Jorge Belcher and Jacob Blaylock, recent Missouri Western graduates, will get a jump start on their entrepreneurial dreams, thanks to the Craig School of Business Franchise Program and Center for Entrepreneurship.

Blaylock and Belcher were the two finalists from a senior-level applied entrepreneurship class this spring who prepared business plans and presented them to a panel of judges that included Steve Craig, benefactor of the Craig School of Business. The plan was to award one store to one winner, but Craig said that proved impossible.

“We had two very qualified individuals,” Craig said. “I think both of them will thrive in the settings that we are going to help create for them, and we look forward to having them as part of the fraternity of entrepreneurs that we’ve created at Missouri Western.”

Pam Klaus, Director of Franchise Programs, added “We are very proud of the hard work and dedication shown by all the participants in our program.”

Blaylock, who majored in management, was awarded a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Store in Petaluma, California. Belcher, who majored in marketing and management, will be given the program’s first non-franchise opportunity. Support from the program and the Center for Entrepreneurship will help him expand a vehicle sales business he started in 2013.

Blaylock and Belcher join 21 other program alumni who have opened 29 businesses in 10 states, with net sales of over $17,000,000 and 376 employees. The program was founded in 2009 by Craig, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Missouri Western to offer entrepreneurship opportunities to graduates of Missouri Western. The program provides initial capital for the stores, which the alumni pay back over five years. The entrepreneurs also receive ongoing support from faculty members, the Craig School of Business Advisory Council, Craig and each other.

For more information about Missouri Western’s Craig School of Business Franchise Program, contact Pam Klaus, Director of Franchise Programs, (816) 262-9769,

Champion of Entrepreneurs

The franchise competition is kicked off each year with the Celebration of Entrepreneurs Dinner, which was held in June. At this year’s event, the Champion of Entrepreneurs Award was presented to the Bradley family, owners of the News-Press & Gazette Company, in recognition of their support of business growth in the St. Joseph area. The family last year created the Bradley Entrepreneurship Loan Program, which helps Missouri Western students and alumni secure financing to start or acquire a business. The loan program, which has helped alumni acquire two businesses so far, is administered by the Center for Entrepreneurship within the Craig School of Business.

The guest speaker for the Celebration of Entrepreneurs Dinner was Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, who successfully launched a delicatessen at the age of 21 before entering politics.

“Be the first to work, the last to leave work and the last to get paid,” he advised the young business owners. “Do not be afraid of failure. I have learned more from my failures than I ever learned from my successes.”

Frank Crail, founder and CEO of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, said at the dinner that Missouri Western graduates had won their company’s “Rookie of the Year” award each year since the program started in 2009, and Missouri Western alumni-owned franchises now account for more than 10 percent of the company’s sales around the country.