November 11, 2020

Hannibal, MO – Chris Kempke of the MO Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Hannibal has announced today the launch of a new entrepreneurship program called Ignite. Ignite is a partnership between Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council, Missouri SBDC, and the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce dedicated to creating an ecosystem that attracts, creates, supports, and accelerates new and existing businesses in Northeast Missouri.

In order to create an entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region, the Ignite program is made of three components: expert technical assistance, establishing entrepreneurial support networks, and connecting entrepreneurs with investors. Ignite provides the technical assistance through SBDC Counselors such as Brittany Weldy, who can help clients both start and grow businesses. “Once an entrepreneur is serious about their business idea and has resources to begin, I can step in to help them flush out their business plan, their marketing campaign, financial projections and more.  My goal is to set them up for success when they present their business to interested investors,” Brittany Weldy shared.

Ignite creates a support system for entrepreneurs with a professional services network and a mentorship network. The professional service network is made up of area accountants, lawyers, commercial real estate agents, insurance brokers and other business service providers who understand the value of small businesses and are ready to work with Ignites participants. The mentorship network will connect entrepreneurs of different experience levels and industries through social events, professional development opportunities and one-on-one mentorship. “We are excited to see the momentum that will result from a collaborative, focused effort on developing entrepreneurs and their businesses,” states McKenzie Disselhorst, who leads as the Ignite mentorship coordinator.

Because investment is key to helping entrepreneurs succeed, Ignite will involve investor events that connect high-performing entrepreneurs with a platform to present their ideas to investors both on stage and one-on-one. These investor events will act as networking events for entrepreneurs around the Northeast Missouri region and help generate public excitement for the innovative ideas presented. According to Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council Director Corey Mehaffy, the investor network is critical to the entrepreneurial process. Mehaffy stated, “Typically with start-ups we have a gap in the financing stack. In many cases, the bank may require as much as 35% equity. Often our entrepreneurs have a difficult time coming up with 10-15% even with the help of family and friends. In addition to traditional lending, the investor network can inject capital in the financing stack to allow us to get more deals done.”

The program is led by the SBDC’s Entrepreneurship Specialist, Brittany Weldy, and Ignite Program Coordinator, Chris Kempke, along with several community volunteers coordinating different components of the program. Volunteer coordinators include Allie Bennett of Northeast Power, McKenzie Disselhorst and Sherri McGregor with the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce, Brock Fahy with the City of Palmyra, Stephanie Reece with Hannibal LaGrange University and Corey Mehaffy with Hannibal Regional EDC. The Ignite Program is available to all citizens of the following Missouri counties: Clark, Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Ralls, Pike and Shelby.

Chris Kempke, SBDC counselor and Ignite program coordinator, believes that cultivating a strong culture of entrepreneurship is a key component to Northeast Missouri’s economic development. Kempke stated, “Homegrown businesses tend to keep more of their revenue in the community and are less likely to relocate. In order to help them succeed, Ignite helps till and fertilize the ground, so to speak, to give them a better chance of success.”

Allie Bennett of Northeast Power added to this sentiment, stating. “Supporting entrepreneurship is important to the overall success of any regional economic development effort. Ignite is a platform for supporting our entrepreneurs who aspire to learn and grow. Through Ignite, we will strive to promote the innovative ideas of our entrepreneurs and build relationships among community partners who are also interested in helping these entrepreneurs succeed.”

For more information on Ignite or to learn how you can be a part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, contact Chris Kempke at or visit Ignite on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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