Editor’s note: KCultivators is a lighthearted profile series to highlight people who are meaningfully enriching Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, a modern twist on Kansas City office space.
Pennez is working to combat childhood illiteracy by bringing its technology to after-school programming, said founder Rebecca Dove.
The educational tech company, whose name means “to think,” builds web-based applications to measure literacy in children and recommends diverse reading content, Dove said.
The founder also works as an education manager for Project United Knowledge, an accelerator that recently released this year’s cohort lineup, she added, assisting with curriculum and serving as a mentor for the facilitators.
“I believe in the mission,” she noted about the ProjectUK accelerator. “I want to share my knowledge because I know that I’ve had experience with entrepreneurship and the plenty of opportunities that I was able to get.”
Startland News sat down with Dove to learn more about what drives her. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, which provides entrepreneurs and businesspeople a community and a workspace.
Hometown: Spring Hill, Kansas.
A historical figure you’d like to have coffee with: Malcolm X.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: Kimchi [a fermented cabbage Korean dish].
The animal you’d want to become in your next life: I want to become a sea turtle. They can live many decades, and are symbolized as having good health. They seem to have qualities of patience and wisdom, and can travel for hundreds and hundreds of miles.
KC’s biggest area for improvement: Connecting all the dots. So there’s talk about “East of Troost,” but what about Raytown, even Spring Hill, and Overland Park? Some people assume that because I’m from Spring Hill that we came from money, and more resources. That’s not the truth. A lot of resources weren’t available to us. There was no transportation and no shopping centers. So I think connecting those communities …
An influential book in your life: “Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker” by Patrick McGilligan. I love his untold story because he was an entrepreneur when the world told him no.
What keeps you in Kansas City? The opportunities for growth and the possibility that I see here. There have been tremendous changes. Even when I was a kid, downtown was not really a frequented place. Now we have Power & Light, and even Westport, with how it’s transformed and how it truly is a place for Kansas City-based companies.
New technology that you’re most excited about: Augmented reality. I’m excited that it might not cause a strain on my eyes.
What would you do if you weren’t in your line of work? I would either have a retail shop to help women who are over the height of 6 feet tall and sell accessories and clothes. I’m very passionate about fashion and design. I would also like to be helping entrepreneurs in Africa, and other countries.
What word or phrase do you hate the most? “Underserved” or “urban.” The people who are called “underserved or urban” are assumed to have fewer resources, and lower education. People think that if you’re in the urban core you’re African American or a person of color, and that’s just not true. I wish that labels would not be used at all. It categorizes people in the wrong way.
What you hope you’re remembered for: As someone who helped change people’s lives and inspire others to improve the lives for other generations.
An inspiration in your life: My father. He built his own business after he lost his job in 1994. He was the only African-American electrician in Spring Hill, and he was OK with that. Even though he didn’t tell us his troubles, we could see it on his face when he didn’t have enough jobs that day. I’m just inspired that he ignored that, and even though it was a predominantly white community that didn’t believe in him, he still believed in his service.
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go? I’d like to see when America was first born and created, and how the native tribes lived before the boats came. I’d like to understand how they had an economy and how they addressed entrepreneurship. I want to understand more ancient cultures.
Favorite travel locale: Miami, Florida. I just loved the blending of cultures there.
Your mantra or motto: Don’t assume anything.
What keeps you awake at night?: Food inequality and unequal resources.