Economic Mobility Episode 4 (1)

Entrepreneurship is Kansas City, Missouri’s ‘secret sauce’

Conversations with entrepreneurs, civic leaders, economic development partners, and nonprofit leaders in Kansas City, MO

Entrepreneurship is part of the American Dream and it is booming. A record 5.4 million new businesses were started last year, as workers across the country struck out on their own, searching for a different path to a fulfilling career and economic mobility. But that road isn’t always a smooth one for some new business owners who hit roadblocks such as access to financial capital, lack of a strong social network, and other barriers to success.

In this special four-part Work in Progress podcast series – Economic Mobility Through Entrepreneurship – we’ll examine those headwinds and solutions. We’ll hear directly from entrepreneurs, and get advice from leaders in business, education, and government – to learn how starting your own business can be a fulfilling and profitable career choice and a boon to a community.  

This podcast series is made possible through the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Earlier this month, I spent part of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Kansas City, Missouri. I went there because I had heard that K.C.-MO was a great example of a city and its people doing what they can to support entrepreneurs trying to start a business or trying to take that next growth step forward.

I truly was blown away by what I found.

Kansas City has a homey, small town vibe – easy to get around and welcoming – with a global, diverse population and attitude. Leaders from local government, the business community, nonprofits, and foundations are mentoring, funding, and breaking down barriers to capital for entrepreneurs who want to make KC their home base.

In 2016, Convene Magazine ranked Kansas City in the top 20 cities to start a business in the U.S. It also ranks high in other categories – top five for good pay and affordable housing, second best city for jobs, and the fourth most cultured city in the nation.

The engine of the K.C.-MO economy is small business startups and the city is doing everything it can to encourage them. It is a group effort. Mayor Quinton Lucas calls it the city’s “secret sauce.”

“(A) very few dollars into entrepreneurship actually goes a very long way. Compare that to a billion-dollar real estate property tax incentive where really you’re only getting those 4,000 jobs and they usually don’t bloom or grow any more,” Lucas tells me.

He says the goal is to give entrepreneurs with ambition and vision a little help, because when they succeed, the city prospers.

“Development isn’t just (saying) we’ll find a way to expand the giant department store. It’s instead saying, how come to be as diversified as possible both in businesses and the people who are represented within them, and more than anything, how do we help them grow and survive?”

There are many organizations out there helping the city create a welcoming environment for business owners. In this episode, we talk with leaders from KCSourcelink, The Porter House KC, and the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce about what they’re doing.

You’ll also meet a diverse group of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, age, and experiences. They’ll explain why they chose to start their businesses in Kansas City and how they are getting help from the community – and each other – to ensure that they succeed.

And you’ll learn about a little corner of the city that has cultivated and grown businesses started by transplants from many other countries, something one resident described as like taking a “trip around the world’ without leaving home.

There is so much to share about how Kansas City residents work together to provide economic mobility and lift up the who community.

So, listen to the podcast here, or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

Guests in this episode:

Episode 252: Entrepreneurship is Kansas City, Missouri’s ‘secret sauce’
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts