Local business owner Thom Baker seeks to leave Columbia a gift when he retires. Tucked away in his equipment-lain home office, Thom Baker of...
I graduated from MU with a BSBA and followed with an MBA from William Woods. While I was in school, I worked full-time at the Small Business and Technology Development Center’s state office where I was first introduced to the world of entrepreneurship. After five years there, I recognized a need for affordable small business IT services in Columbia, so I started my former business, EasyPC. After seven great years, we merged EasyPC with another local vendor, Midwest Computech. I joined the Midwest team as the director of business sales and marketing until the opportunity to join the MoWBC found me, and it was a calling I couldn’t ignore. I am extremely passionate about our community and entrepreneurship, and this role allows me to combine both into a meaningful career.
I understand and have personally experienced many of the challenges women are faced with starting and managing a small business. I have also experienced the power of surrounding yourself with strong female mentors to lean on when you have questions, need support, or simply want to bounce ideas off someone. Leading a program designed to provide this invaluable resource to women right here in our community is incredibly exciting and rewarding!
My dream is for the MoWBC to be well known as the first stop for any woman in Mid-Missouri who wants to start or grow their small business. When someone says “I have this business idea,” I want the first response to be “You have to go visit the MoWBC!” My long-term goal is to have created a program large enough to station a full-time counselor in each of our eight service counties (Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, and Osage).
The center has been open less than two years, but in that time, the MoWBC has helped launch 15 local businesses, counseled more than 150 entrepreneurs, and provided customized training events and networking opportunities to many more. We are working to gain a strong footing in our more rural communities to match the success we have seen in our larger communities like Columbia and Jefferson City. I hope to expand those efforts by continuing to build crucial relationships with MoWBC supporters throughout our eight counties.
We are all striving to be everything to everyone at all times, and we put incredible pressure on ourselves in the process. We are trying to be a great boss or employee, a great mom, a great friend, spouse, etc., all while having a gluten-free, organic, and farm-fresh meal on the table and a picture-perfect home, and while rocking six-pack abs and perfect hair. It’s just not possible to do it all, and we need to stop beating ourselves (and each other) up for not having it all figured out!
We offer an amazing six-week program called LaunchU, which guides new or growing entrepreneurs through the intricacies of business planning, market research, legal issues, and much more. It’s a fantastic and extremely affordable program. We also offer free one-on-one counseling, training events, networking opportunities, and other free or low-cost business resources. A client can come to us with absolutely any question about starting and running a business — we may not always know the answer, but we will know who to connect them with to get the right answer.
Only say yes to the things that really matter to you. Make a list of your priorities: work, family, friends, fitness, philanthropy, etc. Put them in the order of importance and build your life around them in a way that fulfills you. Cut the things that don’t. I need to be better about this myself!
The opportunities are endless! We definitely have a need for more women in STEM careers, and there’s a lot of initiative happening right now in our community to get our young women engaged in those fields. I think everyone should encourage their daughters to learn and explore as new STEM opportunities arrive in local schools.
First, by encouraging entrepreneurs to reach out to the MoWBC for support and training. Secondly, as a nonprofit, grant-funded center with a match requirement, I have to put in a plug for volunteers, sponsorships, and donations. Our centers are made possible by community support, and we are actively looking to build relationships with partners who are passionate about small business.
Mid-Missouri has an incredible ecosystem of resources available to any business of any size, and many people have no idea these free resources exist. If you’re struggling with any aspect of business ownership or management, reach out! CBT