Approximately 30 buildings in Blue Springs are available for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to set up shop and carve out their portion of the American Dream. The city’s location database, which can be found on its website, lists commercial buildings and lots meant to be filled, and the city is working to help its residents who want to start their own business do so.

Eric Shephard, aspiring business owner, was one of many individuals who stopped by the Blue Springs South branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library last Saturday for a workshop to provide assistance to local residents like himself who want to own and run their own business. Shephard spoke with representatives from all aspects of the business community, such as the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce and local bankers, to get feedback on his plans to start a restaurant.

“I’ve spent 25 years as a restaurant manager. I know that I want to open a restaurant simply because I have a great deal of experience,” he said.

Starting a business isn’t Shephard’s only goal, however. He said running his own restaurant is a way for him to make a difference in others’ lives.

“Having a business where you can actually offer someone a job and groom them, develop them and show them there’s a pathway for them to go further in life is really what I’m trying to do,” he said.

Along with others at the event, Shephard attended a brief presentation made by the city’s community and economic development director, Thomas Cole, who shared what they’ll need to get started and what makes starting a business in Blue Springs such a great opportunity.

Cole said the city’s excellent schools and residential growth are creating a foundation that’s priming the area for new businesses, specifically growth on the city’s southern side.

“Right now we’re very fortunate in the sense that we’re seeing a lot of businesses look at Blue Springs,” he said.

Cole explained a lot of individuals are becoming entrepreneurs in the current economy.

“Right now we were definitely in the side-gig economy where seemingly everybody has a couple of different jobs or hobbies they’re turning into-money making opportunities,” he said.

The key to getting a small business started, Cole shared with attendees, is to nail the business plan before anything else.

“If you haven’t been in business before, the business plan is by far the most important thing you can do before you get rolling,” he said. He said a good business plan consists of costs and an explanation of how the owner intends to make money. Cole said a strong business plan is one that contains an understanding of the local market and financial projections for the first few years.

Blue Springs also features a wide variety of resources for hopeful entrepreneurs, which Cole shared with attendees:

• Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, 816-229-8558.

• Blue Springs Economic Growth & Development Division, 816-622-4004.

• Blue Springs Downtown Alive! 816-808-7553.

• Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, 816-229-2522

• Prairie Township Fire Protection District, 816-525-4200

• Mid-Continent Public Library/Square One Small Business services

Shephard said he found the information helpful.

“I’m going to spend a lot more time working on my business plan, making sure I have all of those I’s and T’s crossed,” he said, sharing he is in the process of menu development, the details of which he will be including in his business plan, as well as the costs of running his business and where his vendors will be.

Anyone looking to get started with their own business can contact the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, or visit its website.