Startland News is continuing its segment to highlight area entrepreneurs’ efforts to accelerate their businesses. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs — like startup community leader founder Kyle J. Smith’s Rise Up, Get Started campaign— to share their crowdfunding stories to gain a little help from their supporters.
Who are you?
I am Kyle J Smith, founder of Determination, Incorporated. I’ve worked for the past few years as an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder in Kansas City; primarily with KCSourceLink, also as a volunteer community organizer with 1 Million Cups KC, and as a Startup Huddle Ambassador with the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
What does Determination, Incorporated do?
Determination, Incorporated is a new nonprofit in Kansas City creating a pathway to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people through entrepreneurship.
We host a business support group for formerly incarcerated people called Be the Boss that meets in KC’s urban core three times each month. This fall, we launched our first entrepreneurship workshop at Regional Correctional Center (downtown by the Jackson County jail), and hope to soon be at the Kansas City Reentry Center (a minimum security prison in the West Bottoms) by the end of the year.
And in 2019, we are launching the Rise Up, Get Started entrepreneurship competitions at Plexpod Westport Commons to help formerly incarcerated people kickstart their entrepreneurial endeavors.
What’s your “why”?
Many people, when they come home from incarceration, want to put the past behind them and use their talents and passion to do good and create value in Kansas City. Unfortunately, there are too few clear pathways to make that a reality. Determination, Incorporated, through the Rise Up, Get Started entrepreneurship competitions, is changing that. We want to help formerly incarcerated people harness their entrepreneurial spirit to raise up themselves, their families, and our community.
Read about my personal “why” in this column I wrote in Startland News awhile back: Creating hope in a dark place; a reflection on the passing of Kate Spade.
How much do you hope to raise?
What do you plan to use the funds for?
Every dollar raised in this campaign will go toward the Rise Up, Get Started entrepreneurship competitions.
Applications will be accepted twice a year in the Kansas City metro across three project categories:
- Do good: Entrepreneurship is about leaving the world better than you found it. If you want to lead an innovative small-scale community improvement project, we can make that happen.
- This is a test: Every business starts with a little experiment to see how potential customers will react to your product or service. Let’s try something new.
- Fuel: If you already have a small business up and running and need a boost … we can help.
Applicants are referred by an approved reentry partner who can help ensure that applicants are well-supported and relatively stable in terms of occupation, health, and family. Current partners include: Journey to New Life, Connections to Success, Second Chance, Good Samaritan Project, AdHoc Group Against Crime, KC Nova and Metro Lutheran Ministries.
Applicants are encouraged to attend Be the Boss workshops and/or connect with one of our entrepreneurship partners. Current partners include: Project UK, KCSourceLink, Porter House KC, H&R Block Business and Career Center at the KC Public Library, and the Square One Small Business Services at the Mid-Continent Public Library.
How are you differentiating your campaign?
This is Kansas City’s first entrepreneurship competition just for formerly incarcerated people. Your gift will make a difference for formerly incarcerated people who want to help make Kansas City a better place for all of us to live, work, play, and dream.
Is there anything quirky with your campaign?
After folks give (aka, invest), I send out a thank you and ask for a quick favor … I need help decorating our classroom at the Regional Correctional Center. Investors are asked to share 140 characters of encouragement that we can use to lift the spirits of the gentlemen who are choosing to spend their time raising each other up, while learning about the entrepreneurial mindset and business basics.
What’s some advice you have to others launching a crowdfunding campaign?
The same thing we share at our Be the Boss workshops: You are responsible for your own proof of concept project. Ask others to jump onboard when you are ready to grow your impact, not your idea.
If you or your startup is running a crowdfunding campaign, let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org