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For new startups and entrepreneurs, it can be challenging to know where to start. Luckily, CET’s flagship 10-week program Square One (SQ1) is designed to take budding entrepreneurs and turn them into savvy business leaders.
Clint Matthews and Kyle Rood were among 35 entrepreneurs to graduate from the most recent program with their company Start Right Foods which makes high protein, gluten free waffles. We caught up with Matthews to talk about how the program benefitted their startup and what’s next for the local food company.
Talk a little about your experience with the program.
It’s not too dissimilar from taking a college credit class—you meet once a week and you’re in the room with about 30 other entrepreneurs who are all in different stages of their businesses. Throughout the course you learn a lot of different things: speakers come in to talk about raising money, building financials out, writing proposals, sales, distribution, giving presentations, manufacturing—really a pretty wide gamut, just to help people get a leg up and get their business off the ground.
For us, it was a really great program. There were some things that we kind of already had under our belt, but then there were other areas that felt good to revisit. It had been a long time since Kyle or I had visited some of that stuff it was good to have a refresher course. We won the pitch competition at the end of the course, so that felt really good.
Congratulations! What did you find challenging as you were going through the program?
When you are working on your business as you start this course, some people [saw] their business shift as they [went] through and started learning more by talking to consumers and things like that. For us, we were on our path already—we launched the product during the class, had our first sales and started to grow pretty quickly during that time.
What was the biggest takeaway for you?
We really gained a lot of good relationships. The mentors from the program are really well connected in the community. We also connected with a lot of other entrepreneurs. It was great to meet people and learn what’s going on in the startup community. Building a better network was the best thing from the program by far.
What are your impressions of the startup culture in St. Louis?
Both Kyle and I started our entrepreneurial career in Columbia at Mizzou. I lived there for 15 years and moved back in July. I made the move to St. Louis because I really like the startup culture here. There’s tons of resources, tons of capital and lots of people with industry experience and those are all very good things. There’s a great environment here and people are really helpful. For us, it’s been a very good move.
What would you say to other entrepreneurs considering applying for SQ1?
The big thing is just apply or it doesn’t even matter. You don’t have to have already started a business. We were a little further along than a lot of other people in the group, which is fine, but it’s just a good learning process. If you’ve never started a company, it will teach you every single thing you need to know.
So what’s next for Start Right?
We want to be a company that’s not just a waffle company but a company that’s synonymous with a high-protein convenient breakfast. So, looking ahead, we don’t want people to just eat Start Right waffles, we want different Start Right options for everyone, but it’s all high protein and it’s all convenient.
Applications for next fall’s SQ1 Bootcamp open July 1. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.