Attendees at 1 Million Cups on Wednesday learned about a new organization aimed at helping small businesses as well as an established magazine most people receive in their mailbox.
1 Million Cups was created by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City as a way to help entrepreneurs connect and engage with each other, with more than 90 communities participating across the country. Wednesday’s featured speakers in the Thompson Conference Center at State Fair Community College were Small Business and Technology Development Center Director Amy Jackson and Renee Hoagenson, of Showcase Sedalia.
SBTDC is located at SFCC and launched Aug. 1 as a centralized resource for small business owners who are just starting or existing companies that may be expanding or launching a new product, Jackson explained during her presentation. The Center is funded through grant opportunities through the Small Business Administration and MU Extension, as well as support from SFCC. SFCC is one of only two community colleges in Missouri to launch a SBTDC.
“In the start-up, expansion, growth and succession phase, we provide counseling services and this includes a checklist of what is needed to start up a business and we speak about resources that are available in the business start-up phase and expansion,” Jackson said. “We offer market feasibility studies, where we take a deep dive into your dream and look at the market you’re looking to go into and see if it makes sense for your business. We have access to franchises and information as to if someone is a good fit …”
Jackson said the Center also offers management programs, financial analysis, and training on “need-to-know” topics such as how to write a business plan, Quickbooks, marketing and sales, patent processes, succession planning, selling to the government, exporting, and international trade, as well as helping businesses find low-cost funding through SBA.
“We will be developing a schedule of classes for Quickbooks, how to start a business, managing and operating your business, sales and social media,” she said. “Those are all topics that will be offered through the SBTDC and that is through an extension of those continuing education classes we currently offer (through SFCC’s LearningForce) and this will offer that next level too.”
Jackson said the Center utilizes the statewide network of SBTDCs as well as the SBA and community partners to provide these resources and to connect businesses with partners and ideas. On the flip side, she said she hopes to connect with 1 Million Cups to work with entrepreneurs through the two programs.
Hoagenson, of Columbia, started Showcase Sedalia, a direct mail magazine, in February 2012 after owning Columbia Marketplace and Jefferson City Marketplace from 2003-09. It is published every six weeks and direct-mailed to 10,000 families and 1,300 businesses, which Hoagenson said is about 75 percent of 65301 addresses. The magazine includes a business profile, but is mostly an advertising product.
“My core business is advertising. We are unashamedly about looking at advertising and asking our readers to connect and do business with our advertisers. We are recommending businesses to the public,” she said. “… Showcase Sedalia is primarily offers, so primarily we are coupons. We drive business into car dealerships through oil change and service. Any opportunity we can to create an offer, that is really where I like to start.”
Hoagenson said having a coupon helps businesses track return on investment and her customers report a high rate of return on those offers, especially restaurants and national chains. She said they get a 5 to 10 percent return, which “is crazy in this industry. Nationally it’s 1.5 to 3 percent, but Sedalia really loves to use the magazine.”
She said she is frequently asked if a business has to include a coupon, noting that about 25 percent of advertisers use a display ad and not a coupon.
“But the reason that works is Showcase Sedalia is literally the most efficient use of advertising dollars in the market,” she said. “So not only do we have the reach, we’re reaching virtually everyone who can purchase in town, but we’ve created frequency to the product. What I mean is, when people get their mail … they’re going to look through it, they’re thumbing through it, they put it away and then come back to it (to find coupons to use). … They’re going back in there and seeing everyone over and over again.”
Hoagenson was asked if she plans to incorporate neighboring cities in the magazine and she replied no, saying that she’d rather start a new magazine in other communities rather than combine them.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.