Latest KCSourceLink Resource Rail Map Reveals New Resources for KC Entrepreneurs

The newest version of the KCSourceLink℠ Resource Rail™ Entrepreneur Ecosystem Map captures how the pandemic has dramatically shifted the resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners in Kansas City. In the past two years, many resources have pivoted, some have shuttered and others have been created in response to the needs of the KC entrepreneur community during the pandemic.

“Help for entrepreneurs in Kansas City looks a lot different in 2022 than it did in 2019, when the last edition of the Resource Rail was published,” says Chanté Keller, network navigator at KCSourceLink. “The pandemic enlarged existing pain points for our local businesses and helped the entrepreneurship ecosystem clearly see how and where we needed to act to address those gaps and help make our makers, dreamers and job creators more resilient for the future.”

The Resource Rail, now in its eighth iteration, gives a detailed overview of what assistance for entrepreneurs looks like in Kansas City now and maps the resources for entrepreneurs from inception to exit along five different color-coded lines: Innovation, Main Street, Microenterprise, Second Stage and Money. Once entrepreneurs select the line that’s relevant to their idea, startup or established business, they can follow the track through each stage of growth to see which of the over 240 resources in KC can help, depending on the type of business, where the business is in its life cycle and what the business needs.

Download the latest version of the Resource Rail at


Trends emerge in latest edition of Resource Rail

In creating this updated version of the Resource Rail, KCSourceLink uncovered trends from the past two years:

  • more cohort-based trainings for targeted demographics 
  • more virtual assistance via webinar and video that can be accessed at any time

  • less one-on-one counseling and mentoring

  • shifts in capital pools and access to that capital

  • accelerator model shifts and corporations exploring entrepreneurship

A shift to cohort-based trainings

During the past two years, the KCSourceLink Resource Partner Network created new opportunities to help startups from underserved communities grow, scale and be more resilient for the future. These trends stemmed from the findings that minority-owned businesses were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They also historically experience unequal access to capital, smaller business size than their peers and the tendency for instability to affect their chosen industries.

Among the changes to resources available to these groups is an increase in application-based cohorts for early-stage growth businesses, especially for communities of color. Pipeline Pathfinder, The National Black MasterMind Group and The Porter House KC’s Small Business Development Program are just a few of the new offerings that help entrepreneurs beyond the Inception/Idea stage and into the Market Intro and Rollout stages, creating an important bridge in the resources available to entrepreneurs throughout their journey.

“We understand that entrepreneurship can often be a lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Miranda Schultz, program manager of The Porter House KC. “Our cohorts not only build and challenge the entrepreneurs in the development phases of their businesses but also create a long-term support system and ‘family’ as their business continues to grow. Alumni of The Porter House KC programs have access to that long-term family long after graduation, which has helped them continue to grow their businesses and be more resilient with a strong network.”

Entrepreneur support organizations on the Resource Rail, like The Toolbox Small Business Resource Center and InnovateHER KC were created or created initiatives specifically to help underserved groups.

More virtual webinars and video

During the pandemic, there has been a movement away from in-person meetups, networking and events in favor of digital and virtual offerings, like virtual education sessions that are often recorded and can be accessed later. This trend led to a bevy of video content across many business subject areas that anyone can access at any time from Resource Partner organizations on the Resource Rail, like SCORE – Kansas City, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC, The Porter House KC, Square One Small Business Services by Mid-Continent Public Library and others.

“We are so grateful to have continued to provide resources to our customers during the lockdown with our interactive Facebook Live sessions featuring experts and community leaders and video available to anyone through our LinkedIn Learning service,” says Morgan Perry, business outreach specialist with Square One Small Business Services by Mid-Continent Public Library. “The small business owners were out there every day putting in the work, and we wanted to leverage our deep connections to helpful folks in KC so that we could meet entrepreneurs where they were and keep supporting them during a difficult time.”

Less one-on-one counseling and mentoring

However, compared with 2019, there are fewer opportunities and resources that provide one-on-one, just-in-time counseling and mentoring, especially for early-stage businesses, which can be a problem if entrepreneurs need detailed assistance. Resources like Small Business Development Centers in Kansas and Missouri, Women’s Business Center, Heartland Black Chamber, SCORE-Kansas City, Square One Small Business Services by Mid-Continent Public Library and The Toolbox Small Business Resource Center are among the current resources that help entrepreneurs with one-on-one, just-in-time assistance.

