Kansas City — and the world — miss out when the potential contributions of promising entrepreneurs goes untapped, said Don Carter, pointing to Pipeline Pathfinder’s impact on minority, women, and rural-based entrepreneurs.
“There are so many people doing so many dope things, so many cool things in the world, but they just aren’t connected to the resources to have their maximum impact,” the newly announced director of the program explained. “The Pathfinder program [accelerates growth for] those people who are just finding their path in entrepreneurship, getting connected to a flow of resources, and people who are in that vein already.”
Click here to connect with Carter, a former KMCO police officer-turned-tech startup worker, business consultant and professional speaker.
Thanks in part to a $3 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Carter — a transformational executive coach — recently joined the Pipeline team to lead the second-year program. Although the grant isn’t exclusively for the Pathfinder program, Pipeline Executive Director Melissa Vincent said a large part of the three-year grant — the largest chunk of funding the organization has received from the Kauffman Foundation — will go toward further developing Pathfinder.
“We are incredibly excited,” Vincent said. “It really speaks to the amazing partnership that we’ve had with Kauffman and the alignment of our organizations and our hearts for really growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. So we’re incredibly appreciative of Kauffman’s support over the years.”
The Pathfinder program began in fall 2021 as a 12-month program but has now expanded to a more in-depth 18-month initiative. And while it might have just introduced its second cohort, Pathfinder is already seeing success, Vincent said, noting the program’s mission to serve as a pathway for early-stage, historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs to go full time with their startups — and becoming eligible for the full Pipeline fellowship program in the process.
“Two of our Pathfinders actually were able to graduate (from the first cohort) early and apply for the fellowship and are two of our 2023 fellows,” she explained. “That’s exactly what the program was designed for, so we are really excited about that.”
Click here to read more about Pipeline’s newest fellows and pathfinders.
Pipeline boasts a community of 180 members, which in the fellowship’s 16 years have generated more than $2.5 billion in revenues; employed more than 4,000 people in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri; are doing business in more than 85 countries; and have raised more than $900 million in outside capital since joining Pipeline, according to the fellowship.
“We’re focused on the founder first,” Vincent noted. “It allows us to have that membership base. Because we’re focused on building this community — and have been — that amazing community has turned to a very powerful network of entrepreneurs who want to continue to give back. And so by bringing earlier stage entrepreneurs who maybe have not had the access to the kind of network that Pipeline members provide, we’re able to create that network and that access.”
Pipeline’s founder-first focus drew Carter to the team, he said, adding that Vincent’s direction was another key selling point.
“I think the thing that I’m excited about is primarily Melissa’s leadership and where she is taking an organization that has historically felt like it’s been exclusive and making it something that is much more expansive in its reach,” he explained. “(It’s exciting) connecting with her and her heart and being a part of this team of people who understand the intangible aspects of business and focusing on the founder first. Because to me, business is all about people, and so when a business can focus on the people, it has a bigger impact.”
The executive coaching background of Carter — who is the Pipeline’s first hire in three years — makes him the perfect fit for leading the Pathfinder program, Vincent said.
“We really needed someone who was a true community builder and could really see and bring that mentorship coaching aspect to building out new programming,” she continued. “One of the things that we know because of how Pipeline does focus on the founder first is that we’re also building out really strong leaders in the process. And so he brings that coaching, leadership development background that I think is really critical as we run the program.”