In January, MBAC welcomed Dustin and Megan McKissen to participate in a creativity crawl and meet with community leaders about Helena’s economic development strategy.

Dustin is a writer for VentureBeat, Inc., CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, and several other national and regional entrepreneurship and innovation focused publications. He is also a two-time LinkedIn Top Voice, and the Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Marketing for the St. Charles County (Missouri) Economic Development Council. Megan McKissen is the Director of OPO Startups, a nationally recognized and award-winning co-working space in St. Charles, Missouri. Megan has overseen the growth of OPO Startups from its founding to its current existence as a co-working space that houses more than 60 startups.

They presented their observations of Helena and their experiences developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in smaller metropolitan areas at the MBAC annual gathering.

The McKissens both agreed that Helena’s entrepreneurial ground is fertile and ready for growth. The participation and interest in their visit illustrated the desire of the Helena community to actively support the entrepreneurial spirit in Helena.

“Over the last few months, we have been talking to community leaders and working with partners including Edge Marketing + Design to develop a program that will provide resources, education, and accountability to Helena area entrepreneurs,” said Brian Obert, Executive Director of MBAC. “The goal is to help them get their ideas off the ground quickly and strategically, in a way that is uniquely ‘Helena’.”

The small business accelerator program will help a small group of entrepreneurs through a six-month program starting in late spring. Program participants will be selected from the pool of applicants by a committee of community leaders based on goals and business type. Accepted participants will meet in person monthly and use technology to stay in touch between meetings. The program’s curriculum will be tailored specifically to meet the needs of selected entrepreneurs, ultimately focusing on the goals of each individual participant.

“Big ideas for small businesses start in garages and at kitchen tables, between working a 9-hour day and helping the kids with homework. We have worked with many early-stage entrepreneurs and unfortunately, too many of them don’t make it through the first few steps. Life gets in the way and they get burnt out before they can even open their doors. This program is specifically designed to help. Let’s identify what you can achieve in six months, build a realistic plan and get it done.” says Deanna Johnson of Edge Marketing + Design.

To mark the participants’ completion of the program, the community and press will be invited to a “pitch night,” where the participants will have the opportunity to present their ventures.

This program is offered free to those who are accepted. Franchises and multi-level-marketing companies are not eligible to participate. The time to apply closed on May 1st. Follow MBAC on Facebook for the announcement of the pitch night event. We would appreciate your support in supporting these inspiring entrepreneurs!