We have been covering Kansas City small businesses and entrepreneurs for more than 20 years. We were the first to connect the dots on the resources available to aspiring and existing Kansas City business owners, and we publish hundreds of those local, state and national organizations each year in our annual Thinking Bigger Guide for Entrepreneurs and on our website.
We were doing this before anyone was really paying much attention to small businesses and their contributions to the economy.
My, how things have changed in two decades . . . the Kansas City entrepreneurial community has the attention of our corporate and civic leaders, an initiative to be America’s Most Entrepreneurial City, ongoing coverage from the national media, and increasingly the ear and the interest of high profile serial entrepreneurs and VCs like Brad Feld.
Yes, suddenly, being an entrepreneur in Kansas City, particularly a startup, is the “cool kid” thing to do. But as Maria Meyers points out in our August 2013 Open Mike column, a city that aspires to be America’s Most Entrepreneurial City needs an ecosystem comprised not just of the tech startups, but also the microenterprises, Main Street businesses and more mature businesses. Further, it needs the resource organizations that can assist the businesses at crucial stages of business development, and it needs the support of the corporate community as well.
Recently I’ve sensed that some traditional businesses wonder what all the fuss is about over the startup community, especially when it comes to resources and media coverage. Startups are a different kind of animal than traditional businesses, which means they also have some different needs. That’s why Kansas City’s business leaders and resource organizations are working hard to create support systems for these kinds of ventures.
On the flipside, some of the startups really aren’t familiar with many of the successful traditional business owners Kansas City has nurtured over the years. There are a lot of blocking and tackling skills these traditional entrepreneurs can share with startups. Some of the older successful business owners could be mentors, and even investors, in these businesses. And the startups are a source of customers for the traditional businesses—after all, they still eat at restaurants, meet at coffee houses, and eventually hire accountants and lawyers.
As a community, we just need to keep connecting the dots, keep fostering ties between the big guys, the new kids and everybody else who contributes to the business ecosystem here. Kansas City is lucky to have a lot of entrepreneurial stars. But with effort, we could build an entire constellation of success.