Plans to educate, inspire, and assist entrepreneurs traditionally left out of small business conversations will ramp up for the Porter House KC — thanks to new support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural Inclusion Open.
“We are so excited to be selected as one of this year’s grant recipients,” said Dan Smith, co-founder of the Porter House, an organization dedicated to building an inner-city, co-working community that provides entrepreneurship access and resources to underserved populations in the metro area.
“[We’re] specifically focusing on retail-based entrepreneurs. We appreciate what the Kauffman Foundation has and is doing with the Inclusion Open and we plan to fully support their vision of an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Smith added.
Designed to identify projects that are testing new ideas or scale successful programs which remove geographic, socioeconomic, and demographic barriers for underserved entrepreneurs, the Inclusion Open drew 750 applications from 42 states and two U.S. territories, Kauffman explained in a release.
Nineteen organizations ultimately received Kauffman support, the organization announced late this week, including six grown in Kansas City: Determination, Inc.; Central Avenue Betterment Association; EPEC, The Grooming Project; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and the Sewing Labs, in addition the Porter House KC.
“Each project is focused on removing barriers for underserved entrepreneurs in Kansas City,” said Erin Jenkins, Kauffman program officer in entrepreneurship. “By building an inclusive pathway to entrepreneurship, the organizations represented are creating opportunities for residents while also impacting the local economy.”
Click here for a full list of organizations from across the U.S. finding new momentum through the Inclusion Open.
All organizations chosen for the Inclusion Open are working to develop or have developed methods that promote inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial support and intentionally focus on supporting business growth, Kauffman explained.
Johnny Waller Jr., co-founder of Determination, Inc., said the organization is eager to accelerate its mission — to help give formerly incarcerated would-be entrepreneurs access to a second chance in life — and thankful for Kauffman’s support and recognition of its efforts.
“By investing care, time, and resources in second chance entrepreneurs, we can work together to reach the vision of Determination, Incorporated: Prisons and jails will become ‘grad schools’ for the world’s most impactful leaders,” Waller Jr. said of ways the grant funding could change outcomes for formerly incarcerated people.
“Starting viable, hiring businesses, will help to solve the problem of recidivism and ultimately end mass incarceration,” he noted.
Total grant amounts were not disclosed by Kauffman.
“This community of grantees is building field-wide standards around what quality entrepreneurship support looks like, and how to help everyone get there,” said Natalie Self, Kauffman program officer in entrepreneurship. “The organizations that are working on these equitable programs, policies, and practices today will inform the field of entrepreneurship support for years to come.”
At The Sewing Labs, an unconventional entrepreneurial hub for marginalized and at-risk women to develop their sewing businesses, Kauffman funds will boost efforts to develop hands-on training that provides personal attention and active listening for traumatized, recovering, disenfranchised individuals, and culture-shocked immigrants.
The entrepreneurial incubator will be equipped with a variety of industrial and domestic machines, notions, and tools, said Eileen Bobowski, executive director of the The Sewing Labs, which will be based in the urban core, near the Historic Northeast immigrant and refugee communities.
“This grant will allow us to teach entrepreneurial candidates all aspects of running a sewing business, to provide oversight and assistance as these entrepreneurs begin to do work for hire and provide opportunities for income production through contracted short-run manufacturing,” she said.