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Second-Annual Bringing Up Business Week Supports Small Business, Entrepreneurship 

The week saw record numbers of attendees and partnerships

Bringing Up Business 2017

Chris Harbert, CEO and Founder of Testery, presents to investors at the Missouri Tech Challenge at The Blue Note. Photo from The Columbia Missourian. 

For as long as he could remember, Chris Harbert wanted to start his own business.

“Much of what I’ve done has been with that aim in mind,” Harbert said.

Earlier this year, Harbert learned his position at his previous company would be eliminated. Though a worrisome situation, the circumstances presented Harbert with the opportunity of a lifetime: Should he finally take a chance at his dream of starting his own business?

“Ultimately, I decided to do what I always wanted to do,” Harbert said. “And that was to start my own business.”

Thus, Testery was born.

A service for other businesses, Testery is a website to test other websites. Companies describe how they would like users to interact with the site, and Testery runs through the steps automatically. If the test fails – perhaps a link is broken or an online ordering form times out – Testery reports this specific information to the company so it can be fixed.

It was this idea that brought Harbert to the first-ever Missouri Tech Challenge. On-stage at The Blue Note, Harbert stood in front of a panel of judges and over 230 audience members, selling them on his idea.

Tech Challenge

The Missouri Tech Challenge, organized by the Missouri Innovation Center and MU Office of Economic Development, was a ‘Shark Tank’-style pitch competition held at The Blue Note. Four startup companies had the opportunity to compete for a $50,000 investment each. Testery was among those companies.

“I’ve never prepared for a presentation that much,” Harbert said. “I wrote out the full script ahead of time, ran through it several times, and presented it front of people before that evening.”

Harbert’s hard work paid off. He left that evening with a $50,000 investment. A total of $125,000 was invested in three of the four companies that presented that night.

The Missouri Tech Challenge was one of several events during the second-annual Bringing Up Business week. An effort from a variety of community organizations – including REDI, Central Bank of Boone County, Columbia Business Times and the University of Missouri – Bringing Up Business Week celebrates small business and entrepreneurship in the community.

“Every year, Bringing Up Business brings together existing and aspiring business owners from every corner of mid-Missouri,” Steve Wyatt, associate vice chancellor and provost of economic development at the University of Missouri, said. “The week allows them to connect with one another, to learn about the various resources available to them throughout the community, and to gain valuable new skills.”

The week’s premier sponsors were the University of Missouri, Columbia Business Times and Central Bank of Boone County.

"One of the best ways our communities can prosper is through strong growth in small business," Joe Henderson, president of Central Bank of Boone County, says. "Bringing Up Business encourages our entrepreneurs and small business owners to explore better ways to be successful."

Bringing Up Business 2017 saw record improvements in attendance. Up nearly 26 percent from 2016, over 1,100 individuals attended the 13 events throughout the week. Opportunities for attendees ranged from workshops to panels.

Attendees heard from mid-Missouri’s most successful entrepreneurs during Monday’s Made in Mid-Missouri Luncheon and Presentation. Panelists included Brant Bukowsky, co-founder of Veterans United; Sarah Hill, founder and CEO of StoryUP VR; and Guy Bouchard, CEO and Founder of Sinclair Research Center.

Made in Mid MO

Other events included Startup Weekend, the first-ever Startup Crawl hosted by Missouri Business Alert, a keynote address from best-selling author Sam Richter and many others.

“A week like Bringing Up Business benefits entrepreneurs and local owners a ton of different ways. It’s easy to live in Columbia and think that you’re the only done doing this type of thing and that there aren’t other resources. But the more you get involved, you learn that’s quite the opposite,” Harbert said. “I think Bringing Up Business brings all of that together.”

Story by Nathan J. Snodgrass. Photos from The Columbia Business Times, the MU Office of Economic Development, and the Columbia Daily Tribune, respectively.