MU Student Center opens space to student businesses

Monday, February 7, 2011 | 5:44 p.m. CST; updated 10:58 p.m. CST, Monday, February 7, 2011
Students walk past the soon-to-be-opened business space created through the Missouri Student Unions Entrepreneurial Program, which provides an avenue for student business ideas to flourish. OMG Coupons, Listener Approved and are the three businesses that will occupy the high-traffic location in the MU Student Center this semester.

COLUMBIA — Three student businesses are sharing space on the first floor of the MU Student Center after winning a campus contest to reward innovation.

The businesses occupy a room about 10 feet across and 30 feet long in the Student Center, and all are Web-based:

  • OMG Coupons provides an app for smart phones that highlights coupon deals in a customer’s area.
  • Listener Approved gives new and upcoming musicians the chance to post music online, free to listeners, who can download and rate songs.
  • MizzMenus provides an “online dining guide” that allows Columbia restaurants to post their menus. The site also gives customers the option of ordering online through the site.

OMG Coupons and Listener Approved have already set up operations in the Student Center with business logos painted on the walls. OMG Coupon uses a blue owl logo, while Listener Approved has its name in green and orange on a background of stripes.

OMG Coupons plays a looped, promotional video on a flat-screen TV and plans to give away T-shirts and chocolates during the semester. Listener Approved has a stack of informational brochures on a table for interested browsers.

MizzMenus has yet to move in, but its owners plan to do so within a couple of weeks. They hope to have free food samples from restaurants that advertise on the site as enticements.

The competition to find these entrepreneurs was held in conjunction with the Missouri Student Unions Entrepreneurial Program. Rent and utilities are paid by the program, while other costs are assumed by each business.

Owners estimate that start-up costs for each company ranged from $720 to $15,000.

Creating a space for student businesses was always included as part of the new Student Center, said Joseph Hayes, assistant director of Missouri Student Unions. 

The point was to give students a real taste of planning and starting a business.

“We’re brand new, never done it before, so we’re learning as we go, but hopefully — and I think we are — the groups over there are getting some great experience to see what it’s like to run their own business,” Hayes said.

Corey Rimmel, owner and manager of both MizzMenus and Hot Box Cookies downtown, said a place in the Student Center beats any other spot in Columbia for reaching students.

“We can advertise on campus," Rimmel said. "No other businesses can do that.”

With 71,884 visits to the center during the first week of the spring semester, the location couldn’t be better, said Michelle Froese, public relations manager for the Student Center.

Although OMG Coupons is a not-for-profit operation, CEO Josh Johnson hopes the central location in the Student Center will help build a customer base.

Location wasn’t what Listener Approved CEO Nick Kampe had in mind when he entered into the competition, however. He wanted an office where his team could work.

The concept is here to say, Hayes said. Even cuts in the university's budget won’t affect the program. 

“We’ve budgeted for it, and we’re good to go, as long as students are interested,” he said.

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