A newly launched program by The Porter House KC is aimed at providing small business owners with as much as $5,000 for their back office, equipment cost, rental assistance or general system needs, detailed Dan Smith.
“We’re really excited about this Alchemy Sandbox program. ‘Alchemy’ is a word that just kept coming up at the end of 2021, so I had to look up exactly what it meant. It is specifically the transformation from metals into gold — but in our case, it references the transformation from where businesses are, to then helping them get to the space they want to be in,” said Smith, co-founder of The Porter House KC alongside Charon Thompson.
Local small businesses can apply online to PHKC Alchemy Sandbox by submitting information on their venture and a brief proposal on how they would use the grant. After founders apply online, they must submit a video explaining more about their proposal, attend a pitch class and present a final pitch.
“Community innovators, folks who have been pitching in this ecosystem for a long time and ESL [English as a second language] teachers will teach the pitch class,” Smith added. “About 15 days later, the founders will pitch to a distinguished group of folks.”
Five founders will be selected each quarter, with applications for the first quarter closing on Monday, Jan. 24. PHKC Alchemy Sandbox will be accepting running applications until November 2022.
“This is not just a general cash infusion to a business, but rather it’s going to pay for either services they need or equipment that is needed,” Smith noted.
All are encouraged to apply, but PHKC Alchemy Sandbox is best positioned to help companies that have been in business at least 12 months, are located in KCMO, have defined business ideas and clear need for the funding support.
Click here to apply to the PHKC Alchemy Sandbox.
As long-time admirers of the Digital Sandbox proof-of-concept program, Smith and his team pulled inspiration from the program’s leaders in order to plan out PHKC Alchemy Sandbox, he shared.
“We had many conversations with Maria Meyers and Jeff Shackelford who both helped start the Digital Sandbox program,” Smith recalled. “[Digital Sandbox’s] focus is on digital and tech, and we felt like it would be cool if there was a similar program for main street businesses. We gained a lot of advice and mentorship from Maria and Jeff, and Maria gave us approval to use the ‘Sandbox’ name.”
With the program mapped out and ready to go, The Porter House KC needed one final aspect to get the Alchemy Sandbox off the ground: funding.
“We met with some folks from UMB Bank, and they expressed interest in diving deeper and better supporting the work we do,” Smith said. That led to a larger conversation, which led to an opportunity for us to get gifted some good money.”
UMB Bank’s $350,000 donation directly supports the PHKC Alchemy Program, Smith noted.
Click here to read more about UMB Bank’s $350,000 donation to The Porter House KC.
Applicants do not need to have previously participated in The Porter House KC, but Smith encouraged founders seeking out more opportunities and mentoring to look into the programs they offer. The alumni network is also a major perk, he added.
“Before we sent out information on Alchemy Sandbox in our newsletter, we sent it to our alumni network,” Smith said. “So they had a heads up on this program coming out before we pushed it out to the mainstream audience. And Miranda [Schultz, our program manager] has been working hard with our alumni to create additional programming efforts for them.”
It’s difficult for founders, especially in the urban core, to get capital and funding, Smith concluded, which is why he sees this program as a necessary boost to the Kansas City community.
“We want to create an opportunity, so that these founders can pursue their project and programs,” he shared. “We’re talking about a lawn care specialist — who may be one of the best lawn care specialists in the city — but they have equipment failure or breakdowns and can’t get a loan to repair or buy new equipment. Bottom line is that we think it’s important to reinvest into the community.”
Dan Smith and Charon Thompson were honored as two of Startland News’ 2021 Kansas City Community Builders to Watch. Click here to find out why.
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.