Missouri entrepreneurs share success stories at #BOOM conference

Friday, February 21, 2014 | 7:57 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Bryan Simpson, a 25-year-old entrepreneur, started a T-shirt screening company from his college room in 2010. He now runs the 5 Pound Apparel retail store in Springfield, which helps support 15 nonprofit organizations.

Simpson was one of 12 presenters who shared their success stories at the #BOOM entrepreneurial summit on Friday in Columbia. He drew laughter from the audience by starting his presentation with his "Missouri is Awesome" video, which was part of a Kickstarter campaign he launched in July.

The event, organized by Regional Economic Development Inc., attracted a diverse audience of 400 attendees, event organizer Sean Siebert said, including high school and college students and professionals.

Siebert said he wanted to let a Missouri audience learn from entrepreneurial stories that began with a local approach. The #BOOM event is part of a process where he plants a seed to allow entrepreneurial stories to grow in Missouri, he said. Eleven of the 12 speakers were from Missouri.

“There are future billionaires in this room,” Siebert said. “But first we have to help these talents and then make them communicate together.”

The event was emceed by Veterans United Home Loans' Sarah Hill, and speakers included Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown, Lauren Rundquist of LaQuist, Stanton Brothers Eggs' Dustin and Austin Stanton and Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

“It’s not only about agriculture in Missouri or about energy,” Siebert said. “It’s about potential and ideas.”

Using social media to reach a wider audience

Several speakers also highlighted the ways they used social media while developing their businesses.

Rundquist, an MU junior, started to develop her hand-painted shoe business with the help of social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest. She said that having a portfolio to show her seriousness and her professionalism was also key. She said her social media audience was as important as her local audience as her business grew.

“Social media is the key for the accelerated growth of a business,” Siebert said.

Siebert started using live stream services and Google Hangout at the 2013 #BOOM event when he realized that he could reach people outside Missouri. Michael Chatman was enticed by #BOOM's use of social media and agreed when Siebert reached out to him to participate in this year's event.

A Web-philanthropist based in Springfield, Chatman hosts a weekly Twitter show using the hashtag #WhyIGive where he talks with his followers about new opportunities for donations. He sees his work as an intermediate path helping people connect to philanthropic organizations. Through his work as Chief Generosity Officer at the fundraising organization Look to the Stars, he works with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and celebrities.

“I started two and a half years ago with one participant in my show,” Chatman said during his talk. After a year, Chatman said the Gates Foundation had contacted him. Chatman now has 295,000 followers on Twitter and uses the social media website to reach young audiences to talk with them about the meaning of giving.

“We don’t have to give money,” Chatman said. “We can also increase generosity just by talking with people.”

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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