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 Plexpod, a progressive coworking platform offering next generation workspace for entrepreneurs, startups, and growth-stage companies of all sizes.
Quiet startups fueled by overcoming struggles are always the most fascinating stories, said Sarah Mote.
“I’m always super enchanted by the stories that don’t get told,” said Mote, marketing director at KCSourceLink, a local resource organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in the metro, as well as its national arm, SourceLink. “I love the stories of people who have overcome something or are facing some type of insurmountable challenge who say, ‘Screw it. I’m doing it anyway because that’s the only way I’m going to get to my dream.’”
Her now-four-years full-time with KCSourceLink were launched with a desire to develop roots and grow within one passion-fueled organization, she said.
“It’s great working with a lot of different nonprofits and small businesses, and hearing from a lot of different people who were hustling in a lot of different ways, but I never got be a part of the whole strategy of something,” she said, describing her 10-year experience with KCSourceLink as a freelance writer before becoming a salaried employee. “I originally started working with [founder and executive director] Maria Meyers because I was doing a story on her. She was like, ‘Since you’re a freelancer, can I hire you?’ and I was like, ‘Yes!’”
Mote recognized a need for social media strategies in KCSourceLink’s early days, she said, noting the decision to devote more time to the project provided a pathway to the marketing director position that later became available.
“I call it the longest job interview ever,” she laughed. “I was like, ‘Hey, there’s this thing called social media. We should probably do it.’ And they said to go for it. It was really nice to get reins-free control in the beginning. It was like 10 years of proving myself.”
Click here to read more about KCSourceLink’s 2018 government grant that enabled a push for inclusivity and the filling of gaps for the organization.
Startland News sat down with Mote to learn more about her 12-year-old sensibilities, love of seeing Kansas City transformed, and refusal to apologize. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by Plexpod, which reimagines a workspace model where businesses share resources and grow together.
Twitter handle: @wordkitchen
Hometown: Austin, Texas. That’s where I found my tribe.
Historical figure you wish you could follow on social media and why: Mary Shelley. She is such a convoluted figure, and she is so misunderstood both in her time and after. She was born of two radical thinkers and married a radical thinker. There’s all this controversy around whether she wrote “Frankenstein” or not. It would be really interesting to figure that out and then to have her still alive — like she could never die, like her own monster.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: Cocoon on a stick in China.
Best thing you’ve eaten in Kansas City: My highbrow answer is the Antler Room’s foie gras toast. I really dig Vitamin A. Lowbrow answer is this grocery store in Kansas City, Kansas, with a Mexican restaurant called the Tortilleria San Antonio. I’m a huge fan of the taco, but even more important than that are the refried beans.
If you could go to any concert what would it be: Joy Division in Manchester. 100 percent. I feel a loss in my life that I didn’t get to see Joy Division in concert.
What startup do you find most interesting right now: Determination, Incorporated. There are so many reasons why I like this one: It’s not your typical definition of a startup; it’s not about technology — it’s about transformation and the hope of entrepreneurship.
What would you do if you weren’t in your line of work: I’d probably go back to teaching. I originally left Austin with the intention of getting my master’s degree to go back to teaching at the junior high level, but … life gets in the way and you just want to grab opportunities and see where they go. I really do miss teaching and engaging with students. I would specifically go back to the 11- to 14-year-old age. My sense of humor is not unlike a 12-year-old’s.
Why do you call Kansas City home: My husband and I came here for the art scene and we stayed for the people. We found everyone so welcoming and open to sharing their talents and expertise. Then the thing I’ve really loved that’s happened over the past five years is that sense of pride of place. When I first came here, everyone talked about St. Louis, but I feel like the script has flipped. I love being from a place that’s proud of itself too.
What word or phrase do you hate the most: “Sorry.” I use it all the time, and every time … I know that I’m using it and I hate it. I need to remind myself to stop apologizing and that I have an opinion to offer.
Biggest accomplishment: Yeah … I don’t really do that. It’s not that I don’t have accomplishments, but I personally am always goal-oriented and I feel like if you say, “This is my accomplishment,” then you stop [moving forward]. I always think in terms of stepping stones to the next thing.
Who in your life inspires you: My sister.
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go? I’m a big fan of the Victorian Age with steampunk and everything that was happening in the late romantic period. There were so many intersections of art and science where you had the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics, but at the same time, you had Van Gogh painting. I find that very interesting because at the time, science was more like an art form. It wasn’t a codified thing.
KC’s biggest area for improvement: Education. I was looking at the Kauffman indicator index and the people who are creating businesses at the fastest rate are those who have a high school degree or less. Are we giving people enough problem solving skills and critical thinking skills to do that thing they want to do to reach their next goal even if college isn’t their path? That’s a place where I’d like to put in some sweat equity.
Your mantra or motto: There’s this movie about this man who can time travel. He asks his dad, “What was your trick to handling this power that we have?” and his dad said, “I never went back. The trick is to live for the first time, as if you’re living it for the second time and you’ve intentionally come back to relive that particular moment to celebrate everything that was extraordinarily ordinary about it.” When you treat everything like it’s your second time, it just puts a different spin on how you live and what you appreciate in any given moment.
Guilty pleasure TV show: “Survivor.”