Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Regnier Institute, but was independently produced by Startland News.
Sticky, intricate, and at times invisible, Terri Jordan’s startup journey is a web spun of complexity, creativity and passion, she said.
“I would’ve never met my business partner if I hadn’t said, ‘Hey, would you be willing to have a cup of coffee with me?’” said Jordan, CEO and founder of WizeWebz, looking back on the unwavering confidence it took to launch her digital marketing and consultancy firm in 2015.
Recalling her mindset back in the early days of WizeWebz’ weaving, Jordan attributed the attitude to one, unique experience: The Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars) program at the Henry W. Bloch School Management.
“I’ve had a really windy road,” Jordan said before a reflective pause. “I was really young in [WizeWebz] and one of my clients said, ‘You should think about the E Scholars program.’ … I thought, ‘Yeah, but I always had this passion project kind of tucked away. And I thought, what if I pitched that idea to them instead?’”
Wheels turning, Jordan reached out to UMKC and quickly met Bryan C. Boots, managing director for venture creation at the Regnier Institute and assistant teaching professor at the Bloch school, she recalled.
“I kind of told him about my idea and he was like, ‘Yeah, you should apply.’ … I was really excited and I remember filling out the application like, ‘Gosh, I really want them to pick me.’”
Click here to learn how you can become an E-Scholar.
A bump in the road, Jordan realized a competing idea for the startup venture she envisioned — an allergy-free snack box — already existed.
“He goes, ‘That’s OK, you’ll just do it better!” Jordan said.
Such encouragement is a staple of the E-Scholars program, she said. It’s a place where young companies can develop their ideas, pitch them to anyone who will listen, and realize futures out of their napkin sketched dreams.
“I remember the very first day. I sat down and I looked around and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I found my people.’ … I hope that I never forget that moment — and everything’s been different ever since then. I found my business partner here. I’ve found a new friends that I hope I’ll have forever.”
A navigation system for entrepreneurs, the E-Scholars program also helped Jordan realize when it was time to shift her focus back to her original passion — WizeWebz, she explained.
“I had to make the decision that I’m going to continue to divide my efforts or I’m going to put my efforts in one direction and really maximize on it,” Jordan said. “And so ultimately, I made the decision to continue with WizeWebz and I think it was the right move. I have no regrets, but I also am glad that I don’t regret never having tried [the other venture].”
In Jordan’s mind, there was a time when being an entrepreneur in Kansas City was a lonely experience and dealing with the aftermath of a less-successful, but not failed venture could have been crippling. Such days have fallen by the wayside thanks to E-Scholars and other area programs such as the Digital Sandbox accelerator — which has worked closely with the UMKC initiative, she said.
“I was just able to go through this process and I really think that I have learned that I had more in me than I thought — even though life had kind of kicked me around a little bit before. It was just really, really cool to do this with a group of people. I wasn’t alone.”
In her life post-E-Scholars life, Jordan is all the wiser, she said of her success in the program and its impact on her business, which has seen immense growth thanks to many of the connections she made in the program.
Paying it forward, Jordan became an E-Scholars mentor, she explained.
“Whenever I was asked to be a mentor here, everything just came really full circle and it was just a really big honor,” she said. “Anytime they ask me to donate my time or to do anything, it’s always, ‘Yes!’”
Keep reading below the photo gallery from the May 11 E-Scholars pitch competition.
The opportunity to help motivate other entrepreneurs and watch their ventures rise has become a second passion for Jordan, she said as a smile made its way across her face.
“This [experience] is something that’s typically very personal to them in some way, shape or form,” she said. “And for me to be invited into that and to help them understand the path that I took, to help them maybe see things that they don’t see and to offer that support to help them along the way, is a great honor.”
An additional honor, Jordan was named one of the Regnier Institute’s Mentors of the Year, during the May 11 E-Scholars graduation ceremony at the Bloch School.
“I’m not going to make them feel bad about anything. I’m not going to rub their faces in anything. … I’m going to help you to the extent that you’re going to help yourself,” she said of her mentoring style and what she believes set her apart enough to receive the recognition. “That’s really important because they have to understand that it’s not going to be easy and they’ve got to really tap into their passion. And that passion, it’s got to help sustain them through the really tough times. If they really want to do it, there’s people out there like me that want to help.”