A mainstay of the Kansas City creative scene hopes to compose messaging harmony as the new force behind STARTLAND’s events and marketing efforts.
“One of my dreams is just to see people coming together and working — not really thinking about their differences, but understanding we have more in common than what we don’t and, you know, let’s do something cool,” said Kemet Coleman, the new director of marketing and experiences for STARTLAND, the parent organization of Startland News.
Coleman — a rapper, urbanist and entrepreneur, perhaps best known for his “Streetcar Song” as “Kemet the Phantom” and performances with the Phantastics — debuted publicly in the STARTLAND role Thursday, playing host and moderator for a virtual Innovation Exchange.
“I want to help make STARTLAND the best source for inspiring innovation in the world — not just Kansas City — especially now that everything is virtual,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity to not worry about our location and really shoot for the moon.”
STARTLAND is an ecosystem-building organization with a mission to activate a culture of innovation through stories, experiences, and talent with a particular focus on real-world learning.
The marketing and experiences position is not within the editorial structure of Startland News, which functions as an independent nonprofit newsroom. Startland News will continue to produce and lead its annual Kansas City Startups to Watch list and celebration in January.
“As an organization, we’ve done a really good job of building out our programs, but have always struggled with messaging and branding and marketing ourselves,” said Adam Arredondo, CEO of STARTLAND, stressing opportunities to better showcase the organization’s education work, strengthen events and experiences during the ongoing pandemic, and provide a more consistent voice across programs. “We also want to tell the impact of our work more effectively.”
Click here to read more about STARTLAND’s 2019 rebrand from the Kansas City Startup Foundation.
A community builder at heart, Arredondo explained, Coleman has experience as stage curator for Troostapalooza, as well as professional marketing work through Kemet Creative. The Troostapalooza street festival, organized by the nonprofit Troost Market Collective, is expected to return later this year.
“It was just kind of a perfect storm where he was looking for an opportunity like ours,” Arredondo said. “On top of that, Kemet has deep connections in Kansas City. Our deepest strengths and experiences are in startups, entrepreneurship, and small business — his are much more in music, arts, and working in underserved communities. The power of all that expertise coming together is really going to serve us well.”
Click here to read more about Coleman’s background in this 2018 KCultivator Q&A feature.
“I’ve enjoyed every experience with STARTLAND I’ve been pulled into before this — whether that’s being a judge for MECA Challenge or being interviewed by Startland News for a story,” Coleman said, noting he appreciates the organization’s mission-driven focus. “This will be my first time on the nonprofit side during my career, though I feel like STARTLAND executes like a startup. Being an entrepreneur myself, I’m really attracted to their hustle and innovation.”
Coleman is buoyed in the marketing effort by fellow musician and Kansas City native Brett Crawford, who joined the STARTLAND team this week and is relocating from Chicago. The two-man team is expected to feature Crawford’s focus on and experience with managing social media and marketing execution, Arredondo said, while Coleman pursues more “big picture” strategies.
STARTLAND’s current experiences slate includes monthly Innovation Exchange conversations, Startup Crawl KC (likely delayed until 2021 because of COVID-19 social distancing measures), and the Back2KC talent recruitment effort, which is expected to return in the fall in some format, Arredondo said.
Click here to learn more about Back2KC, an annual two-day event that brings former Kansas Citians back to the metro to explore the current startup ecosystem.
“Now that we have these guys who can really sink their teeth in, we’ll be formulating a lot of the details over the next month,” Arredondo said, noting Crawford will take the lead on Back2KC because of his experience and his own Back2KC story. “Obviously a lot of it has been dependent on how COVID plays out, and the appetite for people flying and attending gatherings.”
Coleman and Crawford succeed Maria Miller, who previously managed STARTLAND’s social media, marketing and Back2KC effort. She departed the organization in May to serve as the executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Medora, North Dakota, at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Jessica Powell led the 2019 Back2KC effort.
Arredondo expects Coleman to help fill the community and organizational void left by longtime startup advocate Matthew Marcus, who exited the nonprofit in February to pursue new entrepreneurial opportunities.
“With Matthew Marcus leaving, it kind of left me as the primary face of STARTLAND in the community,” Arredondo said. “So I really see Kemet stepping up in terms of taking the spotlight and being a visible face for our organization.”
Coleman isn’t afraid to take center stage — or the center Zoom box — during STARTLAND events, he said.
“You won’t have anything stale when it comes to me,” Coleman said. “I love the excitement of putting Kansas City back on the map. We already have such a rich history — whether that’s the golden age of jazz or our notorious history with Prohibition. History and the present are all wrapped together for me.”