The 14 Kansas City Entrepreneur Stories You Couldn’t Stop Reading in 2021

Well into the second year of the pandemic, Kansas City entrepreneurs inspired us with their stories of resiliency and triumph, new beginnings and inventive ideas to startup, grow and scale.

So we rounded up the 14 most-read KC tales of business know-how, entrepreneurial hustle and resiliency in 2021.

A year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many Kansas City small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs did some amazing things (and we were lucky enough to share some of their stories with you). They masterfully pivoted to find a new path forward. They took adversity and turned it into an opportunity for their business or business idea. They wielded their businesses for good and helped others in need. One even got a surprise appearance on national television.

And you couldn’t stop reading about KC’s doers, dreamers and makers. 

These 14 KCSourceLink entrepreneur stories for 2021 share a theme: You never have to start or grow a business alone. There are over 240 Resource Partners in the KC metro that are ready to help your business, no matter what stage you’re at.

But with SO many resources, how do you even know where to start? You start with KCSourceLink. If you want a free introduction to these resources, give us a call at 816-235-6500 or tell us what your business or business idea needs here, and the friendly folks in our Kansas City office will craft your custom Personal Action Plan with the KC resources that can help you get started or reach your next milestone.

You’ll read about some of these organizations the entrepreneurs below have used, like the Kansas City Public Library H&R Block Business and Career Center, Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, AltCap, ScaleUP! Kansas City, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC, Digital Sandbox KC, KC Rise Fund, Flyover Capital, Kauffman FastTrac, UMKC E-Scholars, The Porter House KC and Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.

And these resources can help your business like they helped the entrepreneurs below. This is your invitation to join the metro-wide of entrepreneurs and small businesses, where you’ll get your custom set of next steps, opportunities for learning, coaching, networking and more.

Now, let’s dive into your top 14 Entrepreneur in Action profile stories of 2021 …

Isaac Lee Collins, Yogurtini, ScaleUP! Kansas City

14. How KC’s Yogurtini Founder Scaled His Businesses to Give Back during COVID

Isaac Collins, Yogurtini, Purposeful Profit Academy, Superhero Yoga

No doubt, the pandemic presented a host of challenges for small businesses, but for those who were prepared with the right mindset, it was also a prime opportunity. Isaac Collins knew he could make his frozen yogurt business a community hub and give back, while also expanding to a third location. But how’d he do that during such a tough time?

See how Isaac leveraged financial assistance and know-how from KCSourceLink Resource Partners and doubled down on his business coaching venture to help other entrepreneurs succeed.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, AltCap, ScaleUP! Kansas City, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC

Tracy St. John, Financial Avenues

13. Double Revenue? How a KC Business Owner Tested Processes, People to Get There

Tracy St. John, Financial Avenues

When you have to raise prices how do you keep your clients? And if you can do that, how can you double your revenue? How do you hire to make your processes more efficient? These are questions that Tracy St. John had to answer during the pandemic, and the solutions proved to be the keys to growth for her business.

See how Tracy leveraged some coaching and connections to elevate her business and reach the next level.

KCSourceLink Resource Partner used: Growth360 from the Missouri SBDC at UMKC

Aaron Thomas, GearBrokers

12. Former Musician Uses Innovative Hiring Strategy to Scale KC Electronics Business

Aaron Thomas, GearBrokers

Hiring isn’t easy, but hiring during the pandemic has been a whole other quandary for some KC business owners. So it took some creative thinking from a former musician to craft a hiring strategy that’s outside the box. Aaron Thomas has used his hiring tactic to build lasting relationships with employees and utilize their skills to drive the business, not the other way around.

Learn more about Aaron’s unique hiring strategy and see how he’s using it to scale.

KCSourceLink Resource Partner used: ScaleUP! Kansas City

Godfrey Riddle of Civic Saint

11. KC Entrepreneur Pays It Forward after Launching Civic-Minded Lifestyle Brand during COVID

Godfrey Riddle, Civic Saint

Godfrey Riddle found his business through adversity. Faced with cancer, losing his mother and father, and the murder of George Floyd, he decided to start a lifestyle brand that sends a portion of its proceeds to organizations that fight for social and racial equity. On top of all that, he launched his business at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. So how did he succeed? 

See how Godfrey tapped into KC’s wealth of entrepreneur support organizations to give his business the boost it needed.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, KCSourceLink, Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Missouri SBDC at UMKC, Square One Small Business Services by Mid-Continent Public Library

Before you break into the top 10 entrepreneur stories …

Christina Williams and Dr. Tamela Ross of The Blakk Co.

10. How 2 KC Business Owners Became Agents of Social Change

Christina Williams and Dr. Tamela Ross, The Blakk Co.

After George Floyd’s death, two longtime friends realized there were few safe places for men of color to have an open forum. So they founded The Blakk Co.; it’s part coworking space, part clubhouse and part educational community. But how did Christina Williams and Dr. Tamela Ross, two entrepreneurs who already had their own businesses, make the time and space for this worthwhile social venture?

See how the entrepreneurial duo created an important social enterprise at a time when their organization was needed the most.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: InnovateHER KCThe National Black Mastermind Group, ScaleUP! Kansas City

Patricia McCreary, Margaret's Place Adult Recreation and Wellness Center

9. This In-Person KC Business Thrived During COVID by Helping Its Community

Patricia McCreary, Margaret’s Place Adult Recreation and Wellness Center

Navigating COVID-19 was the biggest hurdle for many business owners, but few did it better than Patricia McCreary of Margaret’s Place Adult Recreation and Wellness Center. Patricia had to get creative and adapt her usual in-person services to aid her client base of elderly people or people with disabilities. On top of that, she was also scrambling to find funding to keep her business open and provide for her own family. But through all of this, she found a way and now has bigger plans for her business.

