Forbes ranks Provo No. 6 in nation for businesses, careers

Chip is a late-night cookie delivery business in Provo that opened last year. Provo is a good environment for small startup businesses because of the nearby universities and community resources, according to BYU Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology Director Jeff Brown. (Dani Jardine)

Forbes listed Provo as first in the nation for job growth and sixth in the nation for “best places for businesses and careers” in its 2017 rankings.

Some well-known businesses like Vivint, Qualtrics and Novell — later bought by Micro Focus — started in Provo, as well as more local businesses like Chip and J. Dawgs.

So why is Provo, Utah, such a great place for businesses to launch their products and services?

Great talent from BYU and UVU

UVU and BYU provide the innovative ideas and talented employees necessary to successfully start a business, according to Jeff Brown, associate director of BYU’s Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology.

“It all kind of started, I think, with these two great schools who spun out some really interesting companies who decided to stay here instead of relocating to somewhere else, and that makes a big deal,” Brown said.

UVU student Sage Allen measures out cookie dough at Chip. BYU graduates own Chip, which employs students from BYU and UVU. (Dani Jardine)

According to Brown, there are BYU students around campus in various majors already running businesses.

The goal of the Rollins Center is to help BYU students develop their business ideas and get the tools they need to begin. Alumni entrepreneurs, who also mentor the students, fund the center.

“That mentoring program is what really separates our center from all other centers in the world,” Brown said.

The Princeton Review has ranked BYU’s graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the top 10 for the last eight years, a distinction held only by BYU and Babson College, a college in Massachusetts dedicated to business.

Accelerators, boot camps and other aid

Another factor driving business growth in Provo is the abundance of business aid available to entrepreneurs, including business accelerators and boot camps. A chapter of 1 Million Cups, where entrepreneurs help each other with ideas, also meets weekly in Provo.

According to Brown, these local boot camps and other resources help improve new businesses’ access to employees with talent — particularly technology talent — found in Provo.

RevRoad is a business growth accelerator company opening in Provo on Nov. 16. Its mission is to help Provo residents — including students — develop their business pitches and start and grow companies, according to RevRoad co-founder AJ Rounds.

“We’ve got the universities right here and we’ve got great partnerships with them, which is why we felt like this is the place we need to be,” said RevRoad Executive Director Amy Caldwell.

RevRoad’s business plan is to help mentor businesses for two years and help them succeed when they run into problems.

Steve Wirthlin, who started local late-night cookie delivery business Chip with his siblings, said there are various challenges involved when starting a business.

“I don’t want people that are starting businesses to think that it’s easy,” Wirthlin said. “It’s hard, and you should go into it knowing it’s hard so you can be able to persevere and get through it all.”

Supportive government 

Kastina and Nick Segard (middle) visit Chip with friends. A family of BYU graduates who wanted to add to late-night food options in Provo started Chip. (Dani Jardine)

Cameron Christensen is a business development coordinator with Provo City’s Economic Development, which is one of 60 organizations internationally accredited by the International Economic Development Council.

“We try to be a very business-friendly environment and try to develop our code and try to help businesses thrive in a way that allows us to attract and recruit businesses to Provo,” Christensen said.

The local government has also been supportive of small businesses, according to Brown.

“I think the other thing that is an added benefit for the city of Provo is that … Mayor Curtis … has been very pro-business and pro-supporting business, supporting the startup scene,” Brown said.

Provo mayor-elect Michelle Kaufusi said she plans to build on Mayor John Curtis’ efforts to support small businesses in Provo.

“I want to have people engaged,” Kaufusi said. “I want to have people at the table that are out there in the trenches, people that are trying to open up businesses and are having a hard time.”

Caldwell and Rounds said Provo has been very supportive and kept in contact with them as they have started RevRoad.

“(Provo is) excited for new businesses coming here,” Caldwell said. “They want to be able to have businesses birthed here, stay here and headquartered here.”

Supportive community

Provo’s culture also helps small businesses reach success, according to Rounds.

“I think your challenge is always getting the word out … helping people become aware of what you’re doing and what you can add to the community,” Rounds said. “But one of the good things about Provo is it’s such a similar culture that it’s easy to spread the word.”

Another benefit for starting a new business in Provo is the supportive community, Rounds said. The Provo community supports newer local businesses and gives them a chance, and many community members are willing to share ideas and help other businesses, according to Rounds.

Christensen said the people in Provo who are willing to invest in the city cultivate a great community and an atmosphere where development can occur.

“Provo is such a great place to start a business,” Wirthlin said. “If there was anywhere that I could think of in the world that I’ve been, I think Provo would be the best place.”

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