Antenna Co. highlights small business growth in St. Louis

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by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 6:40 PM

 (KMOV) --At the Antennas Direct Research and Development facility in Ellisville, plans are in the works for expansion. The company is hiring engineers, people to answer phones in its call center, and long term plans include a warehouse where orders can be fulfilled (that work is currently contracted out to a third party). 

The company is small, with 25 employees, but its growing fast.  Antennas Direct plans to hire at least 20 to 25 more people in the 12 to 18 months.

“It’s the new Chrysler plant or the new Fortune 500 Company opening up that gets all the attention.  But, as we talk around here just in this office park, collectively, the businesses in our office park can hire over 500, 700 people a year.  Individually, they may only be hiring 20 or 30 people, but it’s the small businesses that are collectively adding the most to the payrolls,” said Antennas Direct founder Richard Schneider.

Schneider is not exaggerating.  The Office of Advocacy for the Small Business Administration reports that small businesses make up 49.2 percent of private-sector employment and are responsible for 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs.

Schneider says the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership has helped navigate red tape and acted as an ombudsman for the new company. 

But, in the early days raising cash was difficult.

Starting next year, Denny Coleman with the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership says to expect to see money awarded to local technology start-ups as part of a new initiative announced in June.  The Regional Entrepreneurial Initiative calls on economic, elected, and business leaders to raise $100 million over the next five years.

“We are in the process of developing that plan under the direction and leadership of the Regional Chamber and we are going to help support that growth in small businesses,” said Coleman.

Already, the region provides other types of support, says Coleman, including funding for small business incubators.

As for Antennas Direct, the company’s products are now carried in stores like Walmart and Best Buy - coming a long way from the company’s roots in Schneider’s garage.

“My goal was to maybe sell about 30 antennas a month and it would sort of fund my home theater hobby.  Last month, we shipped about 75,000 antennas.”

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