Entrepreneurship in Cape

Cape’s future economy will rely heavily on entrepreneurship. Fortunately, when I speak with other small metro market leaders, it’s clear this is one area where we really shine. Cape has a rich history of entrepreneurs. Today, the heartbeat of that activity is in the Marquette Tech District and nothing exemplifies this more than the 1st50k Startup Competition.

Since 2015, there have been four winners chosen from over 250 applicants representing 31 states and 39 countries. Edible Education, one of the recent recipients, now based out of Codefi, went on to win the Delta Challenge pitch competition and is projected to hit $1 million in sales this year. They have also added to the team retired White House chef, Quincy Jackson, who served under Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton.

All the applicants and recipients are very impressive, but what really sets us apart is the incredible group of individuals who have come together to create the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Our culture of entrepreneurship has been built by entrepreneurs themselves, many of whom are choosing to take time away from successful businesses to be a part of it. They see a future most don’t yet see and believe Cape can play a substantial role. And I believe they’re right.

The fourth round of the 1st50k competition is currently underway. Applications must be submitted by May 31. Pitch Day is planned for July 28 as the finale of the second annual TechWeek. 

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Retail in the Region

The cities of Cape and Jackson recently came together to hire a retail consultant. The reports are in and we are moving on to the next phase. Today, I want to share a few items from the Cape Girardeau report.

As a part of the market analysis, Cape’s Primary Trade area is defined as a 31-minute drive-time. These are the people who are most commonly shopping in the city. The population for that area is just over 106,000 with a residential purchasing power of $4.6 billion dollars. These numbers are projected to continue growing.

The report goes on to give detailed breakdowns of age, race, educational attainment and more. With this info, they were able to identify known spending patterns of these individuals. Ultimately this leads us to a point where we can understand demand and compare it to supply. For instance, we might see that there is a demand for 200,000 square foot of space in a given retail sector and we currently only have 170,000 square foot of space. This arms us with critical information to recruit in that sector. And that’s what we are doing now. The consultants have generated a list of businesses that best fit the gaps in our market and the recruitment process has begun. We expect to work with several new retailers this year and hopefully score some big wins for the region.

If you are interested in starting a retail business in the Cape Girardeau area, we would be happy to talk with you about the needs of the region.
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We celebrated the official ribbon cutting for a new location of Sign Master on Thursday, April 13.

Founded in 1989 on Broadway, they later moved to their second location on Kingshighway, where they have spent the majority of their time in business.

In 2011 a long-time employee purchased the company from the original owners. This locally owned and operated business has three employees with more than 30 years experience in their industry.

Customer, Lindsey Wagoner had this to say about Sign Master, “they take the time to learn what our brands are, whether it’s Rhodes Convenience Stores, Baristas Coffee Bar or Primo Vino and Cask. They make suggestions on how different signs can complement those brands, enabling us to put our best faces forward.” 
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Hiring Ex-Offenders

There are more than 31,000 people serving time in Missouri state correctional facilities. Ninety-seven percent of them will one day be released.

Here’s a staggering statistic about the population of individuals who leave prison and reenter society: Of those who do not gain full-time employment, 72% return to prison within two years. Of those who DO gain full-time employment, only 27% return to prison within two years. What a telling statistic. Full-time employment plays a major role in whether or not an individual returns to prison.

This is a dangerous and expensive problem, but I believe we can positively impact this problem while working toward solving one of our other challenges. I hear every day from employers that they can’t find the workers they need. With low unemployment rates, it’s important for us to start exploring other ways of finding workers and hiring ex-offenders is one possible solution.

Approximately 80% of prison admissions are for non-violent offenses, meaning many of these individuals pose no greater risk than any other employee. In fact, most ex-offenders are still under some sort of State supervision through the Department of Corrections, so they are compelled to show up and behave. It could really be a win-win and I encourage any business that is having hiring challenges to explore this option.

Let us know if you would like more information at or call 573-335-3312.  

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Women in Business

In the last 30 years, the number of women with full-time jobs in the U.S. has increased by more than 10%, adding $1.7 trillion dollars to the GDP, while the number of women-owned businesses has also grown to 9.1 million. 

Locally, there are approximately 2,400 businesses in Cape County and more than 1,000 of them are owned by women. In line with this, Cape has recently seen a surge in the number of groups and events for women in business.

The Chamber launched the Women’s Network last year which has seen incredible success. They are doing a Power Hour networking event on April 5. United Way has the Women United group, the Flourish Women’s Summit is put on by the Southeast Missourian, Zonta Club has overseen the Women of Achievement for many years, and finally, the University is hosting the Power of Women Luncheon on Wednesday, March 29. I’m sure I have missed others, but the point is, there are many groups and events like this. They are adding so much value to our business community and it’s just really great to see.   

We are actually welcoming a new women-owned business to Cape this week. Brickwood Boutique cuts their ribbon on Friday, March 31, in the Indie House at 605 Broadway. 

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Business leaders and site selectors make decisions about where expansions will occur. Just imagine the number of factors they are considering and the number of locations that might fit. Think about buying a new car…all the options you have when you start. Make, model, color, new, old. Do you want an SUV, do you want a car, V4 or V6, is gas mileage important, is space important…the list goes on and on.

