How the Kansas City Region Cultivates a Supportive Ecosystem for Business Growth

Image removed.

Thanks to the efforts of many diverse support organizations, the Kansas City region is becoming an epicenter for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Through innovative strategies like providing access to capital, mentorship and shared work spaces, the region is working proactively to support local business owners. The region's leading strategies will be explored at NLC's upcoming training, Providing Small Business with Access to Capital in Kansas City, Mo. on Oct. 8-9.

For new or potential business owners, contacting City Hall or filling out the appropriate paperwork can often be a confusing and timely process. To help address that issue, KCBizCare was launched to provide a direct link to information on resources and regulations that small businesses need to know to succeed. Resources include checklists to use when opening a new business. There is also assistance on how to coordinate with city departments and follow up on information such as property and zoning information.

John Pajor, Manager of KCBizCare, explains the benefit of the program: "Since we opened the KCBizCare Office in the summer of 2009, we have made it easier to understand local government requirements that apply to small business and made if faster to achieve compliance." In the near future, KCBizCare will assist customers through a web portal that maps out requirements conveniently online. With city rules and regulations at their fingertips, small business owners can be on the way to opening their small businesses even faster than before.

New and collaborative incubator spaces also help business owners in the Kansas City region connect with mentors, develop their products, and meet with clients in creative spaces. The National League of Cities (NLC) dives deeper into the role of incubator spaces, among other best practices, in the recent report Big Ideas for Small Business.

Kansas City is home to two integral incubator spaces. OfficePort and Think Big Partners are both organizations that provide low-cost co-working spaces to give start-ups a "home" where they can develop and expand. On a limited budget, an entrepreneur can apply to Think Big and OfficePort and rent meeting rooms and have access to a variety of in-house services such as technology, marketing, legal, and accounting services without committing to a building contract and third party vendors. Many entrepreneurs start out as members and "graduate" with a thriving and well-equipped company creating an ecosystem built just for small businesses.  

The Sprint Accelerator is also leveraging the region's start-up community by implementing a program that helps startups build the future of mobile health. Over a three month period, Sprint offers participating entrepreneurs access to mentors, legal advice, and technology to help them build a new product that will transform the mhealth (mobile health) industry. Applications for their 2015 program class are now open until December 14.

In addition to business support services, another key role that cities play in helping small business succeed is providing them with access to loans, grants, and other sources of capital to fund their growth. In St. Louis, Justine PETERSEN offers a variety of financial services and is especially skilled in providing micro-loans for individuals and small business owners. Just recently, the St. Louis Rotary Club renovated office space to create the Justine PETERSEN Small Business Incubator. At a monthly rate both office locations offer tenants a full service office atmosphere and fully equipped conference rooms.

Another key organization in the region is KCSourceLink. KCSourceLink not only offers incubator space, but also continuing education for small business owners in various stages of growth. Through KCSourceLink, entrepreneurs can get help with customized business plans and other education tools. Daily classes and events are designed to help business owners to navigate through challenges and maximize their potential.

There is no doubt that the Kansas City region is an ideal location for small businesses to grow and expand. By developing an environment that welcomes small business owners and equips the owners with tools for success, city leaders are working proactively to achieve economic growth and small business success.

With generous support from Wells Fargo, the National League of Cities will be exploring these important issues at an upcoming summit, Providing Small Businesses With Access To Capital, in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 8-9. We encourage local economic developers and city leaders to attend (registration is open until Oct. 3). Representatives from KCBizcare, Think Big Coworking, OfficePort, Justine PETERSON, and KC Sourcelink will all be on hand to share their expert advice and answer your questions about how to support small businesses in your community. We hope you will join the conversation!