People are longing for community perhaps now more than ever, said Brett Crawford, announcing the return of Back2KC, a two-day virtual event reconnecting former Kansas Citians to their hometown.
And the timing has never been better, he added.
“Suddenly you’re not confined by the residence-versus-workplace conundrum,” said Crawford, who leads the Back2KC program for Startland, a nonprofit activating a thriving and inclusive culture of innovation in Kansas City through stories, experiences and talent. (Startland is the parent organization of Startland News.)
With companies coast to coast allowing workers and leadership to work remotely, the City of Fountains can now be home to Kansas City expatriates who rediscover the metro — and how much it’s evolved since their departures: a key piece of the Back2KC mission, Crawford added.
The program returns Thursday and Friday with six, virtual one-hour sessions diving into facets of Kansas City’s unique identity, including its rich creative scene, historic beauty and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, he said.
For the first time in Back2KC’s three-year history, the events are open to the public and free to attend virtually.
Sessions are scheduled for 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday with networking breakout rooms available for attendees to meet others and connect with Kansas City-area businesses, entrepreneurs and corporations.
Click here to explore the agenda for Thursday and Friday at Back2KC.
Planned guests include Quinton Lucas, KCMO mayor; Jeff Carson, president of Enterprise Bank; Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro League Baseball Museum; and Darcy Howe, managing director and founder of KCRise Fund, as well as Back2KC founder; among others.
Click here for a full list of panelists and speakers.
“Back2KC is a perfect avenue to show individuals who’ve moved away just how great our town really is,” Crawford said. “Our hope is that folks who have even the slightest interest in rediscovering Kansas City walk away from our programming with a new sense of what Kansas City is in 2020 and beyond.”
Check out a Back2KC teaser video featuring Mayor Quinton Lucas below, then keep reading.
Crawford — a former Olathe East student before moving to Lawrence — himself is a Back2KC success story, joining the Startland team in June after previously leaving the metro for a larger tech ecosystem. He was, in part, drawn back via his brother, who attended the in-person Back2KC program in 2019.
“I thought, when I was 22, that I had to leave the Midwest to make something of myself,” he said. “My first internship at a tech company was when I was 19 and I moved to San Francisco for a summer to work at Storenvy, a social store platform. I saw the way the city was with all its people and history and wanted to be a part of a bigger place because I equated more people with more opportunity.”
“Once COVID hit and the live music industry got put on an indefinite hold I was reevaluating Kansas City for a number of reasons,” continued Crawford, who most recently worked as social and digital media director for Chicago’s Metro, Smartbar and GMan tavern. “I was faced with paying Chicago rent for none of the Chicago experience, and when my fiancé and I started looking around the country for where to potentially move, Kansas City was far and away the best value.”
The duo moved into a two-bedroom house with a backyard, driveway and front porch for much less than they were paying to live in a 850-square-foot garden unit in Chicago, he said.
Click here to sign up for the “Back2Life” session, which among other topics explores how far a dollar stretches in Kansas City.
“I used to tell my old boss I could do my job from the moon if it had a good WiFi connection — it just took a pandemic to show employers that you can be just as productive at home,” Crawford said. “We were able to afford more space moving to KC, so it feels much easier to stretch out and have an office that feels separate from the rest of our living space. Whereas in Chicago I was doing Zoom interviews on my couch with my laptop propped up on a stereo speaker.”
Family and friends were another bonus of moving back, he said, emphasizing human connections in an era of social distancing.
“It was important for us to focus on what relationships we wanted to be closer to and how they impacted our lives,” Crawford said.