Starting or Growing a Business? Make Sure You Use This Key KC Resource

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Starting or Growing a Business? Make Sure You Use This Key KC Resource

In Kansas City, we’re fortunate to have a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. There are hundreds of programs that serve small business owners at different points of their entrepreneurial journeys. But the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) does it all. These centers provide specialized mentoring, classes and resources to entrepreneurs at all stages of business ownership.

Here’s what you need to know about these entrepreneurial superheroes.

The SBDC at a glance

Robust small business means flourishing communities and a healthy economy. That’s why the U.S. Small Business Administration works with state economic development agencies and private partners to serve entrepreneurs.

The result is a network of almost 1,000 Small Business Development Centers across the country. Leading universities and colleges host these local centers, which serve new and existing businesses.

“The Small Business Administration started 70 years ago,” says Carmen DeHart, regional director of Missouri SBDC and head of the SBDC at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. “But by the mid-70s, leaders saw the need for a program that helps entrepreneurs start, run and build their businesses.”

The SBDC is that support system. And in Kansas City, we’re fortunate to have two active SBDC centers: Kansas SBDC at Johnson County Community College and Missouri SBDC at University of Missouri – Kansas City. Each SBDC offers slightly different programs to local residents. However, you’ll always find specialists with a wide range of experience and mentoring that’s available free of charge.

Kansas SBDC at JCCC helps businesses at all stages

“I don’t think people understand that we work with more than just startups,” says Jessica Johnson, regional director of Kansas SBDC and head of the SBDC at JCCC. “We also work with growing businesses, businesses that want to expand where they sell or diversify their revenue sources.”

The SBDC at JCCC serves business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journeys in Johnson, Wyandotte and Miami counties. The team includes a former banker as well as seasoned entrepreneurs who have been there, done that — and gotten a certification for it, too.

“Stephanie Willis is a certified exit planner, so she’s our go-to for business owners who are looking to exit their businesses but don’t know where to go or how to start the process,” Jessica says. But that’s not all.

“We also have a certified global business professional, John Addessi,” she says. “He helps businesses assess if they’re ready to go into the international market and connects them with the resources to make it happen.”

In addition to personalized consulting, the SBDC at JCCC offers:

  • GAME: Growth Through Action, Measurement and Engagement – This program is for leaders whose businesses have been around for at least two years and have at least $250,000 in sales annually. Monthly sessions, small-group coaching sessions and one-on-one counseling help participants create action plans focused on their specific goals. The program uses the innovative GrowthWheel® tool and includes access to research, experts and more.
  • Business Basics in a Day – This popular class walks potential entrepreneurs through what it takes to start their venture. From feasibility to funding, this one-day session features guest speakers who discuss legal entities, financial projections, marketing and more.
  • Capital Access Center – The Capital Access Center is part of the SBDC at JCCC, but it services the entire state instead of this SBDC’s focused, three-county area. These experts walk business owners through the loan process from start to finish. They also have relationships with bankers and can help find the right funding fit.
  • Kansas APEX Accelerator – Formerly known as the Kansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), the APEX Accelerator works closely with the SBDC at JCCC to help business owners do business with the government. Professional consulting and training give entrepreneurs the inside scoop on certifications and the bidding process.

This wide variety of programs and low-cost classes is designed around the needs of local entrepreneurs.

“We like to reach out to clients and find out in what areas they want to see programming and tailor our offerings around what they’re asking for,” Jessica says.

But no matter what sort of guidance you’re looking for, getting started is easy. Simply fill out a short assessment.

“Our advising is no cost and confidential,” says business advisor John Addessi. “And we’re always here.”

Missouri SBDC at UMKC encourages innovation

Some specialists learn about entrepreneurship in a classroom. Others learn by owning businesses. At the Missouri SBDC at UMKC, all on staff have done both.

“Our team is educated in entrepreneurship, business development and commercialization, hold several industry-standard certifications and have owned our own small businesses,” says Carmen. “Our consultants are prepared to assist business from startup to successful exit strategies.”

The SBDC at UMKC serves Missouri residents of Caldwell, Carroll, Clay, Daviess, Grundy, Harrison, Jackson, Livingston, Mercer, Platte and Ray counties. The team members act as consultants to all kinds of businesses. However, the center specializes in tech, construction and international trade. Helping ventures grow and scale is also a focus.

In addition to offering individualized business coaching, the SBDC at UMKC offers a variety of unique, in-depth workshops and training for business owners at pivotal points in their business journeys. These classes include:

  • ELEVATIONLAB New Venture – Aspiring and new entrepreneurs can explore their business idea and learn how to turn it into a viable business. This accelerated, five-session workshop helps founders get started quickly and work on their venture with FastTrac, GrowthWheel and other tools.
  • ELEVATIONLAB Tech Venture – Cutting-edge and science-based ventures need to move quickly. This multi-week class helps founders use a proven framework to help turn their big idea into viable innovation. Group discussions, expert speakers and individualized coaching cover funding, intellectual property and everything in between.
  • GROWTH360 – This course is for entrepreneurs whose businesses have been around for two years and have $50,000 in sales annually. It’s a multi-week class that uses the GrowthWheel framework and is designed to help business owners make smarter decisions, set agendas and act.
  • ScaleUP! Kansas City – Ready to work on your businesses instead of in it? This selective, multi-week course helps founders take their businesses to the next level. Expert speakers, one-on-one meetings with business counselors and sources like Kauffman FastTrac Listening to Your Business are part of the curriculum.

In addition, the Missouri APEX Accelerator (formerly Missouri PTAC) program partners with the Missouri SBDC at UMKC. It helps businesses with federal, state and local government contracting. This includes getting certifications that can make your business more attractive during the bidding process.

While the SBDC at UMKC business advisors drive growth and innovation, so much of what they offer is insight that can only come from experience.

“The cool thing that I love with our particular SBDC is that we’re all entrepreneurs,” says Jill Hathaway, business development consultant. “We truly understand the ebbs and flows, the stages and situations of owning a business. For us, it’s real world.”

Help for Missouri and Kansas Entrepreneurs

No matter what business you’re in, the SBDC has resources to help you meet your goals, even in uncertain times.

“People are kind of scared right now with the economy, but successful businesses started even during the Depression,” John says. “A business sort of looks like the cockpit of an airplane: There are lots of dials we can adjust. The SBDC can help you do that.”

Looking for even more resources to help your business? No matter if you’re a seasoned business owner or just have a business idea, KCSourceLink can point you in the right direction. Just call 816-235-6500 or tell us what you need online. We’ll craft your custom set of next steps for free and connect you with the experts who can help.


Thumbnail photo by krakenimages on Unsplash.

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