Editor’s note: KCultivators is a lighthearted profile series to highlight people who are meaningfully enriching Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Library shelves offer more than the theatrics of the written word, said Morgan Perry. Though she sees power in learning through entertainment, the resources available to vulnerable and other hungry audiences in need are anything but fiction.
Mid-Continent Public Library’s approach to entrepreneurship serves as a template for its fellow institutions in North America, said Perry, the business specialist at MCPL.
“We are doing something here that no other library is doing,” she said, noting recent work with the Urban Library Council that brought 13 public libraries to discuss the KC success. “When we say we are providing the best library experience in the world, that means it has to be for your kid who’s learning to read, and for the small business down the street; that means it has to be for the people out there that are identifying community needs and creating nonprofits to solve problems. That means support for everyone.”
“[Need for the library] doesn’t stop when you’re writing your Shakespeare report in high school,” she added. “[It’s still a resource] when you’re an adult and you’re searching for information.”
The library’s Square One Small Business Services approach to entrepreneurship starts with customer requests, said Perry, with the programs building off what consumers need, while covering the majority of both Kansas and Missouri.
“We’re really well-funded, so we can spend the time getting into those single community issues that other business resource organizations can’t spend that much time on,” she laughed.
Startland News sat down with Perry to check out the colorful chapters that shape her story and connection to the startup world.
Hometown: Salisbury, Missouri
A historical figure you’d like to have coffee with and why: Shakespeare. I just love the idea that the literature of that time was soap opera, because Shakespeare didn’t write highbrow. We treat him as highbrow unless you’ve actually read one. I think that is hysterical.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: Chicken feet from KC Pinoy. They’re called Adidas in the Philippines.
The animal you’d want to become in your next life: A griffin because I feel like it’s mythical so I can write my own rules, and you’ve got enough defensive power that you can keep yourself safe.
You’re up to bat for the Royals, what’s your walk-up song: “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith.
KC’s biggest area for improvement: KC has a communication/competition problem where we think that there’s a very limited number of resources, or a limited amount of status to be attained. So you have people trying to beat each other to the punch — we could have solved a lot of our problems if we would have just communicated and worked together instead of having to shove everyone out. You could see it so many places. If people would stop using these projects as status symbols, we’d really have a chance to make the city better.
Favorite food joint in KC: District Biscuit House. I’m a huge fan of their work.
An influential book in your life: “All in Startup” by Diana Kander.
What keeps you in Kansas City: I find it to be very accessible, which means if I want to get involved in local government, I can easily find where those meetings take place and get to those meetings. I can find a meeting for just about anything I want to be involved in, and if I worked hard enough, I can get involved in those discussions.
What you would do if you weren’t in your line of work: My dream is to teach introduction to theater. I feel so strongly about how entertainment art teaches people about life.
What word or phrase do you hate the most? “That’s not how we do things.” It’s a cop out, and sometimes there’s never even a “because … ”
What’s the most underrated KC brand? The Northland. There’s more to KC outside of the river boundary than there is inside the river boundary. KC has this identity problem where it doesn’t know what it is. We always laugh that you need a passport to do business across the river because it’s a different world, but it’s not a different world. It’s a 12-minute drive.
What you hope you’re remembered for: I hope I’m remembered for living well. I don’t want anything to get in the way of me actually living. I am always the first person that’s going to binge watch a TV show, but I always leave my house at some point because I want to take advantage of all that the world has to offer me. I’m big on “no regrets.” I know too many dead people, if that makes sense, that I feel like I have an opportunity to experience the world that they don’t.
Biggest failure: I don’t believe in failure in the traditional sense of the word. I believe that we make choices and then we live with the consequences. So, do I wish I hadn’t rear-ended the people in the minivan in front of me? Yes. That was dumb and I wasn’t paying attention and I shouldn’t have done that, but I don’t have one big life mistake. I have things that have happened in my life and choices I made were reacting to them. It goes back to that I know too many dead people — I made a choice and I’m doing my thing now.
An inspiration in your life: I find pitbulls that overcome abuse to be incredibly inspiring. To see those animals get into a loving home and just be able to let go of things — as a human being, we’re really bad at that. I aspire to that kind of happy where you can let go of bad things that have happened to you
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go? I would go about 15 to 20 years in the future because our society right now is dealing with some pretty rough issues, and I feel like in 15 to 20 years there will be some people who are writing some excellent books about what’s happening right now.
Favorite travel locale: New Orleans all the way. I really like looking at old things, and in New Orleans everything is old, and they let you touch it. And it’s such a mashup of people. When I was in insurance, we would have to get translators from people outside of New Orleans and Baton Rouge because technically it’s a different dialect. I think that’s incredibly interesting that we can go somewhere else in the same country and feel like we’ve left the country.
Your mantra or motto: Asking, “Yeah, but what does that mean?” It helps people dig down past the surface of what is happening. It’s the most important question ever.
Hidden talent or ability: I am really good at candling eggs. So in the case of an apocalypse and we all have to provide our own food, I can make sure that you’re eating eggs that don’t make you sick cause I know how to handle them and look for problems. I also know how to identify the best laying hens available — if I could catch them, which I totally could.
What keeps you awake at night? Asking, “Are we doing the work we said we were going to do and are we helping the vulnerable audiences?” I need to know that I was a good steward of the money I am given to spend. I need to know that I’m actually helping businesses, not just saying I’m helping businesses, and I need to know that I am taking care of vulnerable audiences.