Justin Myers in his new store, Heartland Paint.

Justin Myers in his new store, Heartland Paint.

CSB Entrepreneur Buys Local Business
With the assistance of the Craig School of Business’s Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Western, Justin Myers ’14, became an entrepreneur, at the same time ensuring that a longtime local business will remain open.

Myers enrolled in the Applied Entrepreneurship course last spring with the hope of being awarded a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Aspen Leaf Yogurt store through Missouri Western’s entrepreneurship program.

He was not selected to receive a store, but Myers wasn’t ready to give up his entrepreneurial dream. He met with Annette Weeks ’87, director of the CSB’s Center for Entrepreneurship. She knew that Peter and Elizabeth Kamstra were interested in selling their St. Joseph Benjamin Moore paint store, and she was able to connect them with Myers.

The Center and its advisory council offered resources and assistance to Myers, and in early October, financing was arranged to purchase the store. Myers renamed the store Heartland Paint.

“It was the best helping hand I’ve ever had,” Myers said of the Center’s assistance. “Annette helped me know which steps to take and introduced me to the connections I needed.”

Weeks said one of the Center’s focuses is trying to keep longtime local businesses from closing, so she was more than willing to work with Myers. The Benjamin Moore store opened in St. Joseph in 1956 by owner Bill Schaller.

The Center for Entrepreneurship offers help to both new and existing business owners so they can be successful. The Center also helps business owners with succession plans if they are interested in retiring or selling their businesses. Weeks noted that all of the Center’s services are free and strictly confidential.

“I am very happy for Justin, and I know he will be successful with Heartland Paint,” Weeks said. “That is exactly the mission of the Center for Entrepreneurship.”

Myers said, in a way, he has come full circle. Growing up in Grain Valley, Missouri, his father was a self-employed contractor, and the young Myers spent a lot of summers with a paintbrush in hand. Now he owns a business that sells paint and painting supplies.

“I feel very good. I am looking forward to getting out in the community to network and see how I can offer my services to the community,” Myers said. “I hope to eventually give back by helping other small businesses.”

Beyond the chocolate factory
It’s gone beyond chocolate. It’s even gone beyond yogurt. It’s gone beyond one store and it’s gone on to new opportunities.

What is it? It’s Missouri Western’s unique entrepreneurship program. Several of the Craig School of Business alumni who were awarded stores in the program since it began in 2009 are taking their successful first stores and expanding into new businesses and franchises all over the country. It’s expanded from chocolate and yogurt to sandwiches, burritos, flip flops, pizza, pretzels and pasta.

It all started when Seth Lyons ’08 was awarded the first Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in the program, which was a partnership between the Craig School of Business, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Steven Craig.

Today, Lyons and the alumni who followed in his entrepreneurial footsteps are flourishing, and many have bought second franchises or are considering a second business.

In 2013, Lyons and his wife, Kelsey ’08, purchased a second franchise, Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches, next door to their Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Store in Silverthorne, Colorado. Then, in 2014, they sold the RMCF store to Caleb Mackey, a participant in the program.

Leslie (Oberg) Burris ’11, who was awarded a store in Williamsburg, Iowa in 2011, sold that store the next year to Isaac Collins ’11, another program participant. Collins recently purchased a Yogurtini in the Country Club Plaza area in Kansas City, Missouri in addition to his Iowa store. When Burris sold to Collins, she and her now-husband, James, bought the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Aspen Leaf Yogurt (also owned by RMCF) stores in St. Joseph. In 2015, they opened a Flip Flop Shops franchise, and a second franchise, Blaze Pizza, will open in early 2016, both in California. Ernest Chamblee ’11, who was one of the participants in the program in 2015, is operating the St. Joseph stores.

Burris’ pizza restaurant will be in the new Outlets of San Clemente, a high-end outlet mall which was built by Craig. That mall is also home to Robert ’10 and Danelle (Ruppert) ’10 Schimming’s Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Store and a new franchise for them, USwirl Yogurt. They had been operating a Rocky store in Lake Elsinore, California that Robert was awarded in 2010.

And there is more expansion. Allie (Humphrey) ’11 and Matt ’08 Canaday opened a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in a new mall in Lehi, Utah in 2012, and recently purchased an Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchise in the same mall.

Instead of purchasing a second franchise, Brady ’10 and TyAnn (Williamson) ’10 Ellis purchased a locally owned restaurant near their Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in Vicksburg, Mississippi – Billy’s Italian Restaurant.

“That was Steve’s (Craig) plan when the program first started,” said Pam Klaus, director of franchise programs at Missouri Western. “He never intended for the participants to be owners of their original stores all their lives. He just wanted to offer them a good start and a good opportunity.”

She said several alumni owners who have not yet purchased a second business are exploring their possibilities.

Erik Garcia ’11, who was awarded an Aspen Leaf Yogurt in Farmington, New Mexico in 2012, has been very successful in his business, with outstanding sales every quarter. He and his wife, Vanessa, are considering selling and purchasing a different business.

Scott Lassen ’10, who purchased a Fresca’s Mexican Grill from Craig in the 2013 competition, made several changes to the restaurant in Woodburn, Oregon and has also been hugely successful, Klaus said. He recently sold the restaurant to Mindy Schimming ’14, who was in the 2015 competition.

Klaus believes one of the reasons for the program’s success is that the owners help each other out whenever they can, and they also support the students in the Applied Entrepreneurship class each spring. She said during spring break, the current owners host those in the class at their stores, giving them an idea of what it takes to be successful.

The owners in the program truly feel like they are a family, she said, and three owners really are family – Robert ’10, Tim ’12 and Mindy ’14 Schimming are siblings who have all participated in the program and been awarded stores. Robert was awarded a store in 2010 and Tim was awarded a store in 2012, both in California.

“These graduates have been given a great opportunity, and they have all taken that opportunity, worked hard and found great success,” Klaus said.

Class assists local entrepreneurs
A collaboration between Dr. Hillary Mellema, assistant professor of business; and Annette Weeks, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship; led to innovative ideas, new events, print and radio ads, and compelling videos for several area entrepreneurs.

Students in Dr. Mellema’s Advertising and Promotion class spent the fall semester working with nine business owners to help them spread the word about their businesses.

Working in pairs, students were required to work with the businesses they were assigned and create three promotional materials, one of which was a video.

“We helped businesses come up with an integrated marketing communication plan,” said Pauline Ford, senior marketing major who worked with Spectacular Settings. “We learned about different strategies in class first, and then we used what we learned.”

Dr. Mellema said students selected from a long list of promotional ideas to help their businesses. One group planned an event for a business, and another compiled a year’s worth of social media posts.

Logan Myers, a junior marketing major, and his partner worked with Wholesale Tire. “The class helped a lot. We tried to do the most we could with the resources the business had, and the class showed us how.”

“It was great to apply what we learned to the real world, and have someone oversee our work,” Ford said. “You really get into it when you are working with a real, and not hypothetical, client.”

Several students in the class said they enjoyed the process and believe it will boost their resume. “We can show how business improved, so we have something to back up our knowledge,” said Kamille Paden, who worked with Performance Plus Rehabilitation Center.

“They really got engaged with the businesses and the community,” Dr. Mellema said of her students. “That excites me more than anything.”

At the end of the semester, the student pairs were required to give a presentation of their work to classmates and a panel of judges.

Dr. Mellema, who joined Missouri Western last August, said the University’ emphasis on applied learning was one of the reasons she accepted the position.

“For the students to engage in applied learning in the community while learning the material in class, that’s the best I can do as their teacher,” Dr. Mellema said. “It’s so good for them to do what they are learning.”