Thousands of makers, doers and dreamers of all kinds are gearing up to participate in Kansas City’s tenth anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), November 13 through 17.
“Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great opportunity to join a worldwide movement to shine the spotlight on the inspiring stories and resources available to entrepreneurs,” says Jenny Miller, who is one of the organizers for GEW Kansas City (#GEWKC) and leads KCSourceLink, the portal to KC entrepreneurship.
“But it’s about more than just celebrating our startups and job creators. GEWKC is about inviting new and diverse audiences into Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Fifteen years ago, Kansas City developed the first infrastructure 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.
“We’re calling on every entrepreneur — and everyone who fights for entrepreneurs — to help clear the path for the makers, the doers and the dreamers,” says Wendy Guillies, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation.
These strong roots have helped Kansas City clear that path by building connections that advance entrepreneurship in its region—and make Global Entrepreneurship Week in Kansas City one of the leading cities for GEW events for the past 10 years.
With 150+ community-organized events divided into four tracks—makers and creators, youth entrepreneurship, business growth and business services—there is certainly something for everyone.
“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.
GEWKC is truly a community-led event, powered by organizing chairs from KCSourceLink, Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, Mid-Continent Public Library and the Enterprise Center in Johnson County. Each track is led by a track captain, usually a small business owner who has helped recruit headline events and is committed to promoting GEW to broader networks. The 150+ events themselves were crowd-sourced from local entrepreneurs, small businesses, corporations and entrepreneurial service organizations.
In the spirit of removing barriers to entrepreneurship, organizers ensured that events would be accessible to anyone with an idea, a side hustle, a startup or a growing business. More than three-quarters of the events are held at a central location; the rest are held at locations across the KC metro, and most of the events are free.
“We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to turn an idea into an economic reality, regardless of who you are or where you’re from, with zero barriers in the way,” Guillies says.
Crowd-sourced events brought more people into the entrepreneurship conversation that weren’t the usual suspects. And the events themselves—like the Business of Food Trucks, Stepping Stones of a Youth Entrepreneur, Moms Mean Business, For the Fashionpreneur and Prison or ESHIP—join the conventional workshops on startup and growth topics to provide a well-rounded vision of the goals, dreams and possible life-changing outcomes of entrepreneurship.
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 believe in growing our own here in Kansas City, in helping business that start here, stay here,” adds Miller. “With a record number of GEWKC events, the community has really shown its support as it shares its knowledge and networks with other KC startups and businesses.”
Featured headline events cover such topics as fostering innovation in established companies, scaling a business, real-time marketing, mastering Facebook as well as a 10-year celebration of GEW with a reunion of the people who have helped Kansas City build its entrepreneurial infrastructure. The full slate of events can be found at www.gewkc.org.
“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 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.