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Updated: August 20, 2022 @ 6:18 am
The national Idea Accelerator program led by Heartland Forward and Builders + Backers is helping local entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to fruition by giving them the tools and resources they need to move toward the next step.
Heartland Forward, a nonpartisan 501(C)(3) organization based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has committed to funding and supporting 1,000 entrepreneurs across the Midwest by 2023. Builders + Backers invests in entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures.
The program has drawn entrepreneurs across nine cities this summer, including Joplin.
“Every community has potential game-changing ideas that are lying dormant,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers, in a statement. “We received some exciting submissions in Joplin, and we can’t wait to get to work helping these new builders put their ideas into action.”
At the local level, the two organizations have been working with MOKAN Partnership, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Commerce Bank, Mercy Hospital, Mid Missouri Bank, Anderson Engineering and Arvest Bank-Joplin to offer the program to area entrepreneurs.
Residents who had creative and unexpected ideas to solve issues affecting the Joplin area were encouraged to apply for the program earlier this year. The top 10 applicants with the most promising and innovative ideas were selected to participate this summer.
Since June, Joplin entrepreneurs have been taking part in a monthslong virtual program that shows them how to put their thoughts into action. They’re now more than halfway through.
Jacob Jones, of Joplin, pitched a subscription service for partners or families that chooses how you’ll spend a night out on the town.
“Couples and families who are really busy can experience decision fatigue, but they still want to go out and do something fun and new,” he said. “I’ve lived in Joplin my whole life, and I know local restaurants and entertainment venues that people might not think about. What can we do to help these businesses? We feel like this idea helps people get in their door and also gives couples or families a nudge to try these places out.”
Under Jones’ proposal, there would be three different tiers of subscription based on if you’re going out as a couple or a family. The box would arrives to users’ doors monthly and would include gift certificates to a local restaurant and an entertainment option.
“I heard about the Idea Accelerator program through the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce,” Jones said. “We have access to the whole team from Builders + Backers who give us feedback, and it really helps out a lot.”
Lisa Nelson, of Joplin, is another entrepreneur involved in the program. She believes creating local historic landmarks and buildings out of Legos can help connect youth and teens with their community. It would combine learning based in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with design, innovation, architecture and local history, she said.
Nelson said the goal of her proposal is to teach the younger generation about local history while incorporating it into a fun, hands-on project. For example, if a user wanted to create a Joplin landmark, such as Grand Falls, out of Legos, they could design the prototype using digital software that would show which Lego pieces need to be used and where.
When Idea Accelerator was announced, she was encouraged to launch her Landmark Builds idea and started her journey as an entrepreneur.
“I’m really interested in feedback because in targeting a young teen market, it can be tricky,” Nelson said. “I’m hoping to target young teens ages 12 to 16. My idea is that this will be a community-based program and not necessarily affiliated with the schools. Kids would be able to come individually or in teams and work together to learn about a landmark of their choice, research its history, use a free software to design their landmark and they would generate the brick list and building instructions. They’d be able to assemble their landmark and display it.”
Nelson aims to get local historians and other experts involved with the project to talk about local historical landmarks and their significance to the community. She hopes Landmark Builds will spark interest in Joplin history and STEM-based careers.
“Local history is my passion, and there’s a real lack of early STEM awareness,” Nelson said. “Very few teens have exposure to STEM other than their regular science classes. … I feel like by the time they get to high school, if they’ve discovered a passion, they need to start taking classes that will hopefully move them forward to college or a trade that they’re interested in.”
Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction, Carthage and Webb City. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 417-627-7364.
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