President and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Wendy Guillies announced that she will be retiring this fall after 22 years with the nonprofit.
“Like many people over the past extraordinary few years, I’ve reflected on my professional and personal priorities. What won’t change is my drive to engage in work that makes our community and country a better place for all. At the same time, I want to strike more of a balance personally and spend more time with my family and new granddaughter,” said Guillies, who has served as CEO of the Kauffman Foundation since 2015 and got her start on the communications team in 2000.
The chance to fulfill Mr. Kauffman’s legacy was one of the greatest honors of her life, Guillies said in a press release — noting that she is proud of what the Kauffman Foundation and its grantee-partners have accomplished over the years.
“Mr. K first and foremost believed in people and wanted everyone to have the opportunity to reach their highest potential,” Kauffman said. “He also wanted his foundation to focus on Kansas City, work together with the community and support big ideas that meet our region’s most pressing opportunities and challenges.”
In her role as CEO, Guillies worked with the nonprofit’s board and senior leadership to develop and implement a strategic plan aimed at helping people achieve economic stability, mobility and prosperity — regardless of their race, gender or where they live.
Click here to read Wendy Guillies’ thought piece on the Kauffman Foundation’s “America’s New Business Plan.”
Guillies focused the Kauffman Foundation on new education programs, including the launch of KC Scholars, SchoolSmartKC and Real World Learning; as well as support for civic institutions, ranging from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to the World War I Museum.
In support of entrepreneurs, the Kauffman Foundation has recently committed more than $20 million to support Kansas City-based small business lending. It has also concentrated funding to entrepreneur support organizations in the Heartland states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas — with an emphasis in Kansas City. Nationally, Guillies and the leadership team have zeroed in on increasing access to entrepreneurs of color through innovative initiatives such as the Capital Access Lab and a Living Cities “fund of funds” to support diverse fund managers.
“The next leader of the Kauffman Foundation will be one lucky individual, coming in at a time when the opportunity to support a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development is so needed by our communities and nation,” Guillies shared.
Before becoming CEO, Guillies served as vice president of Communications. During that time she helped develop Global Entrepreneurship Week, which launched in Kansas City in 2008. It has expanded to more than 180 countries and engages 10 million people annually.
Board Chair John Sherman and Chair-Elect Esther George will begin the search process for the next CEO soon, according to the press release.
“Wendy led the Foundation in the spirit of Mr. Kauffman,” Sherman said. “She focused the Foundation on his intent and commitment to Kansas City, approaching the work with humility and a collaborative spirit. She’s put the Foundation on a great path to support the communities we serve, and to ensure our important work continues. For that, we are grateful.”