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.
Big-time investors don’t beat the collective “cheering squad” behind Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, said Elaina Brownlee.
“People get confused that being a support system means you have to be funding a company or [helping] on the back end, or you have to be a founder of a company,” said Brownlee, program and events manager for Plexpod, the network of coworking spaces across the Kansas City metro. “There’s a lot of people in the background that can make all the difference just getting their name and branding out there.”
“I am not an entrepreneur and I don’t want to start my own business, but I want to help these small businesses grow with the right connections and coworking spaces are definitely the place to do it,” she added.
Click here to read more about Plexpod’s new location in the River Market.
A born-and-raised Kansas Citian, Brownlee never experienced a desire to leave the area for good, only to assist those with a mission, she said.
“I mean, I used to work for a cupcake shop and I just loved that interaction through customer service and how that makes such a big difference, whether you’re a huge chain or a small startup,” Brownlee said. “I just love shopping local and supporting those people that really have a passion and a drive for what they do.”
“I didn’t even know about all of this before joining the startup world,” she continued. “I had no idea about some of these small startups that are making such a big impact on the world. I want to help push that onto people and make them aware of what Kansas City has to offer people.”
Despite her swelling KC love, an affinity for travel takes her away whenever she finds time, Brownlee admitted.
“I have to get out of Kansas City every once in a while…” she laughed. “[I need] to be able to see that there are bigger and different things and different doesn’t always mean better, it just means different,” she continued. “I just want to go explore anywhere you can possibly go.”
While hiking and marathoning occupies her travels across the U.S. and overseas, Brownlee has one particular dream in mind to accomplish soon that rides alongside her professional career, she said.
“I cannot ride a bike,” she laughed. “I never learned how so that’s my goal before I’m 30 — is to learn. I’ll come around eventually.”
Startland News sat down with Brownlee (not on a bike) to find out more about what keeps her wheels spinning in Kansas City. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by Plexpod, which reimagines a workspace model where businesses share resources and grow together.
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri.
Historical figure you wish you could follow on social media and why: Amelia Earhart. Just with her love of travel and sense of adventure.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: Lionfish. Every year they have this huge festival in the Caribbean and all the locals go out and try to cook it the best because it is an invasive species and it doesn’t have any natural predators. It’s also poisonous, but if you cook it right… I guess it’s fine. It turned out OK but you kind of have to be like, “Do I trust that person?”
Best thing you’ve eaten in Kansas City: I am so picky, but I’ll say Betty Rae’s Ice Cream. I’m a real dessert person, not a food person.
What startup do you find most interesting right now: I’m really curious to see where Ruby Jean’s Juicery is going to go. I know they just had their fundraiser recently and was talking about how they got broken into but also their expansion for the future so I’m just very excited to see where they’re going to go.
What would you do if you weren’t in your line of work: Can I say nothing? Actually, I would travel literally every day.
Why do you call Kansas City home: I am not leaving. I was born here, I went to school here, I love it here. I love coming home to Kansas City. It just feels comfortable.
What word or phrase do you hate the most: “I can’t.”
Biggest accomplishment: I’m more about daily accomplishments than those big, life goal accomplishments. More about the the day to day and ending every day on a positive note.
Who in your life inspires you: My mom was a nurse for 15 years and she was just the most amazing, hardworking lady in the entire world. I could never do that.
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go?: Probably 25 years into the future. I just want to know what’s going on and see where I’m at. Just a little hop.
KC’s biggest area for improvement: Besides all the potholes? I think the biggest thing is connecting everyone in Kansas City and there’s a million ways to do that but through transportation and education especially.
Your mantra or motto: Stay positive.
Guilty pleasure TV show: “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “The Office.”