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11 Reasons to Start a Business in St. Louis Right Now

“The sense of community, the momentum, the breadth of opportunity — St. Louis is really just a great place to be.”

By Claire Hannum on August 29, 2018

Ready to start the business of your dreams in an affordable city bursting with creativity and startup energy? St. Louis is the place to make it happen.

“Being an entrepreneur in St. Louis right now reminds me of what it felt like to be an entrepreneur in Silicon Alley in New York in the mid 1990s,†says Andrew Smith, Vice President of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the St. Louis Regional Chamber. “The sense of community, the momentum, the breadth of opportunity – it’s really just a great place to be.”

Need a little more convincing? Here are 11 reasons St. Louis is the ideal place to build and grow your business. 

1. There are plenty of incubators.

St. Louis is home to a whopping 19 startup incubators and 11 accelerators. Organizations like Accelerate St. Louis and T-REX, a nonprofit focused on St. Louis economic growth, are ready and waiting to help you get your business on its feet. In addition to helping your company grow, these valuable organizations provide ongoing community, brainstorming, and funding opportunities.

2. The city will welcome you (and your business) with open arms.

“St. Louis, perhaps more than any other American city, has been intentional and strategic about building up its startup ecosystem over the last ten years,†says Smith. The city wants to make your move there worth your while, and has gone the extra mile to make that clear with the launch of all kinds of supportive local organizations.”

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The city’s support for startups has paid off, big time. St. Louis recently earned a spot on our list of 5 Up-and-Coming Tech Hotspots, and the business community here is growing every day. 

“The startup boom we’re experiencing now isn’t an accident. It is the direct result of more than a decade of community-building work by a number of organizations and individuals.†With more startups making St. Louis home every day, including top-notch startups like BonfyreSafeTrek, and Aisle411, you’ll certainly be in good company.

3. Local competitions will keep your pitching skills sharp.

Startup founders can hone their vision and acquire major funding with the city’s series of local entrepreneurship and innovation contests. Many St. Louis entrepreneurs eagerly await the annual Arch Grants Global Startup Competition, which offers massive grants and pro bono support.

College-age entrepreneurs are encouraged to go for their goals with the Skandalaris Center Cup mentorship competition at Washington University. Tech students can sharpen their skills at the annual ArchHacks hackathon and other local hackathons that regularly pop up around the city.

4. St. Louis has an unshakeable creative spirit.

St. Louis has the uncanny ability to foster especially unique business ideas. “There is so much energy and optimism in the St. Louis startup scene right now,†says Smith. If you’re looking for proof of that, look no further than quirky and enterprising businesses like Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery, which serves boozy ice cream, or Anew Nature, a custom furniture shop that gives back to the community by hiring formerly incarcerated St. Louis residents.

5. There are endless opportunities to learn.

Whether you’re looking for a chance to go back to school or simply love the progressive energy of a college campus, St. Louis offers both in spades. Washington University and University of Missouri bring hearty doses of youthful energy to the whole city. Washington University is especially devoted to fostering entrepreneurship. The school has an innovation lab that encourages students to make St. Louis a better and more prosperous place with their startup ideas.

And any entrepreneur knows that quality local colleges are great talent pipelines when you’re getting ready to hire. 

6. It’s a Midwestern city in all the best ways. 

“I think my favorite thing about St. Louis is the sense of purpose people here seem to have,†says Smith. “This is a place where people come to make a difference. It’s inspiring.†St. Louis embodies all the traits that make the Midwest so special: dedication, purpose, and a willingness to put in real elbow grease to accomplish your goals.

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Not only are St. Louisians unafraid to work hard to make their dreams happen, they’re also genuinely friendly and welcoming. 

7. You’ll have no trouble making friends (and collaborators).

Thanks to that trademark Midwestern friendliness, entrepreneurial-minded St. Louisians are always eager to meet other people on their wavelength. The city has a whopping 22 entrepreneur support organizations, 16 co-working communities, and 6 maker spaces. That’s a whole lot of places to find your tribe! 

8. You’ll never be bored.

Your days off in St. Louis will never be dull. After a long day of work, you can hop over to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game or stroll through beautiful Forest Park. You can unwind on weekends by ducking in and out of the city’s quirky shops and world-class restaurants. Oh, and of course, there’s always the famous Arch and the recently updated Gateway Arch Park, one of many free amenities that helped St. Louis land a spot on our list of the U.S. Cities With the Most Freebies. The bottom line? It’s possible to have a lot of fun in St. Louis without spending much money. 

9. There’s creative inspiration around every corner.

St. Louis has a fantastic cultural scene that is finally starting to get the national recognition it deserves. You can pop into the Saint Louis Art Museum for a quick dose of artistic inspiration whenever you’d like – admission is free. The City Museum, one of the quirkiest and most immersive attractions in the country, is a must-visit (and there’s nothing like a trip down its 10-story slide to shake some new ideas loose). Need a musical moment? You can take in a concert by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra or catch a performance at one of the city’s numerous performance venues. St. Louis is also known as one of America’s most literate cities, so there’s never a shortage of fascinating bookshops to explore.

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10. Innovation is in the city’s DNA.

Ideas that change the world are hardly a new phenomenon in this city. “St. Louis has a long heritage of innovation,†says Smith. The Gateway To The West has long been known for its hardworking spirit, and is regularly recognized for its contributions like biotech and its fast-growing agricultural tech sector. If you start or move your business here, you’ll be joining a centuries-old tradition of innovation. 

11. Oh, and did we mention the barbecue?

St. Louis takes barbecue very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the city has its own trademark style of barbecue sauce. Once a year, the city is overtaken by ambitious grillers for Q In The Lou BBQ Festival, and in the months between, you’ll find endless local BBQ joints worth savoring. During long marathons of business-building, don’t underestimate the power of spare ribs to keep your team happy and productive. 

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