Help for Kansas City entrepreneurs is more readily available, thanks to funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Last week, the Foundation announced a total of $840,000 in awards to eight Kansas City area venture accelerators.

The firms were selected for grants and sponsorship in the KC Accelerator Challenge. The initiative solicited proposals from exemplary local programs that provide critical mentoring, access to resources and services that enable entrepreneurs to grow and scale their companies.

“Our goal is to increase entrepreneurial success in Kansas City through high-quality support programs because we know from recent research that more startups lead to higher productivity, wage growth and quality of life for the entire community,” said Kauffman Foundation President and CEO Wendy Guillies. “We believe the startups are empowered when they connect to established resources.

The KC Accelerator Challenge directly supports organizations that are demonstrably increasing early-stage entrepreneurs’ success and accelerating business through growth.”

In case you’re interested in taking advantage of the services the recipient companies will be offering, here are the eight grant receiving companies and their current assistance model/programs. However, the programs they pitched to and were approved by the Kaufman Foundation may vary slightly from their traditional programming.

BetaBlox is a business incubator that works to increase an entrepreneur’s likelihood of success by awarding 10 entrepreneurs at a time with a package designed to accelerate a startup’s growth and increase its valuation. In exchange, they join the founding team by taking a small piece of equity instead of charging upfront cash. This equity position, they say, motivates their team in a way that upfront cash never could.

Enterprise Center of Johnson County is a non-profit organization that helps Kansas City entrepreneurs grow by providing entrepreneur education, mentoring, office space and connections to capital. The ECJC is a hub of entrepreneurial activity, housing the Women’s Business Center, the Mid-America Angels Investment Network, the Women’s Capital Connection, the Growth Mentoring Service and many growing early-stage companies. It appears they pitched a program titled “Investment Bootcamp” to Kaufman.

Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP) matches seasoned, successful entrepreneur mentors with less-experienced entrepreneur mentees. Considerable mentoring is also fostered through peer-to-peer relationships derived from involvement through HEMP, business education discussing greatest successes and lessons learned from peers and top CEOs in the community, and field trips to locations of entrepreneurial interest within the Kansas City area. They pitched a program “Amp Up.”

Sprint Accelerator is a hub for entrepreneurship of coworking space, planned coworking days, and meeting facilities for all things entrepreneurial. They sponsor an invitation-only network 6-month formalized mentoring program. The program involves early-stage startup founders and corporate executive mentors, powered by the Sprint Accelerator and supported by several other corporations.

Techstars Kansas City focus is on design plus build, agriculture and animal health innovation and entrepreneurship, although technology enabled startups with global potential are encouraged to apply regardless of industry focus.

Project United Knowledge is the one minority-focused accelerator to receive funding under the initiative. Project UK seeks to serve minority entrepreneurs — particularly those from Kansas City’s most underserved zip codes. A relatively new program started in early 2017, Project UK offers coworking space, mentorship and technical training. Project UK aims to be a “translator” for Kansas Citians who feel disconnected from the area’s startup community. 

Rightfully Sewn’s mission is to propel Kansas City fashion designers to market. Biannually, the organization awards five fashion designers residency status. The residency includes a full-ride scholarship to attend Kauffman FastTrac® NewVenture™ in order to develop a business plan, invitations to participate in promotional events, access to workshops and media opportunities, and more.

Scale Up isn’t for startups, it’s for businesses that already know some level of success and are ready to move to the next level. This accelerator program works with businesses that are at least two years old and have income above $150,000, and have a strong enough market to grow their revenue to $1 million in sales or more.

The KC Accelerator Challenge is part of the Kauffman Foundation’s Zero Barriers movement, a comprehensive approach to address barriers entrepreneurs face. Through the Zero Barriers movement, the Kauffman Foundation works collaboratively to reverse the long-term decline in entrepreneurship by empowering every entrepreneur to achieve success.

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