Setbacks, Losing Home, Car Led to Accolades, Major Growth for KC Founder

Brittany Fugate of Cenetric

Setbacks, Losing Home, Car Led to Accolades, Major Growth for KC Founder

Grit can get you far in life — and in entrepreneurship. It’s taken Brittany Fugate from struggling student to young mom to acclaimed business owner.

As president and CEO of Cenetric, Brittany leads a team of nearly 30 and provides managed IT expertise to organizations of all sizes. She’s been recognized as a 2023 Enterprising Women of the Year by Enterprising Women Magazine. And the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce named her company a small business superstar.

Brittany sounds like an overachieving nightmare, but she insists the opposite is true.

“I dropped out in 10th grade, so every single thing I’ve learned in business was from somebody or a book,” she says.

But it’s that curiosity and drive that have taken her from technical support to tech luminary. Here’s how Brittany transformed her passion into a venture that provides jobs and empowers others.

On the road to entrepreneurship

Brittany’s dad worked out of the Pentagon, and she didn’t see him often. However, their time together often centered around computers.

“He taught me about building computers and programming,” she says. “When he was working, I’d read all the computer magazines and books to learn as much as I could.”

Meanwhile, school wasn’t great. An interactive learner, Brittany struggled with traditional classrooms. Even though she understood the concepts, her grades suffered. She ended up leaving school, marrying, moving from Georgia to Arizona and having two boys very young.

“I wanted it all — a family and a successful career — but I didn’t know how to achieve it,” Brittany says. “So I fell back on the things I did know well: computers.”

She took a job at America Online in technical support. She wanted to establish herself as an expert, and security and networking interested her. So at story time, she’d read her kids technical books so that they could bond and she could learn about the stuff all kids dream about, like network security. She ended up taking a network support role at Sprint and became aware of the opportunities at the Kansas City headquarters. So she quit.

“I moved to KC and applied for a position at the headquarters, but was promptly told that I was ineligible for rehire for a year since I’d resigned. I was crushed, but determined,” Brittany says. “I wrote the board of directors and told them they’d never find anyone as determined to work for Sprint as me!”

Her moxie paid off. She was marked eligible for rehire and applied that same day — which happened to be Sept. 10, 2001. A hiring freeze soon followed. So she took a job at Fidelity National Information Solutions.

“They taught me a great deal about customer service. I was known for being able to take the toughest customer accounts and find ways to make them happy,” Brittany says. “My boss gave me a copy of ‘Raving Fans,’ and I loved it. It’s stuck with me and been part of my philosophy on how to treat customers.”

Brittany eventually got her dream job at Sprint supporting connections throughout the world. And the team supported her by backing her initiatives.

She wanted to be a leader, so they made her a team lead and taught her how to do it well. She also saw an opportunity to write software that would streamline operations. Not only did Sprint support it, they helped her patent it and bought it from her. And she took every class and got every certification she could.

“I soaked up everything I could and I learned so much,” she says. “It was truly incredible that they did that for me.

But after a major reorganization, many of Brittany’s friends lost their jobs.

“I am a helper and a nurturer,” she says. “I felt like I needed to help them and a tech company was how, while also being able to spend more time with my boys. So Cenetric was born.”

A tough start to a tech business

And then they all lived happily ever after, right?

“In the early days of Cenetric, we had no idea what to do,” Brittany says. She’d done all the paperwork and the company was official — it just needed clients.

So Brittany had a book of the company’s offerings bound at Kinko’s. Then, she bought boxes of Harry & David candy on clearance.

“I pulled a list of businesses and their owners and started driving door to door, in the most inefficient way possible, to deliver malt balls first to the receptionist to butter her up and then asking to see the owner,” Brittany says. “Somehow, this worked, and I got my first round of clients.”

And then they all lived happily ever after, right?

“Cenetric’s story is not a particularly pretty one from there,” Brittany says.

She had difficulty growing the business, and several competitors arrived on the scene at the same time. They were more organized and more experienced.

