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.
The idea: to bridge knowledge and access gaps, said Amber Dunn, program manager for NXTUS, describing the NXSTAGE Enterprise Engagement Series as an effort to offer growth-minded startups a playbook for approaching large companies.
“It’s so powerful to have these enterprise partners lean in to demystify the process of doing business with organizations like theirs,” said Dunn. “We see this program becoming a key pivot point in the journey of growth-minded entrepreneurs in our region.”
Twenty startups were chosen for the inaugural cohort, including Kansas City-based More Than A Meal and InnovaPrep. Regional heavy hitters Plot (led by Techstars Kansas City alum), Ringorang (a 2021 transplant to Kansas) and Soya (founded by a member of the first Pipeline Pathfinder class) also were selected.
This program is provided at no cost and equity is not taken in the businesses. A stipend is expected to be given to participants upon completion.
“The benefit of being selected for groups like this is not only the additional exposure, but this will give us new knowledge on how organizations think and how their leadership teams think,” said Mitch Case, founder of More Than A Meal. “The business landscape has changed so much since COVID, so learning how organizations are navigating these changes is critical to the success of many small businesses that serve in a B2B approach.”
More Than A Meal, for example, helps organizations strengthen their relationships with employees through simple and authentic meal kits delivered to their home that shows employees they care about their work/life balance and want to invest in that. With its employee benefits model, the company helps customers provide a monthly meal kit to the door of employees encouraging family time at home and getting them back around the dinner table.
“I look forward to learning side by side with other businesses as we look to implement new ideas, create and maintain a strategy that helps grow the business, while gaining access to the inside details and of proven successful companies,” said Case, whose startup was named a Honeywell Fan Favorite during the KC Chamber’s spring Small Business Showcase. “This is continuing the momentum we have recently gained as companies are looking for unique ways to retain and attract talent. It is proof that companies see value in More Than A Meal and we look forward to learning how we can continue to make an impact on individuals, organizations, and the local community.”
NXTUS on Thursday also announced the program’s enterprise partners, which include Cargill, the City of Wichita, Cox Business, Evergy, keycentrix, PEC, Sedgwick County, U.S.D. 259, and Lange Real Estate (plus Red Guard and Acquipt).
The cohort and enterprise partners are expected to be celebrated at a culminating event set for Oct. 12 during Wichita Startup Week.
Click here to join the waitlist for application to the 2023 NXSTAGE Enterprise Engagement Series cohort.
The program was launched by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded to ICT Entrepreneurship Coalition members Wichita State University and NXTUS.
It’s first full cohort includes:
- 2UAuto (Jocelyn Galicia Powell), Wichita — 2U AUTO is a mobile detailing company; detailing cars inside and outside, wherever it is parked. 2U AUTO specializes in auto cleaning subscriptions for individuals and fleets.
- Air Capital Press (Mary Sykes, Ed Sykes, Mandy Sykes), Wichita — Great stories take flight in the “Air Capital of the World.” Publishing nonfiction and fiction books, Air Capital Press also develops and publishes adult workbooks and provides such a la carte publishing services as editing, copywriting, designing and creating branded materials online and offline.
- Fair Market Health (Dean Jargo, Sara Berney), Wichita — Fair Market Health is an online, price-transparent, shoppable marketplace for healthcare services.
- HyperBorean (Todd Gentry), Wichita — HyperBorean has developed a conditioning (A/C) compressor that operates with heat as its energy input rather than being powered by an electric motor. By using a no-cost source of heat such as concentrated solar, substantial cost savings are produced.
- MatchSavings (Tona Schekall), Wichita — MatchSavings increases employee financial wellness by boosting emergency savings and short to mid-term savings. It’s like a low-cost 401(k) plan that employees can access today.
- InnovaPrep (David Alburty), Drexel, Missouri — InnovaPrep makes modern sample collection and preparation tools that transform microbiology to detect threats faster, easier, and better. These innovations help clients detect contamination and disease-causing organisms, within a single shift, which: reduces costs, shortens turnaround time from production to market, and helps prevent disease and death.
- Ringorang (Robert Feeney, BW Barkley), Wichita — Ringorang supports companies making the shift from a traditional learning model to our performance-first framework that leverages content delivered in the way the brain learns within the flow of the workday to deliver real business results.
- Legacy of Negasi (Dana McCall, Cornelius McCall), Wichita — Legacy of Negasi LLC creates games, books and toys that speak to the five components of literacy: comprehension, fluency, phonics, phonological awareness, and vocabulary. They also specialize in developing company history books and corporate gifts.
- More than a Meal (Mitch Case, Emmalyn Case), Kansas City, Kansas — Helping organizations retain and attract talent with authentic and engaging meal kits delivered to the door of employees to promote a better work life balance.
- Nomad Laser Cleaning (Cody Spencer, Britini Spencer), Wichita — An eco-friendly, mobile, professional, and safe cleaning technology using infrared light to clean rust, paint, and soot from surfaces.
- PlantTea Therapy (Michelle Yeung), Wichita — An eco-conscious plant shop specializing in homegrown houseplants. Plant Tea Therapy inspires individuals at home or in business, to be curious and embrace conversations on social and environmental justice, sustainability, and mental health.
- PLOT (Chris Callen), Wichita — PLOT is a digital workspace the chaos of construction jobsites. Every other industry has their favorite collaboration tool, why not construction too?
- Quicc (Mike Mathia, Jason Toevs), Wichita — Quicc empowers corporate brands to easily manage and maximize the impact of their video content through automated transcribing, captioning, searching and clipping services.
- Soya (Jake Calhoun), Wichita — Soya is a mobile car maintenance service that tracks fuel and oil levels, automatically fuels and changes oil in vehicles, runs daily engine diagnostics and more, for fleets and individuals.
- Spyder (Nedra Barr, Mike Upright), Fort Scott, Kansas — Spyder is a SaaS software company focused on revolutionizing industries with security, regulatory and intelligence gaps. It brings artificial intelligence and machine learning on top of document storage to small businesses to help put them on a level playing field.
- The Tee Box Group (Jake King), Topeka — The Tee Box features the latest in indoor golf Trackman technology to take your team retreats, corporate memberships and client entertaining to the next level.
- The Thread: Women’s Leadership Collective (Audra Dinell), Wichita — Research shows that many women want to take a bigger leadership role but two things hold them back: confidence and connection. The Thread is aiming right at the heart of breaking that pattern with a mission to develop the ambition in women to lead more.
- True Compass (Robyn Jackson, Kristi Windish), Wichita — True Compass provides career assessments to help clients identify their natural strengths. We help individuals choose ideal career paths, adults find greater career satisfaction, and teams work more efficiently.
- Viaanix (Jatin Talreja), Wichita — Viaanix Inc. specializes in IoT application enablement with platform, software, network, connectivity, and hardware with multiple wireless technologies.
- Wichita Shredding (John Schwartz, Jackie Schwartz), Wichita — Wichita Shredding was created out of the passion to offer the best, secure shredding and secure storage to enterprises within and surrounding the Wichita metro area.
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.