Supporting small businesses has been the name of the game at retail store incubator The Missing Piece, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in Rice Village in November.

Store owner Robert O’Bannon said he opened the storefront at 2476 Times Blvd., Houston, completely out of pocket but with a clear-cut mission.

“If we do not rebuild small business, then we will become a nation of mega retailers,” O'Bannon said.

Under the incubator model, small business owners can keep their daytime jobs while also growing their businesses, O’Bannon said.

“Internally we are able to provide the retail presence, an online presence, exposure at outdoor markets, branding and business development," he said. "Through our program, our hopes is that we are providing a better foundation for them when it is time for them to have their own store.”

After more than 14 months since opening, The Missing Piece has provided more than 90 different brands—from local, mainly woman-owned, small businesses—with the opportunity to sell their items, O’Bannon said.

“That gives them a home; it gives them the experience, the exposure, without the commitment, without the liability,” he said. "It gives them a retail presence in Rice Village."

Leasing in a high-profile location such as Rice Village comes with a price tag that O'Bannon said a majority of his vendors cannot afford.

“I’ll just tell you what my operating expenses here are over $15,000 a month, so no one in here could afford that,” he said.

Store visitors can expect a hodgepodge of items including seasonal gifts, home goods, jewelry and local artisan goods.

O’Bannon said funding the store is going to require a revamp in the company's business model that will allow for expansions into other locations, which could include Montrose, Dallas, College Station and Austin, and possibly even Nashville or Atlanta.

O'Bannon said he plans to convert The Missing Piece into a not-for-profit organization.

“I’ll step out and work as a consultant to the company and we will hire fundraisers to cover the operating expenses," he said. "Once operating expenses are covered here for 100 companies to have a home and not worry about [the] utility bill, rent, labor, websites, online stores, branding [and] anything we provide, then we will fundraise for location number two. Once that’s covered, we will fundraise for location number three.”

The Rice Village location is open daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., but O’Bannon said he keeps his doors open for guests who might need a little extra time picking out something special.

“We are the missing piece for small businesses to be whatever their next step is,” he said. “I’m just doing my little part.”