Everyone should have the opportunity to take a risk, achieve success, and give back to their communities through entrepreneurship, Wendy Guillies said. But it’s a collaborative process that begins at home, she noted.
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The event marked the 10th such address from Kauffman, moving the update from Washington D.C. — in past years seen in Kansas City via livestream broadcast — to the stage of the Medallion Theater at Plexpod Westport Commons. In front of a bank of cameras at the new venue, Wendy Guillies told a national audience of the foundation’s plan to help push entrepreneurship back into the spotlight.
“The reality is we all have a part to play in creating a more prosperous national economy and that starts with growing entrepreneur by entrepreneur and community by community,” Guillies, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, told a crowd gathered Wednesday for the Kauffman Foundation’s annual State of Entrepreneurship address.
“We need to champion these makers, doers, and dreamers as a foundation,” she added, citing a recent Kauffman report indicating a rise in entrepreneurship nationally.
Click here to read more about the Kauffman Early-Stage Entrepreneurship Index and its four indicators of activity.
Kauffman aims to aid 200,000 entrepreneurs in starting new ventures or establishing existing ones — with an emphasis on Kansas City, the Midwest and underrepresented communities — throughout the next five years, Guillies said. The foundation also plans to help 200 communities to better support entrepreneurship through policy and programming initiatives like 1 Million Cups.
“We need to consider all parts of the community because the truth is that economic opportunity just a few blocks east of here looks very different from it does a few blocks west of here,” said Guillies. “We know that kind of division happens in every city. We also know that Main Street is a shadow of what it used to be in too many small towns across this country.”
The addition of Kauffman’s new national program — the Capital Access Lab — is expected to help address the underequipped economic development models and financial tools used today that fail to effectively create new jobs in today’s changing market, she said.
Click here to read more about the Kauffman Foundation’s Capital Access Lab investment pipeline.
“There is no law in Washington D.C. that will get passed to revive our communities,” added Victor Hwang, vice president of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “There is no savior from the outside. There is no large corporation that’s going to wave a magic wand and solve our problems for us. The only possible answer is that we’ve grow our own.”
The recent Kauffman report referenced by Guillies also indicated that three out of 1,000 people become entrepreneurs every month, said Hwang, noting the support of the remaining 997 is crucial to “turning entrepreneurship into a community sport.”
“When the three and the 997 get together, that’s when we see entrepreneurship thrive. That’s when we see our ecosystems come alive. That’s the equation driving the future of our nation,” he said.
Recognizing the impact of entrepreneurship on society as a whole is the first step for those 997 people, Kansas City Mayor Sly James told the audience during a panel conversation highlighting leaders from entrepreneurial communities nationwide.
“We need to do what we can to support [entrepreneurship],” he said. “Regardless of [the size of your business], do the country a favor and provide lifelong learning and training opportunities for your employees so that they can continue to grow and so that they might have an opportunity to become entrepreneurial themselves.
“We need that in this country, and we’re going to desperately need it over the next 20 or 30 years as jobs change dramatically,” said James.
Kansas City’s location in the Midwest is not a hindrance, the mayor added.
“We need to stop thinking that everything happens on one coast or the other,” James said. “The middle of the country is what holds the coasts together.”