CASSVILLE, Mo -- There are nearly 500,000 small businesses in the state of Missouri. With rising gas prices, health care costs and a lackluster economy, owning a small business can be taxing.
One group of businesses in the Ozarks are coming together to help one another and cut costs.
Small businesses employ more than a million people in the Show-Me State. It's no secret--the past few years have been tough. Instead of trying to weather the storm by themselves, businesses in Barry County are joining forces.
"99% of business owners are good people and do good business. That's what we want to highlight," said Nickle Flooring owner Debra Nickle.
Business owners are coming together in Barry County.
"I thought it would be great if we had some sort of association where we can start building relationships with these other business owners," she said.
The main goal is networking and referrals. They are hoping to bring more business to local businesses.
"The Barry County Small Business Owners Network is completely free to anyone that joins. They have about 35 members so far, but they do say that they get a new business nearly every week."
That's not the only goal.
"With the first meeting that we had, we asked what the business owner felt there biggest need was. That's the first thing that came up. Health care is our biggest need," said Nickle.
"How can we pool our resources together and enable us to have better benefits down the road and save some money? It's thinking outside the box," said Precision Wealth Strategies advisor Jared Ellis.
The Barry County businesses created an association. While they still have to get individual health care plans for their workers, they can buy a supplemental plan together to help bring down costs.
"It's different in nature. It's more designed to cover out of pocket expenses associated with medical bills.-deductibles, copays," said AFLAC agent Jake Hagedorn.
Small Businesses total more than 97% of all employers in Missouri. As costs rise banding together can make a big difference.
"We just ask that they come to a meeting," said Nickle, "try and get them involved every way that we can."
The Barry County Small Business Owners Network is holding a Business Expo June 2, 2012. It will be held at the Barry County Museum from 10 am to 3 pm. It will feature local small businesses and live demostrations throughout the day. It will also have local food and live music.