Kansas City’s most tenacious advocate, Maria Meyers has built far more than a legacy for herself, proclaimed Mary Bloch.
“I first met Maria Meyers in the mid-90s when we were both involved in the renovation of Union Station,” Bloch, civic leader and daughter-in-law of H&R Bloch founder Henry W. Bloch, said as she recognized Meyers, founder of SourceLink and executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center. Meyers was among the honorees Friday night at the 34th annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards — hosted by the UMKC Bloch School of Management and the Regnier Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Click here to read about Kansas City Entrepreneur of the Year Michael Rea, CEO and founder of Rx Savings Solutions.
Drenched in spotlighting, Bloch told a full room of university students, partners, supporters, family and friends why Meyers was the perfect fit for the 2019 Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
“Maria is fulfilling her passion and creating jobs,” Bloch explained. “She’s partnering with local economic development organizations to turn fragmented small business resources into cohesive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems.”
With collaboration as a driver, Meyers is fueled by her community, Bloch noted. As a result, SourceLink — an entrepreneurial ecosystem for startups in need of resources and connections — is online in more than 50 communities across the country.
Click here to explore Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City (GEWKC) organized by KCSourceLink.
“Maria is the person that develops the vision way before anybody else is talking about it and then her ability to execute on it is just unbelievable,” said Zach Anderson Pettet, managing director of Fountain City Fintech and Bloch school graduate.
Meyers might have been the center of attention Friday night, but as she received her award she was quick to note she couldn’t have achieved her success alone: Entrepreneurial ecosystem building is a task best accomplished when community organizations stand together.
And the results locally are being noticed on a national scale, she said.
“I get to go out and talk to lots of people and work with lots of people in these other communities and they all talk about Kansas City, so I think we’re making it,” Meyers said to cheers and applause.
“We’ve been saying, ‘Let’s make Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city’ and we’ve all worked together to do that,” she said. ‘There are probably three reasons that I’m standing here. One is because I have a very supportive family; One is because I have the most incredible team that’s ever been developed in this country; And the last thing is because we have a community that really cares about what we’re doing.”
While Meyers was recognized for her community-focused achievements, Ali Brandolino, a budding social entrepreneur and soon-to-be graduate, earned the Bloch school’s 2019 Student Entrepreneur of the Year award and a $2,500 scholarship.
“The Student Entrepreneur of the Year highlights one student out of many who exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit and action to impact the Kansas City community in the future,” said Dr. Jeff Hornsby, executive director of the Regnier Institute.
A commitment to student leadership and project management through such programs as UMKC Enactus earned Brandolino the award, Hornsby explained.
“Her passion for bringing change to the community is evident in everything she does.”
Click here to read more about Brandolino’s work and the 2019 Enactus team.
Such a passion nearly kept Brandolino from attending UMKC, she told the room.
“… I tried to quit. I wasn’t passionate about higher education. I was passionate about impacting people’s lives and I didn’t think college with the correct platform for that,” she said.
“Thankfully they make canceling your housing pretty difficult here and for that reason I decided to give college my best shot,” Brandolino joked.
Past Student Entrepreneur of the Year winners include Andrea Savage, who recently pitched UMKC’s FeedKC Initiative to sharks at the 2019 Pure Pitch Rally, in 2018 and Chad Feather, associate at KCRise Fund, in 2017.
Together, the Bloch School and Regnier Institute have supported more than 350 entrepreneurs through the E-Scholars program and aided in the launch of more than 100 student ventures, Hornsby noted.
“We take our role as Kansas City’s university seriously. We’re building a pipeline of entrepreneurial talent in this region,” he added.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.