KCSourceLink - 2011 Year in Review
2011 was a banner year for KCSourceLink, with record website visits and the debut of social media. We were awarded part of a $1.8 million EDA grant for accelerating job growth in the Kansas City metro area and contracted with the Mid-America Regional Council to manage the googleconnectskc.com website. KCSourceLink efforts are helping bring microlending back to the area and we took the lead in producing Global Entrepreneurship Week, complete with an online video contest. And, we’ve been invited to help guide the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 push to make Kansas City America's Most Entrepreneurial City.
All these activities put us squarely at the heart of entrepreneurship and small business in the metro area, which is exactly what we were founded to do. KCSourceLink was established in 2003, a partnership of the SBA, the Ewing Kauffman Foundation and UMKC. Our mission is to help small business grow and prosper in the Kansas City region by providing business owners easy access to needed services, and this year saw many successes.
We owe much of this success to our Resource Partners, the 170 nonprofit organizations that serve entrepreneurs, startups and established business owners every day. Our hat’s off to you all!
Requests and Success
KCSourceLink provides referrals to clients in two ways.
1. In Person
In 2011, we worked with 1,858 new and returning clients. Based on the requests for assistance, we made 1,985 referrals to our Resource Partners.
Our clients’ top five requests were:
- Startup assistance
- Marketing and sales
- Regulatory compliance (licenses and permits)
- Nonprofit issues
2. Via the Web
Entrepreneurs need access to resources 24-7, so KCSourceLink developed The Resource Navigator®, a tool that provides a systematic way to identify and organize community resources into an easy-to-use online database. Each web user simply enters minimal demographic information, and a powerful search tool scans the database and delivers back a customized list of resources, sorted by distance from the entrepreneur.
In 2011, entrepreneurs completed 979 searches. Their top searches were:
- Business planning
- Financial resources
- Starting a business
- Marketing and sales
- Selling to the government or corporations
- Import/export assistance
It’s interesting to note the range of businesses that seek assistance through The Resource Navigator. The following two charts show requests by industry and business stage. Bioscience, IT and high-tech businesses represent a proportionately larger share of requests than the businesses in Kansas City and almost a third of requests come from those already in business.
Anyone can provide a referral. KCSourceLink strives to link to the right resource at the right time.
How do we do it? We make it our business to know which local nonprofits are serving small business and how they are doing it.
As a result, 30 days after speaking with one of KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators, 97% of our clients were satisfied with our services. Almost 70% rated their satisfaction as “excellent.”
The other interesting question is what decisions do our clients make, based on the information they receive from KCSourceLink and our Resource Partners. We collect regular feedback from clients via online and paper surveys, using a specially designed client tracking system called Biz-Trakker. This survey system allows us to better understand our clients’ needs and their outcomes.
Bringing Together Our Resource Partners
One of the most important things we do at KCSourceLink is to bring together 170+ organizations. In 2011, we continued our quest to have the most up-to-date resource database in the metro area. We also strived to encourage collaboration among our Resource Partners and helped create opportunities for cross-organization cooperation. A few of our 2011 collaborations:
Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Grant
KCSourceLink partnered with Mid-America Regional Council and Full Employment Council to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to improve job creation in the Kansas City region. This collaboration resulted in Kansas City being one of only 20 groups in the country to win the challenge, bringing $1.8 million in federal grant funding to the region. Through this new program, KCSourceLink is looking forward to working with its Resource Partners to develop and implement technical assistance programs for IT and Advanced Manufacturing companies, putting strong emphasis on encouraging low- to moderate-income participation in the innovation economy.
Minority Enterprise Development Week
Every October the community puts a special emphasis on minority business development and 2011 was no different. KCSourceLink partnered with Resource Partners, providing promotion highlighting minority businesses through newsletter articles, blogs and social media. Organizations that have a specialty in supporting these groups were promoted widely to connect entrepreneurs and small business owners to those resources.
Support for Emerging Non Profit Resource Partners
In late 2010, the National Native American Chamber of Commerce opened a Kansas City office. KCSourceLink worked with the Native American Chamber, the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Center and Missouri’s Workforce Development Program to create and deliver a cost-effective training program for chamber members. Leveraging this support, a $10,000 grant to the Chamber from the Kauffman Foundation paid for business development training and minority certification for several members.
