KCSourceLink - 2012 Year in Review
It’s always been all about collaborations and connections at KCSourceLink, and 2012 was no exception. In partnership with our network of more than 180 Resource Partners, we reached out to entrepreneurs and small business owners in every sector. For innovation-led entrepreneurs, the inception of Digital Sandbox and Google Fiber's launch topped the headlines. Second stage growth companies were provided opportunities through the Rail Supply Chain Forum and the Digital Storytelling Forum. Our Main Street business owners benefited from a focus on Shop Local during February and again in December. And microenterprise got a boost from the reintroduction of a microloan fund to Kansas City.
Of course, everyone got in the act during Global Entrepreneurship Week when we set out to break a world record for speed networking. In 2012 KCSourceLink and our Resource Partners provided the entrepreneurial ecosystem that is spurring Kansas City to become America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.
KCSourceLink by the numbers:
- Hotline/Email requests: 1,240
- Resource Navigator searches: 1,702
- Web visits: 69,980
- Resource Partners in the network: 183
- Client satisfaction: 96%
- Twitter followers: 3,270
- Facebook fans: 608
- LinkedIn: 989
- Events: 813
KCSourceLink provides referrals to clients in two ways:
1. In Person
In 2012, we worked with 1,240 new and returning clients, resulting in 2,034 interactions. Based on these requests for assistance, we made 1,043 referrals to our Resource Partners.
Our clients’ top five hotline requests were:
- Startup assistance
- Financial resources
- Marketing and sales
- Business planning
- Regulatory compliance (licenses and permits)
2. Via the Web
KCSourceLink saw a huge increase in web traffic, more than doubling from the previous year. Nearly 70,000 visits to the site were recorded during 2012, due in large part to our first ever Battle of the Brands and increased social media outreach. The most visited pages continue to be the calendar and resources.
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 2012, entrepreneurs completed 1,702 searches resulting in almost 25,000 online referrals. Their top web searches were:
- Financial resources
- Business planning
- Marketing and sales
- Starting a business
- Legal issues
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 the 183 local nonprofits, which part of the small business market they serve and how they are doing it.
As a result, 30 days after speaking with one of KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators, 96% of our clients were satisfied with our services. Almost 80% rated their satisfaction as “above average.”
The other interesting question is what decisions 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
In 2012 we continued to grow the social media presence for KCSourceLink. Social media and events provided the opportunity to reach out to the community, showcasing local business owners and our Resource Partners.
Social Media by the Numbers
Our first major foray into driving web traffic was successful by any yardstick. Battle of the Brands garnered almost 30,000 page views, making it the most viewed page in 2012, and it was only up for two months! Battle of the Brands pitted 64 iconic Kansas City companies against each other in a bracket-style competition. Fans were invited to vote each round, and the most popular advanced. Shatto Milk came out on top, demonstrating their dedicated fan base and ability to harness the power of social media.
We saw increases in all of our social media, using Battle of the Brands, Shop Local and GEW as major messages. Our Facebook fans almost doubled; LinkedIn increased by 50%; and our Twitter followers jumped 1,500.
Engaging with the Community
The past year offered a range of opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs, business owners and our Resource Partners.
GEW and Speed Networking
Exactly 362 people attempted to break the world record for speed networking to kick off the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Week in Kansas City. More than 40 events were planned throughout the week, from a startup job fair to a foodpreneur seminar to Google for Entrepreneurs to Startup Weekend. This year saw the highest participation rate ever, with about 4,000 involved.
Main Street entrepreneurs contribute to the character and culture of a community, as well as contribute to its economic health. To support these retailers and restaurateurs, KCSourceLink declared May to be Shop Local Month in Kansas City. We highlighted local business on our blog and in our newsletter. In November, we joined with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Choose KC, Kansas City Cash Mob and Local Ruckus to encourage Kansas Citians to think local as they shopped during the holiday season. Again we used the blog, the newsletter and social media to spread the word, and even created a section of the website dedicated to this effort. We also created B2BKC to encourage shopping local for among business owners for services and products.
Rail Supply Chain and Digital Storytelling Forums
KCSourceLink partnered with Mid-America Regional Council and Full Employment Council to earn a 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 brought $1.8 million in federal grant funding to the region. KCSourceLink took the lead on two spotlight events.
KCSourceLink led a local collaboration to support efforts by the U.S. departments of Transportation and Commerce to ramp up the domestic supply base for intermodal transportation. The result was the Rail Supply Chain Forum, designed to attract U.S. manufacturers to the supply base for next generation rail equipment being procured in the United States and attended by 155 people. The Forum facilitated connections between rail industry Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and both traditional and non-traditional rail suppliers. This event was part of workforce development grant from the Economic Development Administration.
Almost 250 story writers, videographers, software and web designers, joined KCSourceLink and its partners for a look at the present and future of the digital storytelling industry. The Digital Storytelling Forum welcomed as its keynote speaker, Frank Rose of Wired Magazine. Rose explained the capabilities of digital storytelling. The Forum was followed by a special FastTrac class for those interested in turning their ideas into businesses.
KCSourceLink fully supported the official launch of Google Fiber. Google executives and engineers gathered in the Google Fiber Space in Westport last July to unveil designs for Google Fiber TV and plans and pricing for their gigabit fiber, the fastest in the nation, to the Kansas City community. To keep the focus on community efforts, Google also initiated a six-week rally in which Kansas City neighborhoods would verify their interest in the services with a pre-registration, including a $10 fee, of 40 to 80 households per neighborhood. Neighborhoods that show the most interest and enough interest will receive the fiber services first. The announcement garnered interest across the metro, as well as from national media.
Nosh and Network
The second Nosh & Network at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County and the Women’s Business Center drew about 50 folks. The “Nosh” part featured two of Kansas City’s famous food trucks – Crave of Kansas City and CoffeeCakeKC. The “Networking” connected some 50 clients and Resource Partners.
One of the most important things we do at KCSourceLink is to bring together the entrepreneurial ecosystem. When KCSourceLink started in 2003, we linked together entrepreneurial support organizations and then connected them to entrepreneurs and business owners. In 2009 the Whiteboard to Boardroom program brought in the academic community. This year we have added another layer of collaboration by bringing big industry into the mix through the Digital Sandbox program.
The Innovation Center at UMKC received $1 million grant to create a proof of concept center known as the “Digital Sandbox” to help spur the creation of information technology startups. The Digital Sandbox will create a new process for commercialization in Kansas City by clustering digital innovation development in a central location and providing the needed technology infrastructure. This collaboration includes a long list of partners from industry, philanthropy, education, the community and our KCSourceLink Resource Partners.
One Week KC, Making Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City
Innovators and entrepreneurs, thinkers and creators, mavericks and magnates and designers of the future—all joined together during One Week KC, June 18 to 26, to help make big things happen in Kansas City. One Week KC featured an array of activities targeted to the high tech startup all around the Kansas City metro area. It was a chance to share ideas with great thinkers, to get inspired, to learn and connect, to make things happen, and was the first big event in Kansas City’s quest to become America’s most entrepreneurial city. The week culminated with E Day at the K, with almost 1,500 entrepreneurs and supporters, along with the mayors of 40 communities, on hand to celebrate entrepreneurship.
Microloan Program Revitalization
The gap in microlending was bridged through a collaborative effort led by KCSourceLink. KC One for Women connected with Justine PETERSEN, a microloan program from St. Louis, to offer credit counseling and microlending in the Kansas City area. A larger group is looking at additional technical assistance for this audience: stay tuned for more details.