Entrepreneurial support organizations experience many of the same challenges faced by Kansas City’s small business community, stifling their effectiveness, Nia Richardson noted.
“This includes staffing and resource constraints, lack of business education and practical experience, and fragmented systems of support. Without addressing these structural and systemic constraints, enabling equitable and inclusive small business growth will remain an unattainable goal,” explained Richardson, managing director at KC BizCare, an agency within KCMO’s city government focused on small business and entrepreneurship.
To combat such restraints and grow Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation awarded the KC BizCare office $300,000 to spend over the next three years. With the funds, Richardson and her team plan to deploy two initiatives: a small business census and an accelerator program for BIPOC entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) — set to launch in early 2023.
“We hosted roundtable discussions [about the census/survey] earlier this summer when we were just applying for the grant,” Richardson recalled. “While we were waiting to hear back, we didn’t stop the momentum of what we are trying to accomplish. … Through the data we collect from this small business census, we will use it to direct us on what gaps or resources we’re needing to fulfill when we launch the ESO accelerator.”
The purpose of the small business census: reduce the data deficiencies of BIPOC businesses in KC. This lack of data consistently undermines business owners as they seek to advocate for additional resources, support and contract opportunities, Richardson said.
Check out a gallery from KC BizCare’s summer roundtable discussions, then keep reading.
KC BizCare is currently working with BIPOC ESOs to collect their feedback on how to ensure the small business census will lead to impactful data and research. Richardson and her team have a goal of gathering data from at least 5,000 small businesses — both in and outside Kansas City.
“Our partners at Venture Noire are getting businesses in Northwest Arkansas signed up — because they saw what we were doing up here and wanted to get involved,” she said.
Click here to read more about how KC BizCare partnered with Venture Noire to launch City of Entrepreneurs.
For ESOs who partner with KC BizCare to help deploy their small business census, they will be given access to a Kansas City-based small business data dashboard that will be built out with KC BizCare’s gov-tech partners Qwally and mySidewalk, Richardson noted.
“Our early [ESO] partners will test the survey and give any additional feedback on dashboard KPIs and the data we’re collecting,” she continued. “This database will benefit them when they are trying to raise funds or identify gaps in the community.”
KC BizCare decided to focus specifically on ESOs because of their four main areas of impact: informal entrepreneurship support for new businesses; access to capital through technical assistance and application prep; contracting and certification prep; and back-office support to help businesses sustain and grow (i.e. legal, accounting and marketing).
“The accelerator will be set up to strategically advance the capabilities and capacity of three to five BIPOC led entrepreneurial support organizations,” Richardson said. “Capital support in the form of grants will be provided to the organizations to implement new programming and/or advance their existing programming with new staff and technology to track the impact of the enhancements.”
KC BizeCare received $500,000 from an American Rescue Plan Act grant that will be used as capital support for the ESOs.
Click here to stay up to date on the accelerator and updates with KCBizCare.
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.