Money alone won’t truly satisfy an entrepreneur, nor will it build a stronger Kansas City, said Matt Condon — lessons learned from the late Ewing Kauffman.
“Having a successful company isn’t good enough,” said Condon, a veteran startup leader who recently completed a year as chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. “Impacting community in a way that makes people proud to be from Kansas City is part of Mr. Kauffman’s legacy.”
About the Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens.
Already inspired by the Kansas City-made, legendary humanitarian and entrepreneur, Condon now will have a new avenue to directly continue Kauffman’s mission through the foundation that bears his name. He begins a three-year term on the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Board of Trustees in March.
“Matt is a tireless advocate for our entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kansas City,” said Wendy Guillies, President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation. “As chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber Board, he wasn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues and worked hard to find common ground on critical community needs such as quality early education. His pragmatic and hardworking style will greatly benefit the Kauffman Foundation, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Honored by the appointment and thankful for the opportunity, Condon said, he’s excited to bring a bright-eyed perspective to the board of trustees as an active startup founder.
His first company, ARC Physical Therapy+, has grown to become one of the largest physical therapy clinics in the Midwest, and Condon’s four-year-old venture Bardavon Health Innovations announced in November $15 million in new financing to help scale the Overland Park-based company into markets from coast to coast. (Bardavon was named one of Startland’s Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2018.)
The challenges of running a startup remain fresh, Condon said. Finding space. Making payroll. The costs of doing business.
And then there’s failure.
Condon recalled one of his first encounters with the Kauffman Foundation in 2009: ARC Physical Therapy+ was nominated for a Mr. Kauffman Small Business of the Year award — and lost.
“In the moment, I thought it was awful. I don’t take losses well,” he said. “Longterm, there’s a microcosm lesson there about entrepreneurship. You don’t always win the award. It’s not always success. Sometimes it’s picking yourself up after a devastating loss and getting back after it. Maybe having lost it the first year and being disappointed in that … maybe Mr. Kauffman from Heaven somehow had a hand in that as well. He was teaching me a lesson about grit and perseverance.”
Condon didn’t give up in 2009.
“I couldn’t have told you much about Mr. Kauffman at the time,” he said. “After losing, I spent some time doing as much research as I could on his legacy, his company [Marion Labs], and I was just blown away.”
In 2010, ARC Physical Therapy+ won the award. A well-known Kansas City leader called to offer kudos and a longer-lasting reminder, Condon said.
“He said, ‘Congratulations, but you not only have a big responsibility to continue to grow this company. You also — as a business leader and civic leader — have to emulate so many of those qualities that differentiated Mr. Kauffman to the community globally,’” Condon recalled.
That year, he got involved in the Chamber and his journey would lead Condon to countless individuals who helped shape his sense of responsibility for leaving the city and its business community stronger and better for its children, he said.
Kauffman laid that foundation, Condon reiterated.
“You win all of these awards and so much of them are about financial success — but Mr. Kauffman’s legacy is about making a difference in the community that far outlasts the name of your company,” he said.
For Condon, the place to make such an impact is Kansas City, he said.
“We have all those elements that are so critical when you’re starting a company — trying to get as much runway for the cash that you bring in as possible,” Condon said. “We’re at a really unique moment in time. This isn’t just a place where you can start and grow a business — I honestly believe Kansas City is one of the best places in the country to start and grow a business.”
In a world where workers and technology are mobile, Kansas City is able to leverage homegrown talent and work ethic with increasingly easy recruitment from the coasts, he said. Working alongside fellow board of trustees, Condon hopes to further strengthen opportunities for the next wave of entrepreneurs.
“Kansas City is my home, and it’s so much part of my history and future that I’m excited to do my part,” Condon said. “The foundation has done amazing work, especially in the past few years, connecting to and investing in the community. I’m hoping my role can help expand that in Kansas City and the region.”