Everyone has potential if given the right resources, said Melissa Roberts.
“Everybody has great ideas if given the right education. Everybody has the potential to be an economic contributor in our society if given the right motivation and support,” she continued.
These aren’t her words and values alone, Roberts said. They’re the legacy of Ewing “Mr. K” Kauffman, a hometown hero whose work continues to have a powerful impact on Kansas City and the world through the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, she said.
After five years at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County — most recently serving as vice president of strategy and economic development — Roberts began a new role Tuesday at the Kauffman Foundation.
She’ll now lead Kauffman’s entrepreneurship grant making in Kansas City, as well as the organization’s market gaps work in Kansas City — a grant making initiative that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion in entrepreneurship.
Click here to read more about Kauffman’s new Capital Access Lab.
“I’m flattered to join this amazing team, but also really excited to spend every day working with people of that caliber, intelligence and morals,” Roberts said.
Her time at ECJC — building programs from the ground up, running established programs, and building a firm understanding of how capital moves through the ecosystem — have prepared Roberts for making the leap to Kauffman, she said.
“I’m well-equipped to understand the challenges that Kauffman’s partner organizations face in working toward their missions, but also toward organizational sustainability,” she said, noting such knowledge will help build stronger, richer partnerships that make it easier to solve the community’s core problems.
ECJC and the OneKC for Women umbrella alliance saluted Roberts’ departure in a press release Monday, noting a mixture of disappointment in the talent loss and excitement for her future.
“Melissa has such a diverse set of skills, it will be difficult to replace someone so multifaceted,” said Sherry Turner, founder of OneKC for Women. “Fortunately, we will see her often since the ECJC team works closely with Kauffman on several projects. For now, we don’t have to say goodbye, simply good luck.”
Turner also noted examples of initiatives that bear Roberts’ own legacy thanks to her work at ECJC, including:
- Helping to prevent the sunset of the $6 million Kansas Angel Investment Tax Credit allocation in 2016, during a legislative session focused on austerity measures;
- Partnering with MIT and the Kauffman Foundation to develop the Growth Mentoring Service, which engaged 88 volunteer mentors with C-Suite experience to serve 37 growing companies. Mentors and entrepreneur participants consistently give the program a 9-plus Net Promoter Score; and
- Securing an Economic Development Administration grant leading to the creation of the Fountain Innovation Fund.
Click here to read more about what drives Roberts’ passion for helping startups and small businesses.