The idea that someone else sees Fresh Factory KC’s potential still seems remarkable for India Wells-Carter, she said Thursday as Pipeline unveiled her business as one of 12 selected for its first-ever Pathfinder cohort — an entryway into its elite network for often-overlooked entrepreneurs.
“I know I believe in my company, but it feels great to know that other advisers, entrepreneurs and business leaders believe in Fresh Factory KC; they believe in who I am as an entrepreneur and they’re willing to make that investment to see me succeed long-term,” said Wells-Carter, founder of the Zona Rosa-based selfie experience. “It’s truly an honor to be considered and granted the opportunity to participate.”
She’s the perfect example of an entrepreneur poised to benefit from “the evolution of Pipeline,” said Melissa Vincent, executive director of the entrepreneurial support network, founded in 2006 to serve the region’s budding serial entrepreneurs.
The Pipeline Pathfinder program — which targets underserved founders leading scalable companies, but who have not yet made the leap to full-time entrepreneur — couldn’t come at a better time, added Vincent.
“It’s an opportunity for us to reach into this amazing regional entrepreneurial community in Kansas City to grow what Pipeline is and can be,” she said, noting she worked closely with organizers Dan Smith of The Porter House KC and Kira Cheree of Entrepreneur Business Basics to develop a program that didn’t duplicate local efforts and was additive to existing programming.
“There is such a lack of resources for underserved entrepreneurs that none of us can do it alone,” Vincent continued. “Before we ever announced Pathfinder, we sat down with The Porter House KC and EBB to understand where the largest gaps exist, to say ‘OK, here’s what their programs are accomplishing’ and ‘How can we help someone who might be coming out of that program?’ It got us to a place where we could understand what was established and how we could advance this ‘continuum of care,’ if you will, for entrepreneurs.”
Wells-Carter’s name quickly came up in those conversations, she added with a laugh. The Fresh Factory KC founder already had participated in programming from both The Porter House KC and EBB, and was ready to advance in the ecosystem.
“We were actually meeting with Dan and Kira at The Porter House, building out the Pathfinder programming, talking about the profile of who would make sense for this, and Dan literally FaceTimed India. He said, ‘Hold on a minute. I know who you have to talk to,’” Vincent recalled. “She pitches to us with no notice, and of course was fantastic. She applied, made it through, and is now one of the Pathfinder cohort members. But that’s the beauty of actually working together — literally sitting around a table.”
The 2022 Pipeline Pathfinder class includes:
- Jacob Calhoun, SOYA Fuel (Wichita) — A fuel delivery app for people who are tired of making stops at the gas station, when they could be using that time and effort to make it to that meeting in time, or get home without making any detours.
- India Wells-Carter, Fresh Factory KC (Kansas City) — Social selfie attraction with more than a dozen selfie art rooms.
- Olivia DeRusse, Queen Vibes KC (Kansas City) — A Kansas City wellness initiative created by a collective of Black women. Event-focused fitness and wellness opportunities inspired by Black girl magic.
- Juaquan Herron, Venboo (Kansas City) — A tech application that helps small non-enterprise businesses locate/book vendor opportunities and track their expense so they may strategically sell at those events.
- Jonaie Johnson, Interplay (Kansas City) — Creates remote crating for dog parents with their product, the PlayTach. With the remote dog crate attachment, pet parents can interact and care for their dog from the click of a button via the Interplay app.
- Hannah Klitz, Oak Barn Beef (West Point, Nebraska) — Provides Nebraska raised and dry aged family farm beef directly to consumers.
- Jessica Munoz Valerio, Learning Careers Environment (Kearney, Missouri) — A tech gaming company, dedicated to providing career education via sophisticated simulations.
- Molly O’Neil, Superb (Omaha, Nebraska) — Tech platform developed to advocate for not only facilities in senior care, but the healthcare workers as well.
- Zachary Oshinbanjo, Vetelligence (Kansas City) — Utilizes data to enable any organization to create a more equitable talent relationship with the military community through AI and consumer driven value.
- Kwinton Scarbrough, PawConX (Kansas City) — Works to remove barriers to social interaction by allowing both introverted and extroverted communication with like-minded dog parents to help create community.
- Letisha Wexstten, V15Able (Imperial, Missouri) — An online platform for connecting businesses with disabled Americans who want to work.
- Lee Zuvanich, Appsta (Overland Park) — Custom software development platform.
Among the founders selected for the 2022 Pipeline Pathfinder cohort, two were also named to Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2022.
A big winner at this fall’s Pure Pitch Rally spot-cash funding competition, Zachary Oshinbanjo hopes joining Pipeline builds his knowledge so he and his startup, Vetelligence, can avoid many of the pitfalls and oversights that sneak up on aspiring entrepreneurs, he said.
“The fact that Pipeline understands my mission, cause and values truly meant it was the program for me,” he added. “I’ve heard many great things about Pipeline from other Pure Pitch Rally alumni that went through that made it a perfect match.”
The outpouring of support Oshinbanjo has received from such groups and their members has already translated into lasting relationships, he said.
“Kansas City has welcomed my endeavor with open arms and I’m proud to not only launch the business here but pilot here as well,” Oshinbanjo said.
Also early in her entrepreneurial journey, Wells-Carter is excited to rally the tools and resources offered by Pipeline to take Fresh Factory KC to the next level, she said.
“My business will be one year old in May and there’s so many other ideas and goals that I have,” said Wells-Carter, noting Pipeline’s solid, vetted reputation for having an impact on entrepreneurs’ lives and businesses. “I believe the Pipeline network will be able to help support the fulfillment and manifestation of those goals.”
Click here to read more about Pipeline’s efforts to develop the region’s next great serial entrepreneur through its 2022 fellowship and Pathfinder cohort selections.
Up next for Pipeline: the return of its hotly anticipated Innovators Gala. Largely on hiatus because of the ongoing pandemic, the event is set for April 29 in-person in Kansas City.
Two years’ worth of entrepreneurs are set to be honored with Pipeline announcing Innovator of the Year Awards for its 2020 and 2021 fellowships, Vincent said.
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.