We Create Kansas City
It’s not enough to stand on the shoulders of giants.
Kansas City’s own entrepreneurial titans knew this. They knew it when they hopped a train to Kansas City at 19 years old with little more than a dream and two shoeboxes of postcards. They knew it when they huddled around a picnic table at Loose Park and mapped business models on yellow ledger paper. They knew it when they willingly quit their comfortable career track selling mutual funds to start their own money management company. They knew it when they sold pharmaceuticals out of the trunk of their car. They knew it when, with just $5,000 borrowed from their aunt and a well-placed ad in the Kansas City Star, they quadrupled that initial investment within weeks. They knew it when they took over a small family business and grew it into a sparkling empire.
They knew it when they each decided to stand on their own two feet and fashion dreams that would create futures.
The startup stories of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial giants have become the legends we tell to young entrepreneurs when we tuck them into their first fledgling startups. Most of these giants started as the bulk of businesses do: as microenterprises with few resources, often out of their homes (or car trunks) and with little capital or overhead.
They grew, taking their places as Main Street businesses or on the bleeding-edge of innovation. By strategic design or shift of focus, they took on the second stage, rapidly growing their small businesses into multimillion and multibillion dollar corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians.
And then, standing on the summit of success, they each turned around, opened their hands and shared their insights to shepherd a new generation of entrepreneurs.
In Kansas City, we call it the One Degree of Entrepreneurship. You hear it in story after story of an entrepreneur who was personally mentored by the late Mr. Kauffman or a student who attended a brown bag talk with Cliff Illig. You see it in the startled eyes of a teenage entrepreneur who just a few weeks ago received a business card and “Let’s do lunch” from Henry Bloch. Quite famously and distinctly, these entrepreneurs have created a culture of community and collaboration, where other cities chose cutthroat competition.
But more than that and more importantly, they built bridges.
The Kauffman Foundation. The Henry W. Bloch School of Management. The Kansas City Royals. Crown Center. The Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Sporting KC. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. These organizations and so many more that followed their lead continue to attract high caliber talent to Kansas City and have paved a path for entrepreneurs for years to come.
Their startup stories have become legend. Their success is our inspiration. Their legacy is our charge.
Their stories are our own.
As entrepreneurs, we, too, have bet it all on an idea. We, too, have risked the safe choice for a second chance at a bigger, bolder dream. We have lent our talents to creating America’s Creative Crossroads. We have sung the song of our promise to bring Google Fiber to our neighborhood. We have fought for streetcars and TechStars, for Folk Alliance and Maker Faire, for bistate collaboration and a stronger urban core.
And like those entrepreneurial giants, we create opportunities. We create jobs, wealth and futures.
Because we know, despite all that our entrepreneurial heroes have achieved and imparted, it’s not enough to merely stand on the shoulders of giants. To be America’s most entrepreneurial city, we have to do more than peer in awe at the monuments and bridges that came before us.
As startups and spinoffs, artists and innovators, bakers and makers—as entrepreneurs—we inspire, invent, invest and advance. And we aspire to be more.
Because we, too, bring the talent, ideas and insights. We tell the story of entrepreneurship. We provide the resources that help entrepreneurs do more, faster. We are the inspiration, the legacy, the legends.
And we create Kansas City.