As a part of our Career and Professional Development Class, students are grouped together by Career Interest Teams (CITs). The goal of the class is to develop our skills by seeking out real world experiences to supplement what we learn in the program. This helps enhance our network and shows us what resources are available to us outside of the program. The Entrepreneurship CIT wanted to visit business at the forefront of innovative ideas related to startups and shared spaces.
Recently, a group of about 20 Crosby MBA students and I trekked to St. Louis to visit a number of entrepreneurship and innovation hubs including CIC, TechShop, and T-Rex. We also visited Start Right, a food startup founded by Clint Matthews, a Crosby MBA Alumnus.
We began the day at CIC, a shared space community in which startups can rent office space and connect with venture capitalists. The rental fee is all inclusive (FREE COFFEE!) so that startups can focus on growing their businesses. After we took a tour of their space, four CIT members pitched their startup ideas to a panel of judges including a venture capitalist, a current CIC entrepreneur, and Dan Lauer, the founder of UMSL|Accelerate. They gave feedback to the pitch teams and some questions each team might want to answer as they further grow their ideas.
We then walked across the street to TechShop, a maker space. TechShop provides millions of dollars’ worth of software and equipment that allows entrepreneurs or anyone with an idea for a product to create it. As we toured the space, we saw people engraving wood on laser etchers, as well as 3-D printers, water cutters, and a complete wood shop. We learned about classes available to anyone with a hankering to learn skills from quilting to welding.
Afterwards we met Luiz Ortiz, who works for the Small Business and Technology Development Centers at Mizzou. He showed us around T-Rex, another shared space community located in downtown St. Louis. We learned about their dedication to offering entrepreneurs spaces in which they can grow their idea by reducing overhead costs and naturally collaborating with other entrepreneurs in the community.
Finally, we visited Clint Matthews at his Start Right Foods office. Start Right currently makes protein rich waffles and plans to expand into other food products. Clint told us his story of founding multiple companies and how he got into the frozen food industry. He offered advice including approaching retail outlets, mistakes to avoid, and skills needed to succeed.
I believe the various site visits gave the other MBA students and myself new knowledge about resources available to us as potential entrepreneurs and showed us how the St. Louis community supports these efforts. I enjoyed being able to hear different experiences from people on both the venture capital and startup sides of the equation, and think that you’ll be seeing Crosby MBA students in these communities soon!
Josh Ellis is a first year Crosby MBA student pursuing a Finance concentration. He is the First Year Policy Director in the MBA Association and a Crosby MBA Ambassador. He is currently a graduate assistant for Marketing 3000. He comes to Mizzou after graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Geology and working in the non-profit sector in Houston.