New businesses fail at higher rate in Missouri, local program works to change that

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 11:22 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - At Pop Pop Hurray in Ferguson, customers can choose from more than 50 unique flavors. Tony Davis opened the store front in fall 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

So many of our favorite places were closing. This was one. It used to be a Quizno’s, so we got a lot of community support for that,” said Davis about his storefront on South Florissant.

Davis hit the 1-year mark, a milestone for any small business. Now in year two he’s checking off bigger goals, including opening a second location in St. Charles and partnering with the St. Louis Cardinals to offer his gourmet popcorn at Busch Stadium.

LendingTree, an online lending marketplace, analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data and found that the average rate of business closure in the first year across the country is 18.4%. The highest is in Hawaii, with a 25.4% failure rate. Missouri is close behind with a 22.9% business fallout in the same period.

That data is why Dan Lauer wanted to start an accelerator program. Lauer is the founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate.

“You cannot do it alone and for founders that try, they end up with 10,000 gadgets in their basement and worried about their second mortgage,” said Lauer.

Lauer invented Water Babies, a popular toy that’s been around for decades. The accelerator program offers everything he wishes he had as an early entrepreneur.

Davis was one of five picked for UMSL’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Accelerate which works with underrepresented entrepreneurs.

He says the lessons learned in the 8-week program and the $50,000 grant helped him grow his business and survive.

The next class of entrepreneurs begins this fall. Learn more here.