main Street program. The CIE contracted with many local experts like Jennifer and Rhett Hendrickson, owners of Hendrickson Business Advisors, who presented on the topics of financing and customer service. Also, Elizabeth Shelton, owner of Write Results Marketing, led a marketing strategies class and webinar for search engine optimization. Additionally, Dr. Dana Schwieger at Southeast Missouri State University facilitated a business workshop entitled “Introduction to Quick Books” along with a wrap-up course called, “Listening to Your Business,” which asks business owners to work on their business, not in their business.
“While one multi-session program cannot cover every topic that each business owner needs or wants to learn about,” Harper said, “the variety of experts we offered had something for everyone.”
Paula Haas, owner of Somewhere in Time Antiques on Main Street said, "The Operation Main Street Series has made so much difference in my daily shop objectives. I am now using the branding and marketing strategies in the shop as well as online. I am building my Web presence daily, continuing to give exceptional customer service, and working on my business not just in my business.”
“As an additional incentive, the business owners who completed the course are eligible to submit their action plans in competition for up to $1,000 in CIE funding to support and implement important and necessary strategies,” said Harper. “The participants are currently completing this important step and their action plans are due in mid-September.”
Marla Mills, Executive Director of OTC, said, “The collaboration between the CIE and
OTC was amazing and productive. Our objective with this program all along was to help
strengthen the businesses we have in downtown Cape and to raise the bar a bit. The
tailor-made process helped them develop a plan for moving their business to the next
level and gave them some needed tools to achieve their goals.”
The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at Southeast Missouri State University is one of the most comprehensive entrepreneurship-focused university centers in the Midwest, offering a wide array of academic and outreach programs and services, including: innovation development and research; entrepreneurship education, training and mentorship; and business incubation and development services. The CIE supports Southeast Missouri State University’s strategic priority to advance the region’s economic appeal and strength by accelerating local and regional economic growth and development that improves the quality of lives, communities and businesses in southeast Missouri and the surrounding region. For more information about the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial support services it offers, visit www.semo.edu/cie.