St. John starts business incubator program

ST. JOHN, Kan. (KSNW) — Empty lots, empty businesses — it’s a common sight in St. John. Stafford County officials hope to change that by bringing a new business to the town.

However, starting a business in a small town has its challenges. One challenge that entrepreneurs face is finding a place to live.

“If you’ve looked around, there’s just very limited selection, and so housing is definitely a big challenge,” Shawn Batten said.

Batten lives and works in Wichita, but is hoping to go back to his hometown of St. John to start a manufacturing business. Stafford County wants to help him with their business incubator.

“It will give a more clearly defined way for people who are interested in starting a business to actually do it,” said Stafford County Economic Development director, Carolyn Dunn.

The incubator program would provide a two-story building, located in the downtown area. The first floor would operate as the business and the second floor as a living area. The business owner would receive financial help to get their sales off the ground, and guidance from a mentor.

Batten says entrepreneurial efforts, like this one, are invaluable.

“They give a little boost of confidence to the individuals that are trying to start a business,” he said.

County officials expect the building to cost $200,000. They already have more than half of the funds, from grants given by local businesses who support the effort.

“It’s worked in other places. It’d be a great opportunity for St. John and Stafford County,” said Christy Tustin from the Golden Belt Community Foundation. The foundation gave Stafford County Economic Development a $10,000 grant for the incubator.

Right now, officials are still working on getting more money but they say people have already shown an interest in learning more about the business incubator.

If you’d like to learn more about the St. John business incubator, visit the Stafford County Economic Development website.