See how Patricia leveraged the power of community to save her business and serve her clientele.

KCSourceLink Resource Partner used: ScaleUP! Kansas City

KC business owners Latasha Crawford, Darryl Johnson and Patricia McCreary

8. These KC Entrepreneurs Beat 2020 with a Mastermind Group; Here’s How to Form Yours

Patricia McCreary, Ryonda Hall, Darryl Johnson, LaTasha Crawford, Cerise Hall and Joey Thomas

Entrepreneurship can be lonely at times, but during the pandemic, some entrepreneurs found power by coming together like an all-star group of entrepreneurial superheroes to defeat the problems spurred by the pandemic. If you ask this team of six KC business owners from varying industries if forming this coalition was worth it, they’ll tell you their Mastermind Group was integral to their business survival.

See how six Kansas City entrepreneurs came together during the darkest days of the pandemic to create the Masterminds and how you can create your own supergroup.

KCSourceLink Resource Partner used: ScaleUP! Kansas City

Savvy Salon, Rickey and Lenora Leathers

7. Cutting a Startup Helped a KC Entrepreneur Couple Tease Out Growth for Their Salon

Lenora and Rickey Leathers, Savvy Salon

Lenora and Rickey Leathers took a different approach to growing their businesses: They cut their insurance business so they could double down on their hair salon. They eventually expanded to two locations and five employees and have plans to grow. But how’d they get to that point and put themselves in a position to scale?

Find out how Lenora and Rickey leveraged Kansas City resources to expand their business.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: Growth360 from the Missouri SBDC at UMKC, ScaleUP! Kansas City

Greg Storm and Riddhiman Das of TripleBlind

6. How KC’s TripleBlind Went from Big Idea to Data Powerhouse for MIT, Mayo Clinic

Greg Storm and Riddhiman Das, TripleBlind

Greg Storm and Riddhiman Das have never shied away from new ideas or formidable problems. Now, TripleBlind, the business they founded in 2019 is transforming how companies provide and consume data, empowering businesses to access sensitive data in the most private and secure setting ever. But before they were partnering with organizations like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Mayo Clinic, they had relationships with funders.

See how Riddhiman and Greg built a successful company and landed funding wins along the way.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: Digital Sandbox KC, KC Rise Fund, Flyover Capital, Kauffman FastTrac, UMKC E-Scholars

Shelia Johnson of Gangsta Goodies Kitchen

5. KC Entrepreneur Exits Corporate World to Cook Up Videos of Global Culinary Eats

Shelia Johnson, Gangsta Goodies Kitchen

Shelia Johnson is no stranger to the corporate grind, but when she was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, she knew that it was time to pursue her passion of food. She didn’t have experience with creating digital content, but that didn’t stop this single mother of two from starting a cooking-themed online talk show. She showcases tasty treats like pepper steak, jerk chicken and peach bourbon cocktails while enjoying a side of healthy discussion with influential Kansas Citians. And like that, a business was born.

Learn how Shelia is building her business as a solopreneur and how she plans to feed her success in the long run.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: The Porter House KC, Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce

Josh Lewis, founder of Kansas City-based UpDown NightLife

4. This KC Startup Landed a $500K Lead Investor during COVID; Here Are 5 Takeaways

Joshua I. Lewis, UpDown Nightlife

Finding funding isn’t easy. Finding funding during the COVID-19 pandemic is even harder. But KC tech entrepreneur Josh Lewis will tell you it’s possible, even for his app based on nightlife and entertainment, an area that was hit hard during lockdown.

Here are Josh’s five pro tips for securing funding when times are tough.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: Digital Sandbox KC, Missouri SBDC at UMKC, 1 Million Cups

Kansas City Entrepreneur Brooke Estell | Photo by Adri Guyer

3. Business Mentors Helped This KC Marketing Entrepreneur Find Success after Layoff

Brooke Estell, Brooke Noel Digital Marketing Studio

Sometimes, being laid off can lead to bigger and better things. For Brooke Estelle, it meant creating a digital marketing studio that works with BIPOC- and women-owned businesses. She always wanted to get into marketing and picked up some experience during her career. So when she lost her job during the height of the pandemic, she was ready to pursue her freelancing career and build it into a full-time passion.

See how Brooke took a setback and used it as fuel to start a business that she’d always envisioned.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: Mid-America LGBT Chamber, SCORE – Kansas City, Personal Action Plan from KCSourceLink

Alesha Bowman of unLESHed+ in Kansas City, Missouri

2. Helping KC Helped Alesha Bowman Find Her Fashion Business Niche amid COVID

Alesha Bowman, UnLESHed+

Alesha Bowman’s entrepreneurship journey took her to national television when her business was featured on “Ellen.” Amazing when she tells you that she considers herself an accidental entrepreneur; being unhappy with her 9-to-5 career inspired her to pick up the mantle of small business owner. And in doing so, she found her niche with plus-size fashion. But for her, it wasn’t just about business during the pandemic … it was also about helping others. 

See how her business survived the pandemic by giving back to the community and helping those in need.

KCSourceLink Resource Partners used: The Porter House KC and Kansas City Public Library H&R Block Business and Career Center

Ammar Qureshi and Osama Hanif of The Halal Guys in Kansas City

1. Meet the College Student Who Is Bringing a Beloved Restaurant to KC

Osama Hanif, The Halal Guys

It’s not everyday that following your stomach can lead to a business idea, but then-UMKC student Osama Hanif had an idea that would feed his entrepreneurial hunger. And it makes sense. Osama had already started a pair of businesses, and entrepreneurship runs in his family. He says he has seen others go from nothing and find success. And now it’s his turn.

See how Osama is bringing something different to KC’s fast-casual food scene.

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