What started as an opportunity to meet interesting people and showcase innovative ideas to investors has turned into a once-in-a-lifetime shot at elevating five of Kansas City’s women-led startups on an international stage, said Shea Geist, beaming.
“My husband made the application and I was like … ‘Whatever, it’s a million to one chance,’ so we were just kind of rolling through life. Kind of thought we didn’t get chosen,” Geist, CEO at SharkOff, recalled of the day she learned the startup had been picked to present at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) June 3-5 in The Hague, Netherlands.
Click here for an in-depth look at SharkOff — the bracelet that repels sharks.
“On the 30th of April at about 10 o’clock at night, I was upstairs with my son, it was bath night for school and my husband screamed from downstairs [that we’d been chosen],” she detailed.
Unbeknownst to Geist, at least three other Kansas City area women received the same message, she noted. The opportunity presents the founders with not only a global platform, but a range of potential collisions thanks to such leading event speakers as Ivanka Trump, advisor to the U.S. president; Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of education; and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.
Click here to learn more about the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
“Every now and again it’s just like getting punched in the head and it’s like, ‘Whoa!’” Geist said. “… We’ve connected with [the other Kansas City women founders] and we’re just kind of looking for opportunities to harvest [the experience] together — at least take a selfie together, you know? It’s also our goal to connect with entrepreneurs from other countries as much as possible.”
Sarah Hill, founder of Columbia based Healium by StoryUP; Neelima Parasker, founder of Kansas City-based SnapIT Solutions; and Lisa Tamayo, founder of Kansas City-transplanted Scollar were also chosen to attend GES.
“Finally, things are happening,” Parasker said of the experience and its recognition of women in the startup space. “[Kansas City is a leader for women in tech] so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.” she continued.
A U.S. Small Business Administration effort connected entrepreneurs with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former SBA Administrator Linda McMahon in March. The duo made their way through Kansas City, helping dozens of area startups and small businesses connect with the global contest and its application process.
Kansas City-based Enduralock — a company that created a vibration resistant fastener — also is expected to present at GES, co-founder Diana Greenberg said.
“Data shows that female entrepreneurs make great entrepreneurs,” Hill laughed, offering a hypothetical explanation for GES’ choice to host the startups. “I’m not surprised that many women were selected to go. We’re excited for the opportunity, historically, for female founders.”
While the entrepreneurial game is tough, Hill noted, women-led companies consistently come out on top.
“A lot of it’s the hustle. A lot of it’s the persistence,” added Tamayo.
Click here to read more about Scollar and the company’s recent relocation to Kansas City.
Five thousand applicants later, the companies join a final list of 400 chosen to represent the United States at the contest, which could see them each walk away with new investors and market opportunities, Geist noted.
“The collaboration and support — not that male-led companies don’t [show that], but you know what I’m trying to say — we have sought each other out and we’re congratulating each for making this, you know, superstar thing happen for ourselves. … I am really excited to see what comes out of that,” she said, eager for a future beyond The Hague.
Elyssa Bezner contributed to this report.