“When the pandemic began and federal programs launched, many businesses we surveyed door-to-door in Kansas City, Kansas, were unaware of the programs/grants that existed, if they qualified or how to apply; many entrepreneurs lacked relationships with banks,” says Gabe Muñoz, executive director of The Toolbox Small Business Resource Center. “So we launched our organization as a pilot to provide direct technical assistance to help small businesses navigate the various grant programs, which became a lifeline to keeping their businesses open. We literally pulled out our laptops and completed the application alongside them, interpreted the application in Spanish if required and helped them with gathering documentation and other requirements. We acted as a knowledgeable friend, which is what they really needed.”

Shifts in capital and access to capital

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, access to business-building resources matters to their venture’s growth and survival, especially when seeking funding. 

During the pandemic, organizations like KC BizCare, AltCap, Prospect Business Association and Heartland Black Chamber, pivoted to serve immediate and pressing needs revealed by Paycheck Protection Program distribution accessibility and equity.

Those difficulties illuminated long-standing systemic issues in access to capital across loans, grants and equity investment that KCSourceLink Resource Partners on the Resource Rail are working to alleviate. The Black MasterMind Group Charitable Foundation distributes Network Kansas E-Community loan funds; Capital Access Center is a match-maker for businesses and vetted lenders, among other services, and was created in response to the pandemic. The Hispanic Economic Development Corporation received funding for its Impacto Fund, which is KC’s leading bilingual microlender that aims to help business owners move from nontraditional financing sources to traditional sources.

Also, thanks to support from the community, AltCap saw a huge increase in its microloan pools during the pandemic. The organization received $5.3 million booster from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help address a “pervasive lack of access to capital” for BIPOC founders in Kansas City. AltCap offers small business loans to entrepreneurs often overlooked by mainstream finance institutions.

“In the span of 24 months, AltCap, has provided more than $13 million in relief financing to almost 600 small businesses, but the need for flexible, patient capital continues to grow,” says Stephen Latson, AltCap’s director of business development. “AltCap is focused on deploying capital to the region’s small businesses and in the coming year, will provide innovative new products and resources to help entrepreneurs conquer their hurdles.”

New resources appeared on the Resource Rail for entrepreneurs seeking grants, especially early-stage grants from Generating Income for Tomorrow (G.I.F.T.); Determination, Incorporated; The Porter House KC Alchemy Sandbox; and the Community Capital Fund. Pathway Financial Education is a new resource that provides access to high-quality, free financial education to underserved communities.

A lack early-stage technology funding has always been an issue, but Digital Sandbox KC, Missouri Technology Corporation IDEA Funds, KITE Proof of Concept from the Kansas Department of Commerce and pitch competitions like Pure Pitch Rally fund startups in the Valley of Death, startups’ most vulnerable cash-poor stage where costs are high and funding is scarce. Additionally, contributing to a need in this stage is that private money from venture capitalists and angel investors doesn’t often go to early-stage companies, so this need is ripe for public and philanthropic entities to support.

Accelerator model shifts, corporations explore entrepreneurship

Kansas City accelerators are often run by economic development organizations to spark, support and attract new innovation to our region. Comeback KC Ventures, administered by KC Digital Drive and the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center and funded through a SPRINT Challenge Grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, is one example that is helping accelerate innovations developed in response to the pandemic.

In the past few years, corporations have also leaned into the accelerator model to access the ingenuity of entrepreneurial firms and talent to strengthen corporate research and development and startup investment. Black and Veatch IgniteX Climate Tech Accelerator (funded pandemic-related tech), Brush Creek Partners Insurtech Accelerator, Launch Health Accelerator Powered by Nueterra Capital, and LaunchKC’s Social Venture Studio are examples of these new accelerators on the Resource Rail.

Resource Rail as a tool for strategic ecosystem planning

“Year after year, the Resource Rail has been a key tool in helping aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners understand every resource that is available to them, no matter what stage their business or business idea is at,” says Maria Meyers, executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center. “Additionally, the entrepreneurial ecosystem map outlines opportunities where private and public entities can come together to help entrepreneurs succeed and make Kansas City the most entrepreneurial city in the country.”

To download the latest version of the Resource Rail, visit Physical printed copies of the Resource Rail are available at the KCSourceLink offices at 4747 Troost Ave., Ste. 123, Kansas City, Missouri 64110. Resource Rails are also available at entrepreneur and small business events throughout the Kansas City metro.

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