Kansas City entrepreneurs

Kansas City Entrepreneurs’ Best Advice to Start Your Business

Your business idea is fresh. But you don’t have to start your business from scratch. Learn from entrepreneurs who have been there, done that. The experiences of others can help you avoid pitfalls and make smart business decisions.

KCSourceLink’s Entrepreneurs in Action stories are a treasure trove of Kansas City business owners sharing their experiences and business secrets. Here are some of our favorite pieces of advice from these local founders.

Robin Moore, founder MyCo Planet

1. Do your homework

Robin Moore of MyCo Planet knew she was passionate about mushrooms. But she didn’t know if that would translate into a profitable business.

“Fully do your research and fully understand what it is you want to do,” she says. “Find out if there’s a market for it. I wasn’t sure if there was a market for mushrooms. I thought there was; then I went to the farmers market and that was my test. You have to answer: Will this work? You have to find out how it will be received.”

2. Prove that concept and pivot as needed

Football fans Brandon Fuhr and Joel Stephens started XReps with the idea of a throwable smart football. Now, the company has pivoted to a headset-only, off-the-shelf product to run on a popular virtual reality system. This agility reflects the founders’ willingness to listen and learn.

“Run that idea off as many people as possible, get as many perspectives as you can, especially within the target market that you visualize,” Brandon says. “Your initial assumptions, while you think they’re 100% perfect? Odds are that your initial idea is going to evolve quite a bit through the journey.”

The SaRA Health team

3. Find your niche

Digital health startup SaRA Health wanted to improve patient engagement in physical therapy, but insurance providers weren’t on board. By targeting physical therapists working at high-risk employers under value-based contracts, SaRA Health found a way to empower patients while ensuring physical therapists were fairly compensated. Pivoting when Medicare released new reimbursement codes has made a difference as well.

“We’ve grown quickly and are now in physical and occupational therapist practices across 40 states,” says co-founder and CEO Steven Coen.

Carolina and Pedro Morales of Quality Framing and Art in Mission, Kansas

4. Show up

Pedro Morales toiled alone in his garage until he learned about the KCSourceLink Resource Partners that could help him set up his business. Now, his Quality Framing & Art is flourishing, thanks to his tenacity and willingness to put himself out there.

“What stood out was that Pedro showed up,” says Gabe Muñoz, who worked with Pedro at The Toolbox: Small Business Resource Center. “He went looking for help. He was readily available to meet and work on his business. He was willing to learn and signed up right away for workshops, and that helped him immediately.”

Mindy Rocha of CJ Industries LLC

5. Find your people

Mindy Rocha grew up doing quotes for her dad’s pipefitting business. Now, she owns CJ Industries LLC, a growing Kansas City construction firm that helped build the new airport. But even with her years of experience in the industry, Mindy has faced challenges that have required a strong network.

“As a business owner, finding that group of peers has been crucial,” she says.

Fahteema Parrish of Parrish and Sons Construction

6. Take time to plan

Fahteema Parrish started Parrish & Sons Construction while also working a full-time job. This meant she worked two full-time jobs for nearly two years while launching the business. This gave her time to figure out logistics and realize she didn’t know what she didn’t know.

“I was doing a lot of planning, learning and retooling,” Fahteema says. “What is the first piece of equipment that I purchase? What is the budget that I need to have in place in order to purchase that equipment? Once I purchase a piece of equipment, how am I going to transport it to and from the job site?”

AbdulRasak and Alicia Yahaya of Open Minds Child Development Center

7. Know the numbers

When AbdulRasak and Alicia Yahaya launched Open Minds Child Development Center in 2014, it was a logical next step in Alicia’s early childhood education career. But passion needs to partner with business know-how. ScaleUP! KC helped the couple focus on the structure of their business and how to scale it. A key takeaway was how financial health can help business owners make informed decisions.

“The coaches really worked with us on our books and knowing the numbers in our business,” Abdul says. “I learned you need to be auditing your business consistently and continuously, not just when you want to take your business to the next level, or something is going wrong or a pandemic hits you.”

Morgan Miller Photography 2022

8. Know what you stand for

How many breweries have vision, mission and inclusivity statements? Vine Street Brewing Co. does. When they founded the first Black-owned brewery in Missouri, co-owners Kemet Coleman, Elliott Ivory and Woodie Bonds wanted to be deliberate about their core values. And they wanted to reflect the culture and history of the Jazz District the brewery calls home.

“We have embedded music into the DNA of the brand, from the beer names to the logos,” Kemet says. “Everything about the brand is a mixture of jazz, hip-hop and beer.”

9. Know why you’re doing it

Dion Dodson is a serial entrepreneur. He started Deluxe Transportation Group, a chauffeured car service, to meet a need he identified in Kansas City. But that market share isn’t why he does what he does.

“My why for being an entrepreneur is undoubtedly to provide a better life for my family and my awesome Deluxe Transportation Group team as well as to plant seeds for the young entrepreneurs that are coming behind me,” Dion says. “I want my children and future generations of my family and community to reap the fruits of our hard work.”

10. Make the most of available resources

No matter what your business goals may be, there’s help along the way! Check out KCSourceLink’s Guide to Starting Your Business. This seven-part series covers everything from vetting your idea to finding the right workspace.

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