2011 saw Google arrive in a big way in Kansas City. This important development for the Kansas City region raised the engagement of aspiring and existing business owners, especially in the Information Technology space. KCSourceLink is now leading the effort on coordinating the GoogleConnectsKC.com website. This project is a collaboration between the Mayors’ Bistate Innovations Team and the many groups who are using the Google Fiber project to help neighborhoods and grow businesses.
Microloan Program Revitalization
KCSourceLink facilitated meetings between five resource partners and the Federal Reserve Bank to find a way to fill the gap that occurred with GoConnection ceased operations, closing the micro-lending program for the Kansas City region. The group was able to recruit Justine Peterson, an organization from St. Louis, to Kansas City to resume micro-lending operations. One KC for Women is playing an important part in leading this new effort.
Spring of 2011 brought its challenges to many of the cities and towns in the region due to both flooding and tornadoes. KCSourceLink worked with partners along the Missouri/Kansas state line to make sure that businesses were aware of disaster relief services.
Getting People Better Prepared for Bank Loans
In response to the perceived reduction in bank lending, KCSourceLink coordinated a collaboration between the U.S. Small Business Administration, local Resource Partners and bankers to develop a pilot project to better prepare small business owners for bank funding.
Every year we host several Resource Partner meetings, and they are always great fun. Held around the metro, at varying times, the meetings give our partners a chance to catch up with each other and find out what’s up in KC. This year we shared the fun with our clients at our first Nosh & Network event this fall. About 100 Resource Partners and clients gathered at the Discovery Center pavilion for networking al fresco. Mobile trucks provided the food and our Resource Partners provided the fun. We hope to expand on this concept in 2012.
Keeping Up To Date
We continued updating contact information for our extensive network, and added new partners. Maintaining contact databases is time consuming. We encourage our partners to take advantage of all the work done by KCSourceLink. Feel free to do one of the following:
- Update your records and website with our Resource Directory.
- Link to The Resource Navigator®. There is no need to maintain a “Resources” section on your website. Your organization can use KCSourceLink’s latest resource management technology for free.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about linking to The Resource Navigator.
One might call 2011 the year of social media for KCSourceLink. We jumped in with both feet, from blogging to tweeting to Facebook posts. We also continued our outreach through key events and newsletters.
Social Media by the Numbers
KCSourceLink went from 0 to 60 in terms of social media. We began blogging in January of 2011 and now average almost 600 blog views per month. Our Facebook fans, Twitter followers and LinkedIn group members more than doubled…in fact Twitter tripled.
Engaging with the Community
KCSourceLink partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to support about 25 local events during Global Entrepreneurship Week. We engaged our Resource Partners in Curbside Consulting as part of the kickoff event at Union Station, and then promoting their events throughout the week, including with a special GEW section on the KCSourceLink website. The GEW festivities included our first ever online video contest, showcasing some of Kansas City’s best small businesses. More than 2000 votes were cast before we crowned Annette Jones of Zafar Boutique and Spa as the grand prize winner.
KCSourceLink had lots more chances to get out and about in 2011. We helped Google put on their Get Kansas City Online event in September, and participated in the 2011 Innovation Conference at the H&R Block World Headquarters. We supported two Startup Weekends by offering connections to Resource Partners to those interested in continuing to build on their ideas. Our support helped the success of Futurallia2011 in Kansas City, the largest gathering of small business owners and global entrepreneurs in the world.
Our KCSourceLink newsletter continues to go out monthly to more than 5,000 subscribers. This newsletter offers the opportunity to highlight the expertise of our Resource Partners and provide information to small business clients. This year we launched an events calendar newsletter, showcasing all the activities and classes offered by our Resource Partners. Sent out twice a month, this newsletter beats the industry average with a 19.4% open rate. In the last six months of 2011 the calendar newsletter drove more than 2,000 page views to the online calendar.
Connecting business to the right resource at the right time, via the web
During the summer of 2011, we moved all the KCSourceLink website content onto a new platform. (Actually, we moved all the content for our 20 affiliate programs nationwide…that was fun!) The new platform allows for a new, cleaner look, better functionality and faster speed. We took the opportunity to update and add content so that the content on the website prepares clients for interactions with our network of Resource Partners.
Participation Reaches All Time Highs
Through blogs, social media and events newsletters, we worked hard to drive traffic to the website so that we could highlight our Resource Partners and their events. And it worked! We saw an increase of more than 50% in our website traffic.
Where do we go from here? The great thing about entrepreneurship is that new opportunities are waiting around every corner. In 2012 we will be working with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to help make Kansas City America's Most Entrepreneurial City. Working with all of our partners, we feel good about the chances for success.