Editor’s note: The following profile on Samuel Morris, small business advocate for Kansas City, Missouri’s, KC BizCare Office is made possible by the office’s financial and programmatic partnership with Startland News.
When the bell rang on Samuel Morris’ Kansas City teaching career, he knew he had to do something big as he stepped back out into the workforce — and people had to come first.
“Of the hours a week that I was working, I was with kids [maybe] 20 hours,” Morris said, recalling his decision to drop out of the classroom in 2021.
“Sixty or 70 percent of my job was this paperwork on the back end that I didn’t see as much value in as my superiors did. That’s when I decided to make the move.”
As Morris pursued his next role, education-oriented opportunities ranked highest in his job search. Such criteria ultimately led him to KC BizCare — Kansas City’s one-stop shop for doing business.
Click here to learn more about the KC BizCare Office.
“[I wanted to work somewhere] where the heart of my job was not just working for people — but with people,” said Morris, who was hired in the role of small business advocate last fall.
Learn more about Samuel Morris and the KC BizCare Office Wednesday, April 6 at Spark Kansas City during Startland News LIVE — where they’ll play an integral role in the event series’ premiere and program.
Click here for tickets to Startland News News LIVE
Together with Nia Richardson, assistant to the director for small business and entrepreneurship, the duo works to educate and help Kansas City business owners navigate everything from proper business licensing and tax season to taking care of code violations and just about anything in between.
“This feels different,” Morris said of his current work and the BizCare office as a whole.
“People here are really devoted to going above and beyond what their job description is — because there’s a higher calling,” he continued, noting he quickly identified ways he could better serve members of his own community.
“When I first moved to Kansas City, I lived downtown for a breath and then moved to the West Side [neighborhood] and began to understand the cultural ties and the history — and just how much of a need that there was for support for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs,” Morris recalled.
“I began to see my neighbors around me and their struggles with starting a business and reading this city code. I would offer, ‘Hey, let me read that city code for you.’ And even though English is my first language, it still didn’t make sense. It still felt like I was reading it in a foreign language.”
The opportunity to meet residents where they are and find ways to help them — while also making them feel seen — made Morris fall even more in love with the position; one he’s found to be measured more in impact than in monotony.
“Instead of, ‘Let’s process the 50 returns that we’re supposed to process each day, 365 days a year, minus 10 days vacation,’ being the bar — [this work] is supporting entrepreneurs. Which is subjective and which is flexible and vibrant and moves its variable.”
Click here to connect with Samuel Morris on LinkedIn.
The ebb and flow of the entrepreneurial world isn’t new to Morris, he noted, recalling his upbringing in and around the cities of Houston and College Station in Texas where he watched three generations preceding him build businesses and make their own ways in a corporate and chaotic world.
“My [great] grandparents owned Munguia Furniture Company — its now lot C for the Houston Astros,” Morris joked, noting the business, which was built in 1938, was one of the first Hispanic-owned family-run operations in Houston.
Following the Korean War, Morris’ grandfather opened a jewelry store in the back of the retailer where his mother worked the cash register after school.
“The cash register was her babysitter,” he laughed, noting his mother went on to become a neonatal intensive care nurse — but there was no curing her familial calling to entrepreneurship.
“My father was on the landing team for NASA and they decided — while they loved these jobs — there was something they wanted even more,” Morris said.
“Landing space shuttles is really important — and taking care of premature babies is very important. But there’s a desire in all of us that’s like, ‘Man, I want to do something that matters to me and my family.’”
The pair opened a property management company focused on improving and investing in the lives of their neighbors and surrounding communities.
When Morris told his parents about his position with KC BizCare they uttered something he’s found fairly common among family, friends, and out-of-towners: I wish we had that.
KC BizCare streamlines the process of starting a small business by helping entrepreneurs navigate city permitting, zoning, licensing, procurement, certification, and other government mandated requirements to operate a business.
“We need offices like ours in all the metros. Not just Kansas City,” he explained, detailing his hopes for the ever-growing office, its future, how it’s fueled his passion for entrepreneurship support, and ways in which the work he does now continues to be informed by lessons learned at the head of the classroom.
“When writing a lesson plan, we would often use the phrase, ‘I do, we do, you do.’ Now that I’ve done it, and we’ve done it — you do it,” he said, noting he believes KC BizCare is well into its “I do” stage and could soon be ready to guide leaders in other cities to replicate the work.
“I think on the ground it may look a little bit different, but at 30,000 feet it’s an office that’s dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and that’s funded by the city or by the state,” Morris said, adding that the task of supporting entrepreneurs isn’t hard — and stepping up to do so could mean the difference between vibrant and floundering municipalities.
“It’s integral,” he said of entrepreneurship support at the civic level.
“I would be willing to wager every city says, ‘We want entrepreneurs; we want folks who are doing what they think is important and doing so for the greater good of the city.’ … but then there’s no incentive or assistance,” Morris continued.
“If you want me to be an entrepreneur in your city, help me be an entrepreneur in your city,” he said, calling on city leaders around the country to double down on what’s possible within their budgets to unlock the full potential of their communities.
“You don’t have to write a business plan for me, but at least make it so that I don’t have to [visit dozens of offices] and get discouraged and end up going to St. Joseph or Wichita [to open a business] because it’s easier over there.”
“You’ve got to invest in entrepreneurs to have entrepreneurs invest in your city.”
This story is possible thanks to support from KC BizCare, a free business resource, advocacy and information center for new and existing businesses operating with the City of Kansas City. It provides its customers with information and assistance in understanding and complying with city, state and federal requirements for operating a business.