Take a walk in Kansas City’s startup scene and you’ll quickly hear something about KC’s devotion to becoming America’s most entrepreneurial city.
This mantra is on everyone’s lips, from city leaders to corporate tycoons to scrappy startup founders. It’s amazing that in five years our city has created such clarity of purpose that millenials populating the Startup Village or the Sprint Accelerator can share vision with the CEOs of such as Cerner and Hallmark.
Not only have I felt KC’s entrepreneurial energy, I benefitted greatly from it as I started my own company, Social Change Nation. As I journeyed to create an online hub to empower social entrepreneurs, I came to realize something about my city: Kansas City is well on its way to becoming the nation’s capital of social entrepreneurship. Much in the same way that we are endeavoring to support startups of all types, I believe we will channel this city’s energy into creating a new generation of social change agents.
A social entrepreneur is a person who creates a profit and purpose driven organization in which the business and social missions run in tandem. Our social mission, therefore, becomes a key component of our marketing, branding and success metrics.
Kansas City is full of these mission-driven entrepreneurs and organizations. Here are five ingredients that place this city at the apex of social entrepreneurship.
1. The University of Missouri-Kansas City – A recent study shows that 89 percent of consumers would be likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause. Further, 69 percent of global millenials want businesses to make it easier for consumers to be involved with societal issues. As a result, college programs in social entrepreneurship are in high demand.
UMKC has been excelling at prepping a new generation of cause-based leaders long before social entrepreneurship was popular. Led by Dave Renz, Scott Helm and Brent Never, its program has skyrocketed into the top tiers of academic recognition. Combine their research with support from UMKC’s Regnier Institute, and you have an academic program to foster businesses that operate on margin and mission.
2. The Kauffman Foundation – The Kauffman Foundation is devoting significant energy to the social entrepreneurship movement. For example, this week the foundation is partnering with UMKC to host a Symposium on Social Entrepreneurship that will bring in thought leaders from around the country. Further, the foundation’s own Corey Scholes was instrumental in bringing City Year, a nationally renowned Social Entrepreneur incubator, to Kansas City.
3. Local social entrepreneurs – Kansas City is chock full of socially-minded businesses, including Madi Apparel, Life Equals and Red Dirt just to name a few. Kansas City already has a class of companies that is weaving purpose into profit from day one. Together, they are laying the foundation for an entrepreneurial community that makes a dollar and a difference.
4. Our religious community – It’s little secret that Kansas City’s religious community is a vibrant one. Because of this, conversations about social justice, community change and social good are ever-present. This means that you not only have a customer base who is unusually receptive to cause minded products, but you also have access to a natural community of support as you launch your social venture.
5. KC’s startup community –KC’s startup community is one of the best examples of social entrepreneurship. For example, the Kansas City Startup Village wasn’t orchestrated, but rather the result of a small group of people that came together to create something for the benefit of their community. Villagers help each other in a variety of business capacities, but also in coping with 15-hour days and a torrent of stress.
As I’ve been in the startup community for sometime now, I’ve sensed something definitively different about our work: everyone in the startup scene is genuinely interested in improving Kansas City because it is the right thing to do.
I’m convinced that Kansas City will become the most entrepreneurial city in America. While we’re at it, let’s leverage our energy for social good and make ourselves known in this unique niche of social entrepreneurship. We have all the right ingredients, people, energy, and the timing couldn’t be better.
Josh is the founder of Social Change Nation, whose mission and passion is to provide startup social entrepreneurs with the best possible resources and tools for growing their ventures. He hosts a podcast featuring interviews with the world’s leading change agents and creates online content to help startups make a dollar AND a difference.