Startland News’ Startup Road Trip series explores innovative and uncommon ideas finding success in rural America and Midwestern startup hubs outside the Kansas City metro. This series is possible thanks to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which leads a collaborative, nationwide effort to identify and remove large and small barriers to new business creation.
Editor’s note: Both the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Go Topeka are financial partners of Startland News, though this report was produced independently by the nonprofit newsroom.
TOPEKA — A foundational, multi-year entrepreneur support grant keeps momentum building for a new small business hub that aims to expand startup community access for underserved founders, leaders said Wednesday.
Omni Circle Group — a Topeka-based collaborative workspace and entrepreneurial training provider — has been awarded a $360,000 Heartland Challenge RFP grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which is expected to be allotted in $100,000 increments across three years to support programming, with an additional $60,000 as startup capital to boost Omni Circle as a new organization.
“This is where we help people find their purpose, find their passion; and in that, build something from that purpose and passion,” said Michael Odupitan, founder and CEO of Omni Circle, speaking Wednesday during a grant announcement event and hard hat tour of the group’s in-the-works coworking space.
Click here to learn more about Omni Circle Group.
“We literally say that we try to help people go from survival to creation. And in that phase, what we do most is connect,” said Michael Odupitan, founder and CEO of Omni Circle. “Our three pillars are connect, collaborate and create.”
The Kauffman grant — awarded with the assistance of the Greater Topeka Partnership and GO Topeka — ultimately will help support minority small business owners in joining a budding Topeka startup community that has historically not provided adequate resources to help underserved entrepreneurs make the leap with their businesses, he said.
“The biggest problem that we see in Topeka is that you have two sides of the track,” Odupitan told Startland News previously. “And you have those who don’t have the services and the opportunities to grow and then the people who are [close to the track], but they don’t have the confidence to cross it.”
Omni Circle’s goal: Enhance the skill sets of minority creators and entrepreneurs by creating an environment that sparks creativity and innovation to drive entrepreneurship for a larger economic impact in Topeka.
Programming via training and workshops is set to begin in February with Omni Circle’s first cohort starting in March. Applicants must be members of the Topeka community with aspirations of building a business in Topeka.
Members of the community will also have the ability to apply for micro-grants and be paired with a technical assistance provider as a support with the completion of the programs.
“We are dedicated to developing training programs that will support, engage and further the professional development of our startup community,” he said. “We hope our programs will attract multicultural and multi-generational leaders and enhance their professional growth through leadership, research, coaching and career development.”
Omni Circle Group currently operates as two entities — a nonprofit, community building organization and a for-profit coworking space.
Click here to learn more about Omni Circle Group or to get involved.
Click here to connect with Odupitan on LinkedIn.
Odupitan emphasized the role of the Greater Topeka Partnership and GO Topeka in both securing the Kauffman grant and supporting and advocating for Omni Circle’s development. The groups joined Odupitan Wednesday in announcing the funding.
“Communities across the country are creating hubs for small businesses — hubs where ideas are born and dreams become reality; where businesses can thrive and survive,” said Glenda Washington, chief equity and opportunity officer at GO Topeka. “Omni has taken a giant step to create a hub for the minority business community and is on its way to becoming a key player in providing a home for those businesses.”
Click here to learn more about GO Topeka.
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.