Ignite Seeks to Spark Entrepreneurship in Northeast Missouri Region

November 11, 2020

Hannibal, MO – Chris Kempke of the MO Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in

Hannibal has announced today the launch of a new entrepreneurship program called Ignite. Ignite

is a partnership between Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council, Missouri SBDC,

and the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce dedicated to creating an ecosystem that attracts, creates,

supports, and accelerates new and existing businesses in Northeast Missouri.

In order to create an entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region, the Ignite program is made of three

components: expert technical assistance, establishing entrepreneurial support networks, and

connecting entrepreneurs with investors. Ignite provides the technical assistance through SBDC

Counselors such as Brittany Weldy, who can help clients both start and grow businesses. “Once

an entrepreneur is serious about their business idea and has resources to begin, I can step in to help

them flush out their business plan, their marketing campaign, financial projections and more. My

goal is to set them up for success when they present their business to interested investors,” Brittany

Weldy shared.

Ignite creates a support system for entrepreneurs with a professional services network and a

mentorship network. The professional service network is made up of area accountants, lawyers,

commercial real estate agents, insurance brokers and other business service providers who

understand the value of small businesses and are ready to work with Ignites participants. The

mentorship network will connect entrepreneurs of different experience levels and industries

through social events, professional development opportunities and one-on-one mentorship. “We

are excited to see the momentum that will result from a collaborative, focused effort on developing

entrepreneurs and their businesses,” states McKenzie Disselhorst, who leads as the Ignite

mentorship coordinator.

Because investment is key to helping entrepreneurs succeed, Ignite will involve investor events

that connect high-performing entrepreneurs with a platform to present their ideas to investors both

on stage and one-on-one. These investor events will act as networking events for entrepreneurs

around the Northeast Missouri region and help generate public excitement for the innovative ideas

presented. According to Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council Director Corey

Mehaffy, the investor network is critical to the entrepreneurial process. Mehaffy stated, “Typically

with start-ups we have a gap in the financing stack. In many cases, the bank may require as much

as 35% equity. Often our entrepreneurs have a difficult time coming up with 10-15% even with

the help of family and friends. In addition to traditional lending, the investor network can inject

capital in the financing stack to allow us to get more deals done.”

The program is led by the SBDC’s Entrepreneurship Specialist, Brittany Weldy, and Ignite

Program Coordinator, Chris Kempke, along with several community volunteers coordinating

different components of the program. Volunteer coordinators include Allie Bennett of Northeast

Power, McKenzie Disselhorst and Sherri McGregor with the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce,

Brock Fahy with the City of Palmyra, Stephanie Reece with Hannibal LaGrange University and

Corey Mehaffy with Hannibal Regional EDC. The Ignite Program is available to all citizens of the

following Missouri counties: Clark, Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Ralls, Pike and Shelby.

Chris Kempke, SBDC counselor and Ignite program coordinator, believes that cultivating a strong

culture of entrepreneurship is a key component to Northeast Missouri’s economic development.

Kempke stated, “Homegrown businesses tend to keep more of their revenue in the community and

are less likely to relocate. In order to help them succeed, Ignite helps till and fertilize the ground,

so to speak, to give them a better chance of success.”

Allie Bennett of Northeast Power added to this sentiment, stating. “Supporting entrepreneurship

is important to the overall success of any regional economic development effort. Ignite is a

platform for supporting our entrepreneurs who aspire to learn and grow. Through Ignite, we will

strive to promote the innovative ideas of our entrepreneurs and build relationships among

community partners who are also interested in helping these entrepreneurs succeed.”

For more information on Ignite or to learn how you can be a part of the entrepreneurship

ecosystem, contact Chris Kempke at entrepreneurship@hredc.com or visit Ignite on Facebook,

Twitter, and Instagram.

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