Thousands of makers, doers and dreamers are gearing up and building their agendas to participate in Kansas City’s largest celebration of entrepreneurship, Global Entrepreneurship Week (hashtagged #GEWKC in KC), November 12 through 16.
“Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great opportunity to join a worldwide movement to shine the spotlight on the importance of entrepreneurship to our economy and to our hopes for the future,” says Jenny Miller, the chief organizer for GEW Kansas City (#GEWKC). Jenny also leads KCSourceLink, the portal to KC entrepreneurship.
In the past 11 years, #GEWKC has been celebrated in Kansas City with high school brass bands and by breaking world records. (Kansas City broke the Guinness World Record for speed networking in 2013. Belgium broke that record in 2014.)
But even with flare and fanfare, Global Entrepreneurship Week – Kansas City’s true north has always been to make the connections that will help people take the next step on their entrepreneurial journey.
Building those connections—that infrastructure for entrepreneurs—is at the core of Kansas City’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Fifteen years ago, Kansas City developed one of the first infrastructures for entrepreneurship with KCSourceLink. Founded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the U.S. Small Business Administration, KCSourceLink was launched in 2003 to create a network of entrepreneurial resources and make them visible for entrepreneurs. Since then, KCSourceLink has made more than 53,000 connections to KC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and helped identify nearly $1 billion in capital available to early-stage companies.
And GEWKC plays a strategic role in making that infrastructure visible and accessible to all entrepreneurs.
“GEWKC is about more than just celebrating our startups and job creators. GEWKC is about inviting new and diverse audiences into Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and helping them find the resources they need to start and grow businesses, better and faster,” adds Miller.
This year, Kansas City’s celebration of GEW promises to be bigger, more inclusive and more connective than ever. That mission started with the planning, which started just as soon as the doors closed on GEWKC 2017. Miller recruited 22 organizers to ensure that event planners were just as diverse as the audience and events GEWKC 2018 hopes to attract. Moreover, in the spirit of removing barriers to entrepreneurship, GEWKC is centrally and conveniently located in a coworking space in the heart of Kansas City—and all events are free.
To help aspiring and established entrepreneurs navigate GEWKC’s education and insights, events are divided into four tracks:
- Makers and Creators: for anyone who makes or creates, like brewers, bakers, inventors, crafters
- Startups: for those who want to test a new business or those who have started their business but still need help with navigating some aspects
- Social Entrepreneurs: for businesses that want to prime their operations for their social and environmental goals, as well as profits
- Scalers: for businesses that have survived the startup phase but haven’t yet reached maturity and are eager to grow
Organizers then crowdsourced events for GEWKC from Kansas City’s entrepreneurial community. Business owners, entrepreneurs and resource organizations submitted more than 250 events this year.
Soliciting these events from the wider community brings more people and their networks into the entrepreneurship conversation that aren’t the usual suspects. And the events themselves—like Seniorpreneurs; Ready for Work? How You Can How You Can Hire Formerly Incarcerated People; and Secrets to Attracting Hispanic Consumers to Your Brand—join more conventional workshops on startup and growth topics to provide a well-rounded vision of the goals, dreams and possible life-changing outcomes of entrepreneurship.
“GEWKC connects people who may not identify as ‘entrepreneurs’—who may think of themselves as makers, creators, freelancers, artists, business owners—with the spark, networks and support they need to start and grow businesses,” adds Miller.
There is programming each day throughout the week that addresses specific challenges female entrepreneurs face. Basecamp also includes Herspace, a coworking space designed intentionally to help women connect and collaborate.
Events for young entrepreneurs and their educators are scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13. There will be breakout sessions for youth and young entrepreneur educators as well as a Young Entrepreneurs Showcase. These events are open to everyone and all youth are strongly encouraged to join on Tuesday and come back anytime throughout the week.
GEWKC includes demo days that feature diverse entrepreneurs as well as programming that helps underrepresented entrepreneurs accelerate their businesses and helps all attendees reach new and diverse audiences. New this year to GEWKC is BlackTech Weekend Kansas City, hosted in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation. This event will bring a curated group of representatives from the community to speak about the ins and outs of life as a black tech ecosystem-builder.
To help spread the word, GEWKC supplemented traditional marketing tactics with guerrilla marketing. GEWKC will be on prominent display on local business’ coffee cups and public transportation, and GEWKC organizers have made a concerted effort to work directly with businesses and niche media, like Praise 95 FM and Urban Talk Radio, to reach audiences in underrepresented and underserved communities.
“We know that Kansas City entrepreneurs create jobs, transform our economy and define the culture of our city,” says Miller. “We, as a community, want to make sure they have all the support they need to grow their business, expand to new markets and unleash their life-changing ideas to the world. That’s what GEWKC is about.”
To see all of GEWKC’s events, visit gewkc.org. To view a map of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, visit www.kcsourcelink.com/resource-rail. To learn more about the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the efforts to make Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city, visit www.wecreatekc.com.