Black-Owned Businesses Open In St. Louis, Fueled By Harris-Stowe State’s MECCA Program

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Harris-Stowe State University student Corey Burns had a problem that needed a fix.

“The problem was trying to come up with gifts,” Harris-Stowe State University student Corey Burns explained. “Everyone is thinking about birthdays. I know your birthday is coming up, but I always wait until the last minute.”

His solution: He launched “Just For You Boxes.” Its first day of business was March 14, or 314 day. He takes orders for themed snack boxes ranging from movies to St. Louis pride packs.

“Now I ship boxes all over,” Burns shared. “This past month, I had my biggest order. I shipped 15 gift boxes to Hawaii.”

Like Burns, Faybian Penn works with the university’s Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“I am capable of being an entrepreneur,” Penn said.

She’s not a Harris-Stowe State student, but that’s not a requirement to work with the center or its various programs. The fifth-generation farmer runs Fresh Harvest 365, a company addressing food insecurity in urban communities using hydroponic farming.

Penn said the CIE program gives her the confidence to push her business into the international market.

“Agriculture is a billion-dollar business, and we expect to receive several million dollars,” Penn said.

These success stories are fueled by the CIE’s MECCA program. A ten-week accelerator course to foster the growth of black and brown business owners and community leaders.

“To date, we have been able to accelerate 99 business owners, black business owners through our business accelerators. we know the national rate for start-ups is 5% successful and 4% for black businesses, so we are very proud of the impact we have made,” CIE Director Kristy Jackson said.

The center’s success at empowering students and community members is the foundation allowing a brick-and-mortar center to open at the corner of Compton and Olive in March 2024.

A big factor for emerging entrepreneurs enrolled with the center is most of its programs are free to enroll. That’s an opportunity Burns said is life-changing.

“Being your own boss isn’t easy, long days, long nights. always something wrong, but when we get it right, and I know I put my heart into it, it’s more rewarding than anything,” Burns said.

To learn more information about Harris-Stowe State University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, click here to visit the program’s website.

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