Entrepreneurs are needed now more than ever, said Alex Krause Matlack.
“Had this year gone as normal, the E-Scholars would have held a live demo day this week for the community to showcase the hard work they put into their companies, and to give the founders access to a broader network of community members to provide insight and ideas on their companies,” said Krause Matlack, director of Entrepreneurship Scholars, a twice-a-year accelerator program within UMKC’s Regnier Institute designed to help idea-stage students and community members who want to start a business.
COVID-19 had other plans — forcing E-Scholars to join other programs with a newly online focus. Participants met in person until mid-March, and then quickly shifted to a virtual environment when the stay at home order was put into place, Krause Matlack said.
“The entrepreneurs adapted, and many of their business models changed to fit what is needed for the future of our economy,” she said.
The accelerator program, funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, ran this semester with mentors, workshop leaders, volunteer attorneys, and support from across the Kansas City entrepreneur ecosystem, she added.
Read below to see three companies highlighted by the E-Scholars program.
“E-Scholars is always a whirlwind semester as companies go from idea to ready-to-launch in only a few months,” said Krause Matlack. “The global pandemic and economic downfall happening right in the middle of the semester challenged founders in new and unprecedented ways. It is inspiring to see the resiliency of entrepreneurship, and the scrappiness of the problem solvers that are needed now more than ever.”
Click here to watch all of the demo day videos. A space is provided for feedback for the early-stage companies.
E-Scholars descriptions provided by the E-Scholars program at UMKC.
Dart is a social venture started by Thomas Murphy and Kyla McAuliffe. Dart provides affordable transportation within the Kansas City metro area through upcycled electric bikes. Transportation in Kansas City often lacks in reach and connectivity, resulting in a restrained radius of economic opportunity for those that are struggling financially. The inability to commute in an efficient and timely manner to large portions of the metro leads to an inability to obtain and retain jobs.
Thomas and Kyla are founders who have maximized their opportunities as entrepreneurs by getting involved and building their network. In addition to E-Scholars, they participated in Entrepreneur Quest and the Regnier Venture Creation Challenge (RVCC), two competitions out of UMKC, winning Outstanding Social Venture, best Creative venture, and two each for Best Undergraduate venture from RVCC. They are active in UMKC’s Enactus Program for social entrepreneurship. Recently, they were accepted to participate in the prestigious TCU’s Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition. Kyla is an organizer for our local 1 Million Cups. It is clear that these scrappy founders understand the importance of putting yourself out there to start a great company.
Michelle and Jeff Johnson are the founders of Cleanse Wellness. When Michelle suffered from chronic pain after giving birth to their son, Peyton, seven years ago, she found a holistic solution through hydrotherapy. Michelle and Jeff want to bring that wellness solution to Kansas City. While they are still preparing to launch their company, and looking for the perfect location, their path through E-Scholars has inspired their journey to take entrepreneurial opportunities where they can.
Jeff jokes that he made himself an essential worker by quickly getting more face masks into the market by making them with his mother, and selling them on Etsy. They come in lots of designs, including KC Chiefs and KC Royals masks. Lots of sales and donations have been made to frontline workers in healthcare and grocery stores.
We often say that even after the 11 years that E-Scholars has been around, 65 percent of E-Scholars are still entrepreneurs, even if not with their original business idea. These founders are a great example of those who take what they’ve learned, move quickly, and are already showing the beginnings of serial entrepreneurship in our community.
Stone + Spruce is a company founded by Kalin Callewaert. Kalin has already been a small business owner for more than 10 years with her barber shop in South Plaza, The Den Barbershop. Kalin has spent her career becoming an expert in men’s hair and skincare products, and has experienced the frustration of not having the types of products she wishes were available for men to recommend. With that knowledge, she went to work experimenting with her own soaps and beard oils for men, developing a line of products in her basement.
After a big day of meeting with more than 20 mentors in the beginning of E-Scholars, the message she took away was that she needed to start getting her products out there and selling. A week later her products were being sold in her shop, and she quickly gathered a customer base.
While the coronavirus stay at home order forced her barbershop to temporarily close, she used the time to get an online store up and running, and even developed a line of hand sanitizers. Soap, afterall, has never been more popular! Kalin has shown us the importance of putting mentor’s advice into practice, and making opportunities out of the unforeseen time we are living through.
Click here to apply for the next E-Scholars cohort. The program is open to students and community members alike.
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.