MADE Cultivated Small Businesses in Missouri

The Missouri Alliance for the Development of Entrepreneurship (MADE)[1] was formed in 2009 by the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency (MVCAA) to encourage entrepreneurship in Missouri.  MADE consists of a diverse group of state, federal and non-profit entities and professionals whose collective efforts as allies offer a supportive environment for new business owners.


The Alliance contributes to entrepreneurial development through two key approaches:


  1. Expansion of educational resources for entrepreneurs through integration of existing referral and technical assistance providers, and
  2. A statewide business plan competition to stimulate potential entrepreneurs to step forward with their innovative business ideas.


MADE allies meet on a monthly basis via conference call to discuss and coordinate events and activities, and there is no fee for serving as an ally.  Examples of resources available through allies include:


  • University of Missouri Extension

o   Build-a-Business – Weeklong summer camp for youth

o   ExCEED – Entrepreneurial development and youth engagement

  • SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives) – Business development technical assistance
  • Rural Missouri, Inc. – Access to capital
  • Small Business and Technology Development Centers – Access to group and one-on-one business development training and workshops
  • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – Access to students interested in starting their own business


A selling point of MADE is the deliberate blending of existing resources, which requires minimal outlay of additional funds.  Core funding is through MVCAA’s Community Services Block Grant – approximately $15,000 a year to support awareness and education materials, judging, participant application management and the cash awards to the winners – plus a portion of staff salary.  The State Fair Foundation provides in-kind support at $15,000 a year, which includes facility and equipment for the event and marketing in their brochures.  Other partners provide in-kind resources such as the technical assistance and MADE Facebook pages.


MADE In Missouri State Entrepreneurship Competition[2]

The primary function of MADE is to coordinate the annual MADE In Missouri State Entrepreneurship Competition, in which participants interested in developing a business may compete with others to gain recognition and to win startup funds and operating capital for their ventures.  The thrust of the competition is development and assistance, not just cash prize awards. MADE is a resource for aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of placement in the competition.


The competition is open to any resident of Missouri interested in developing a new or aspiring business idea.  Businesses currently in existence for less than three years are eligible to compete.  Participants under the age of 19 may enter in either the Youth or Open category, and participants 18+ may enter in the Open category.  Finalists present their products and services at the Missouri State Fair.


The competition challenges participants to develop business ideas into legitimate ventures and to execute well-developed business plans.  Completion of a Preliminary Level Questionnaire[3] is the first step to enter the competition.  The questionnaire is organized in three sections: 1-Business Factors, 2-Leadership and Operations, and 3-Community and Environmental Impacts


Judges recommend technical assistance professionals, programs, and organizations that may help each preliminary participant in developing their business ideas, regardless of advancement through the competition.  Participants who advance beyond the preliminary level are encouraged to take advantage of these referrals to develop their ideas and prepare for further competition.  


Preliminary submissions are organized by region, and the top two submissions in both Youth and Open categories from each region advance to the finals.  Participants may be asked to present their ideas at an intermediate level event for clarification toward advancement.  Recommendations for state finalists from technical assistance professionals and MADE judges determine advancement to the final phase.


The Finals

The three main components of the final round are:


  • State-Level Presentation – Each participant is given 15 minutes to present before a panel of judges in person.  Presentations are expected to give a well-developed, comprehensive picture of the business and consist of four general sections: business and entrepreneur description, financial feasibility, building toward the future, and Q&A.
  • State-Level Business Plan – A submitted plan consisting of an executive summary, description of business, market analysis and competition, product/service description, marketing strategy/advertising plan, organization and management, operations and impact measures, financial summary, growth and implementation plan, and supporting documents.
  • The Trade Show – Each business project is provided a table for presenting products and services to the public.  This trade show is separate from the presentations given to judges, and serves as the public presentation of the business.  The main purpose of the trade show is three-fold: to present products or services to customers, to gain media and publicity support, and to present preliminary picture of the business to any potential investors.


And the Winners Are![4]

Assistance has been given to help develop 43 businesses employing more than 130 people in the first three years of the statewide MADE Competition.  A strengthened culture for future entrepreneurship is also being built through involvement of youth participants in the competition. 


A press release is created on all winning entries and cash prizes awarded to the top winners: Open Category: $2,500 (1st), $1,500 (2nd), $1,000 (3rd) and Youth Category: $2,500 (1st), $1,500 (2nd).  Some of the winning entries have been:


  • Makin’ Good Energy (2012) – A company focused on the localization of food and energy through community collaboration and advanced technology.
  • Bulldog Express (2011) and Bulldog Express Deli (2012) – A local school-owned, student managed grocery store in a rural community where the last grocery closed ten years earlier
  • Spot Light Stars (2012) – A performing arts organization focusing on the improvement of communities, and improving the life of children through the arts.
  • Sketch You as a Fantasy Character (2011) – One of a kind illustrations.


Comments from participant evaluations include:


  • All participants recommend participation in competition.
  • The average self-reported score of skills, knowledge, or understanding of business development increased from 74% to 90% as result of participation.
  • 100% indicated likelihood of launch if project won first place; 98% indicated likelihood of launch regardless of placement--business development does not hinge on winning.
  • Commonalities from open-ended responses included: increased knowledge of writing a business plan, knowing the idea was worth pursuing, writing a better business plan, public speaking skills, courage to move forward


And a few testimonials on the value of MADE:


The competition has stretched us and we have made improvements because of it. So, it has been a very positive and lucrative experience.


This competition was hard but we believed we gained a great deal of knowledge from the experience.


The different stages of competition caused us to scrutinize our plan more thoroughly and -- I feel -- helped us produce a better plan.


…thank you for the opportunity to present my business idea to the competition.  Even though I did not win, I felt that I gained a lot.


That’s the bottom-line!  MADE in Missouri creates nothing but WINNERS with business start-ups, new jobs, and promoting entrepreneurship as a vibrant aspect of economic development within the state.



[2] Much of the information in this section is taken from MADE in Missouri pamphlet

[4] Much of the information in this section is taken from MADE Presentation


This website is maintained by the National Association of Community Action Agencies – Community Action Partnership, in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Grant Number, 90ET0469 and 90ET0481. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.