Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone. Martha Salinas is an executive with Overland Park-based MSTS.
The world’s largest companies are often associated with high-rise offices and massive workforces. But behind most success stories are humble beginnings. Amazon, for example, was started in Jeff Bezos’ garage before becoming the most valuable company on the planet earlier this year.
It can be easy for industry leaders to lose sight of where they started or how they might inspire those who hope to achieve similar success. However, those who donate just a little bit of time and money can help startups get off the ground while also reaping potential dividends along the way.
Access to new networks of potential partners along with fresh perspectives on industry issues are just a few of the many perks executives stand to gain from helping startups. Better yet, a more robust startup scene can help pave the way for economic growth that will benefit the surrounding community for years to come.
From becoming a mentor to offering funding, explore the ways in which you can help entrepreneurs find success while also advancing your organization and the local community.
Offer a shoulder to lean on
In today’s highly competitive startup landscape, mentorship is essential to staying afloat. Seventy percent of small business owners who receive mentoring keep their company open for five years or more – twice the rate of those who aren’t connected with a mentor. Interested in offering up your expertise and experience? Reach out to startups directly or partner with an organization, such as a startup incubator or entrepreneurship networks, that can match you with a startup in need of some advice.
Techstars is one example of the many accelerator programs that are bringing startups and mentors together. Check out the organization’s Kansas City community to learn how you can start supporting local entrepreneurs. Whether it’s offering feedback on pitch ideas or outlining next steps for an upcoming product launch, there’s no limit to the ways in which you can help startups in your community.
Share the wealth
Although the U.S. coasts have traditionally served as hotbeds of angel investing, they aren’t the only areas in need of funding. More than 60 percent of angel investors live outside of Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. If a startup’s growth trajectory is particularly impressive, consider opening up your checkbook. While mentorship is invaluable, an influx of cash also stands to provide businesses with the flexibility and opportunity needed to continue innovating.
Ensure you’re investing in the most promising startups by joining a network of accredited angel investors, such as Women’s Capital Connection (WCC). Designed to highlight women-led startup business opportunities, WCC helps prevent a lack of funding from becoming a barrier to great ideas while empowering women along the way.
Make a match
Even if you’re not in position to support local startups yourself, there’s still a way to get them the help they need. Leverage your network to spread the word about specific startups. Simple steps — such as introducing an entrepreneur to investors you’ve worked with in the past or featuring a startup in a company blog post — can help bring local startups some much-needed attention. These small yet impactful gestures will not only set up startups for success, but also serve as the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship moving forward.
Not long ago, corporate giants were in the same shoes as many of today’s startups. Help these entrepreneurs realize similar success and set the stage for further growth in your organization as well as the nearby community by offering advice, investing in great ideas and connecting local startups with your network.
Martha Salinas, is the chief customer officer at MSTS, a global fintech company in the B2B payment space based in Kansas City with operations around the world. She is also an angel investor and a member of both Mid-America Angel Investors and the Women’s Capital Connection, a network of accredited angel investors dedicated to identifying and funding the most promising start-up business opportunities in the Kansas City region for MAA and women-owned for WCC. She is also a business mentor with the Techstars organization.