Callie England misses the life of an entrepreneur, she shared, but her new role with the UMKC Innovation Center — and GEWKC — allows her to stay in the game without being on the field.
As of January, the veteran Kansas City startup founder is responsible for managing the branding and marketing initiatives of the entrepreneurial pillars at the Innovation Center, which include KCSourceLink, Technology Venture Studios, MoSourceLink, and the Small Business Development Center.
“It’s extremely rewarding to be able to give back and help in a realm that I do have experience in,” said England, who founded snack food company Rawxies in 2011 and her own business and brand consulting startup in 2022. “I think, at times, I obviously miss being an entrepreneur. That’s really hard for me, but I think after a few battles with cancer, it just wasn’t an option anymore.”
“Accepting this role enables me to remain actively engaged in the entrepreneurial sector while stepping away from the driver’s seat,” she continued. As the marketing director, my prior experience provides a distinct advantage in understanding our target customers.”
Joining the Innovation Center also brings her entrepreneurial journey full circle as she used to be a client, she noted. Upon relocating Rawxies to Kansas City, she was introduced to KCSourceLink, which subsequently connected her to the SBDC for coaching through their matching services.
“During that period, I worked with Jill Meyer, whose guidance played a pivotal role in facilitating the successful completion of my first Series A funding round,” she added.
Since the time when she was a former client, England said, the Innovation Center has grown significantly. Now as an employee, she’s aiming to connect its expansion with the community by communicating the Innovation Center’s unique programming and offerings.
“This will help the community better understand our mission and impact, fostering collaboration and elevating the IC’s success,” she explained.
One of her initial objectives is to re-imagine Global Entrepreneurship Week-Kansas City, she shared. This year’s event is set for Nov. 15-17 at Plexpod Westport at Park 39. Though the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation first founded GEW in 2008, it will be England’s first time at the event series.
“I had never attended due to uncertainty about its purpose and my busy schedule,” she said. “I contacted other entrepreneurs and discovered that many of my peers had also not attended for similar reasons. However, upon reviewing past content schedules, I realized I had missed out on valuable hours of information about starting, growing, and marketing a business. The abundance of resources in this city is truly remarkable.”
Instead of the typical five-day GEWKC series, England explained, this year’s event will be condensed into three days on-site with the addition of breakfast, lunch, and happy hour. Speakers and sessions — which will fall under the categories of start, scale, and market — are expected to be announced in October.
“Our aim is to offer sufficient content so that attendees can find valuable classes, lectures, or workshops throughout the entire day,” she continued. “I anticipate that the streamlined schedule and thoughtfully curated program will make attendance extremely convenient and accessible.”
She also wants to make sure the entrepreneurial community knows that everyone is welcome, she added. It’s not just for startups.
“Startups represent a very small percentage of the entrepreneurial landscape,” she explained. “So we really want to make sure that business owners — the ones who probably are seeking the education — coffee shop owners, restaurant owners, construction businesses, that they know that this event has over 80 hours of value-add content.”
“His team’s innovative approach aligns perfectly with our grassroots marketing requirements,” she continued. “Our objective is to engage entrepreneurs on their terms, even though it requires additional effort. I believe this strategy will yield good returns.”
Platinum XP — led by Kris Nardini — is assisting with event management. Incorporating breakfast, lunch, and happy hour into this year’s GEWKC required additional support, she noted.
“As another local company, they’ve been fantastic to collaborate with,” she added. “This event doesn’t solely belong to us; it’s a community endeavor, and we’re dedicated to including our local businesses in every facet.”