Supporting entrepreneurship for college students

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An empty storefront transformed into a business incubator means progress for downtown Cape. It also means valuable business experience for Southeast Missouri State University students.

Through the assistance of John Deere executive and alumnus Charles Stamp Jr., government grants and with university operational support, Catapult Creative House is now open to serve the community in a new and creative way. The project, which cost $1.95 million, "will allow students from various departments and disciplines to work together in a quest to become entrepreneurs," as the Southeast Missourian recently reported.

Catapult had a successful "soft opening" May 1, with approximately 300 people touring the facility, as students were on hand to demonstrate the workings of the business incubator operation. "Many who toured were surprised and inspired by the space," said Leah Powers, operations manager.

That was just the beginning. Though it is currently open with limited hours, Catapult will not be fully underway until students complete this semester's classes. Summer hours will begin May 19, and a fall grand opening is in the planning stage.

The facility may be good practice for future entrepreneurs, but it certainly is more than a mock business endeavor. Catapult is an authentic model for success. Among other things, it includes a beverage bar that Hospitality Management students run, an art gallery and a retail store on one side. On the other side is a letterpress print shop, which operates with the help of rustmedia and Concord Printing. There is also a 3D printer with a computer workstation and a modular classroom. Among the various upstairs features are a conference room, meeting rooms, a photography studio, computer and sewing stations and spaces for interior and art design. Students, visiting artists and community members may rent available space.

Catapult is a testament to the good that comes from public and private entities coming together to support students and entrepreneurship, and considering that 70 percent of U.S. jobs are created by small businesses, isn't this the kind of endeavor we should encourage? Stop in at 612 Broadway and check things out between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday this week, or visit when things are in full swing Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m., with a possibility of extended hours to accommodate an early-morning beverage bar.

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