“I struggled to pay myself and prioritized my staff so we wouldn’t lose clients, which led to me eventually being evicted from my home and even losing my car,” Brittany says. “I don’t know why I kept going forward at that point — I just couldn’t be derailed from the idea that I could make this work. I felt that I hadn’t tried everything yet.”

She threw her last bit of money at Google AdWords and got a call from a new client.

“I went out, did the work myself and they were so happy they signed a sizable contract that same day that turned me just slightly profitable,” Brittany says. “That was the moment that things turned around and we began to start a very slow but upward climb.”

Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem provides support

Brittany wasn’t alone on that upward climb. She began to realize that Kansas City is filled with people and organizations to help guide entrepreneurs. The Enterprise Center in Johnson County offers Growth Mentoring Services that helped her stop spinning her wheels.

“I had three phenomenal mentors from that program who were patient and honest with me about things that were holding me back,” Brittany says. “I was making a lot of fundamental mistakes and chasing all of the ideas that sounded good instead of focusing on the core ones that were working for me. They really helped me learn business fundamentals and redirect some wasted money and time into opportunities for growth.”

She also participated in ScaleUP! Kansas City.

“ScaleUP! Kansas City is a really intense program but it covers everything you need to know about growing your business,” Brittany says. “It’s like an accelerated MBA. You learn everything you need to know to really scale your business: leadership, financial, sales/marketing — it covers all the bases.”

During ScaleUP! KC, Cenetric’s revenue doubled. In the year since Brittany completed the program, it’s doubled again. And her team has grown from about 10 employees to almost 30.

“It’s crazy,” she says. “I grew so much as a leader and felt like I had more direction. My struggle is that everything sounds like a good idea. You don’t know when you’re innovating or when you’re sidelined with a distraction. What contributed to our profitability was getting everyone in my company rowing our boat the same direction. ScaleUP! KC taught me to minimize distractions and make deliberate decisions.”

Brittany still works with two of her Growth Mentoring Services advisors as well as her mentor from ScaleUP! KC. And her cohort from ScaleUP! has opened new doors as well.

“The companies that were in my cohort have all scaled,” she says. “Everyone is still friends. These are connections I see having for the rest of my career, if not my life.”

Now, Brittany is participating in the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP). She’s working one on one with a mentor to innovate and scale Cenetric even more.

Assistance for Kansas City business owners

Thanks to the years, the struggles and the guidance, Brittany has hard-won wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Spend your time wisely,” she says. “Make sure that you’re maximizing your time by making intentional decisions.”

She also encourages business owners to abandon the idea of going it alone.

“Connecting with a mentor can be a powerful strategy,” Brittany says. “Using the incredible resources available to entrepreneurs in Kansas City can help you weed through the complexities of founding and starting a business and propel you forward so much faster than learning every lesson on your own. There are so many talented business leaders from companies of all sizes and industries who are  available to entrepreneurs.”

She is the first to point out that her entrepreneurial journey could have been easier if she’d known about the local resources for business owners.

“I could have saved myself at least eight years of struggle,” she says. “I’m adding a cushion of two extra years just because I’m stubborn.”

But she wants to make sure other founders know what help is available and avoid the pitfalls that slowed her down.

“Starting a business is challenging, especially if you don’t have business experience or a degree in business,” Brittany says. “But we’re in Kansas City, which I truly believe is the best city to start a business. We have so many exceptional programs with world-class mentors and resources, so it’s easier to see it through and lean on their expertise to lessen the complexity. There’s so much talent in Kansas City and business owners who are willing to help. It took me way too long to learn that lesson.”

Brittany’s ScaleUP! KC mentor, Mark Calhoun, is leading ELEVATIONLAB’s upcoming TECH VENTURE program. And Digital Sandbox KC is an excellent resource for tech startups in need of support. These are just two examples of the hundreds of opportunities available to aspiring KC founders.

You can find all of these people and programs in the KCSourceLink Resource Navigator. This one-stop shop lists more than 240 local Resource Partners that are ready to guide your entrepreneurial journey.

Not sure where to start? No problem! KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators are here to help. Just answer a few questions and they’ll create a free Personal Action Plan. It’s an individualized checklist of what to do and who to meet to start making your business goals a reality.


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