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.
A place to live, work, and play — three ingredients for a new life, said Kyle J. Smith, founder of the Determination, Incorporated.
“When I got to Kansas City [in 2015], I thought I wanted to open a gym,” Smith said of his return to his home state from New York City — where he’d spent four years working in a CrossFit gym, post-college.
Smith also is organizing an event for Global Entrepreneurship Week — “Ready for work? How you can hire formerly incarcerated people” — Noon Nov. 12 at Plexpod Westport Commons. Click here for more details.
“After doing some mapping and landscape analysis, I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said. “I did know that the Kansas City startup community was part of what was interesting about coming here.”
The Truman State graduate quickly found himself plugged into the startup ecosystem, under the employment of KCSourceLink, he said.
Linked into the entrepreneurial action, Smith became a volunteer with 1 Million Cups Kansas City — a program born of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation 1MC effort that provides entrepreneurs across 180 communities with opportunities for education, engagement, and inspiration — where he’s risen in the ranks of volunteer leadership.
Inspired by the energy of Kansas City entrepreneurs, Smith launched Determination, Incorporated in early 2018 — a non-profit organization, that uses entrepreneurship to craft a pathway to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people.
“I believe the things you’ve done in your past, shouldn’t control what your future looks like,” he said. “If you have a goal of starting a thriving, hiring business and helping other people avoid incarceration, I think that’s a worthy goal and an awesome thing for you and your community.”
Startland News chatted with Smith to find out how he unwinds and embraces the fun moments in life. (Spoiler: He doesn’t take himself too seriously.) The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, which provides entrepreneurs and businesspeople a community and a workspace.
Hometown: Mexico, Missouri.
A startup idea you don’t mind if readers steal: It’s a social enterprise. So for every pair of flip flops that you buy, we take a pair of socks from a guy who wears socks and sandals and give them to someone who needs socks. It’s a Kickstarter that will make money!
A historical figure you’d like to have coffee with and why: I have recently been obsessed with the Alexander Hamilton musical, so I would have coffee with him. He also seems like a huge asshole and I’m just so curious to hangout out with him.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: All that’s coming to mind right now … it must have been third grade, some girl brought pickled pig brain from her family farm, and I hated it.
The animal you’d want to become in your next life: I’d probably be a dog, so that I could bring others as much joy as they bring me, but on a more selfish day, I would say some sort of bird that lives for a long time. But I’m not really up to speed on bird lifespan …
You’re up to bat for the Royals, what’s your walk-up song: “Human,” The Killers.
KC’s biggest area for improvement: I’m still waiting to show up to a social event where someone is serving non-flavored seltzer. I would say that’s the biggest barrier.
Favorite food joint in KC: I’m a big fan of hamburgers and I always take out-of-town guests to Westport Flea Market because I think their burgers are delicious and the atmosphere is unique and fun.
An influential book in your life: “The Stand.” It’s a good, challenging Stephen King book to read.
What’s the most underrated KC brand? I’m looking for a good local pickle.
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go? I would go somewhere, sometime during the height of the Ottoman Empire and just see bustling, old-time Istanbul. I grew up in small town Missouri, then I went to New York City. I thought, ‘Wow, everything feels so old here.’ Then I took a trip to Italy and I was like, ‘Oh, man, stuff is really old here.’ Then I went to Istanbul and I’m like, ‘Man, there’s so much human history here; they’ve been in the middle of everything –– forever!’ I’d just want to see the middle of everything.
Hidden talent or ability: I wouldn’t say no one knows about this, but I do a lot of singing while I lift weights. So enough people at the gym know about it, but it’s one of my favorite things to do. You just feel so warmed up and your voice is great!