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MU Entrepreneurial Programs


There are two new student-owned and-operated businesses in the University of Missouri’s Student Center this year. A university program that helps create a low-risk environment for students to explore their entrepreneurial ideas this year selected two businesses: Threadbare and Stuff in a Box. Threadbare is a thrift store that sells gender-neutral clothing for a reduced price. Stuff in a Box allows family and friends to send care packages to students with the click of a button.

Kyle Gunby, MU student and co-owner of Threadbare, said the program gives students a unique opportunity. “People do a lot of things on college campuses for the sake of affiliation, for building a resume and for making their LinkedIn look really sparkly,” Gunby said. “Rarely do you get to take ownership for an idea and not have somebody else holding your hand while you do it.” Gunby said Threadbare truly is a student-owned business, meaning its success or failure rests solely on the shoulders of the staff.

“There is no buffer,” he said. “If we run out of money, the store closes.” MU’s Memorial Student Unions Entrepreneurial Program started in 2010. It has since hosted nine businesses, including the two this year, said MU spokeswoman Michelle Froese. Froese said the program allows students to practice what they learn in class. “We want to have this safe incubator environment,” Froese said.

The beauty of the program is that students don’t have to use their own money to purchase their initial inventory. U.S. Bank partners with MU to provide $2,000 in seed money every year for the student businesses. “It’s a really great way to instigate student ideas and ideation as it pertains to entrepreneurial businesses on campus,” Gunby said.

Threadbare opened Aug. 26 and quickly began to make a profit, Gunby said. The business’ owners hoped to recoup their initial investment within two or three weeks; they reached that goal in only two days, bringing in about $800. Student owners of businesses sponsored by the program get to keep all profits at the end of the year.“It’s a nice little reward for the time we spent in this space,” Gunby said.

Gunby said he and Threadbare co-owner Gabriel Riekhof had considered submitting a business proposal a year ago. Last spring, they added two other members — Allison Fitts and Zach Bine — to their team and submitted the business proposal. “This is a very rare opportunity,” he said. “How many people get to take a chance at not only opening a business, but one that has a social aspect as well in such a risk-free environment?”

After the group decided to open a thrift clothing store, Gunby said they hoped to make a statement with the business. After much debate, they chose gender neutrality as their cause. Gunby said retailers have started to shift their approach on gender in terms of what they sell and how they display their merchandise. Threadbare’s clothes hang alongside similar items rather than being paired together to create an outfit geared toward one gender, he said.

To learn more about Threadbare and other student run businesses at Mizzou visit the Columbia Daily Tribune's website.