For a business, the list is far greater, they are looking at the cost of building, access to labor, ability to transport goods and many other issues. Internally they will determine what is most important to them so they can eliminate regions. For instance, some businesses may decide cost of building is the most important thing and they simply can’t be in a region that is at a high risk for earthquakes. When we receive the application from that business and check the box indicating our earthquake zone, we are immediately eliminated from consideration. No questions asked and nothing we can do. There are countless things they consider and the Cape area has to line up well with their needs to move to the next stage.

Once we’ve made it through with a business, we sometimes have an opportunity to meet face-to-face. We feel really good at that point because we have a strong community with a lot to offer. In fact, many businesses that decide to move to the Cape area have some sort of tie to the community. They know someone who has spoken highly of the region or they work with a business here. Those connections, connections with all of you, make a real difference in recruiting businesses. It’s all of us who shape southeast Missouri’s story and you never know who is listening.

If you know of any business that is considering moving to the Cape area, we would love to talk with them. Contact us at 335-3312 or

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When disaster strikes, there is one little known organization that helps things run smoothly behind the scenes.  

In light of recent storms, I wanted to share some information about a local group: The Community Organizations Active in Disaster or COAD. This group has representatives from community and faith-based organizations such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, hospitals and more. They meet regularly to talk about topics most of us just ignore…the what do we do if scenarios. And I have to tell you, as someone who has the privilege to sit in on these meetings, it is both terrifying and incredibly reassuring.

However, it’s most encouraging to see them in action. When the Perryville tornado hit, the COAD was activated, helping support the emergency manager with tasks like volunteer management, donation management, sheltering and feeding victims. In fact, our COAD was so effective in their role, the leader of the affiliated state-wide organization said we should be a model for other communities throughout the state. So to all the organizations and individuals that make up the COAD, THANK YOU for your work.  

The local COAD is led by Kyle Schott, regional director of the Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri.

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On March 7, 2017, Element 74 celebrated a big milestone in the history of their organization by cutting the ribbon on a recent expansion. They started in 2000, founded by Chris Edmonds as sole owner and operator. From the beginning, Element 74 built their brand around providing exceptional customer service.

Over the years, they have continued to add employees and have been consistently dedicated to employee development, experiencing very low turnover rates.

Company growth has demanded expansion of staff. In fact, in the year 2016, they grew 20% alone, going from 15 to 20 employees and have continued to add. They now sit at 22 employees with no signs of slowing down.

In order to accommodate the new employees, Element recently expanded their facility from 2,200 to just over 3,500 square feet.  In the beginning, they serviced clients in Cape…now they work with clients internationally.

Their mission is to partner and collaborate with businesses and organizations to achieve their goals through smart digital solutions, while establishing lasting relationships built on trust and success.

Aside from all this, Element 74, Chris Edmonds and so many of their employees have been and continue to be dedicated to the Chamber and to Cape. Whether it’s service on a local board, hosting a Southeast student for a job shadowing experience or the many other things they do, Cape is very lucky to have them.

Here’s to continued success and growth! 

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Less than 20% of Southeast Missouri State University graduates will make their life and career in the Cape Girardeau area. Increasing that number, is an important priority for the Cape Chamber.  

Talented workers come from many areas and all walks of life and it’s important to ensure strong workforce pipelines across the board. However, one of our best regional pools of talent is the 12,000 or so University students right here in Cape. After spending five years working for Southeast, where I had the incredible opportunity to meet thousands of alumni all over the world, I can confidently say the more of these alums who live in our area, the better off we will be. The better off our economy will be.  

In order to increase the percent who stay, the Cape Chamber and the University are working together to build a program called connectCAPE, with the basic idea of getting students connected with businesses. We have hosted a few small events and recently branched into the next phase, a job shadowing program. We started small with just 10 students, but we hope to match many more students and businesses in the fall. Having more available talent will result in more jobs coming to our community.

We understand many students will move on from Cape Girardeau and we of course want them to find the right path. However, it would be a shame if a student graduates from Southeast without ever having a chance to see what the business communities in Cape and Jackson can offer.

Of course this program only works if it benefits students, which is truly at the heart of the effort. Giving students earlier access to more real-world settings will undoubtedly add value to their education.

Ultimately, this is a win-win-win, which makes it a priority. Students are better prepared to enter the workforce and make career choices. The University is providing better support to students. Businesses in our area are able to access more talent. It is small today, but we will continue to water the seeds and foster the growth as long as the outcomes continue to look promising for all. 
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carGO is such a bright spot in Cape for several reasons. First of all, they are filling an important need in our community. Transportation is a quality of life issue and having a ride-sharing service is a strong improvement. There are many examples of customers from foreign exchange students at Southeast to elderly Cape residents. But perhaps the most compelling use case is a visually impaired couple who have use the service more than a dozen times. This allows them the freedom to quickly run out and grab lunch or do some shopping. Just an incredible story.   

Secondly, they are bringing jobs and extra income. This type of work is known as the “gig economy,” basically a marketplace that utilizes short-term contracts or freelance workers. It’s critical we embrace this new economy as the world moves more in this direction. There are currently more than 60 carGO drivers.

Finally, what’s really exciting to me, is to see viable, scalable businesses STARTING in Cape. carGO isn’t the only example, but it’s a good one. They have over 1,600 customers who have downloaded the app and delivered over 500 rides. They are considering adding additional services in the future and expanding to other similar communities. 

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