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UMKC Innovation Center
UMKC Innovation Center

How to Avoid the Trap of Doing Business on Accident

kaufmann fast trac
is fast approaching (May 20 through May 27, to be precise). This signature week of entrepreneurship is your invitation to connect with business-building resources in Kansas City, network with other entrepreneurs and learn from some of the best in KC business.

One of those experts is Michele Markey, vice president of Kauffman FastTrac at Kauffman Foundation. She will be presenting at Start + Scale Business Day, a full day of connections, knowledge and networking that’s perfect for anyone looking to start or grow a businesses in Kansas City.

Below, Michele shares what she’s learned after years of mentoring new and rising entrepreneurs.

What do you do and what do you enjoy about the entrepreneurial community in KC?

I oversee the FastTrac program at the Kauffman Foundation.FastTrac is a series of weekly classes designed to give aspiring entrepreneurs the tools to test the feasibility of their idea and then launch their businesses.

What I enjoy most about the entrepreneurial community in Kansas City is that people don’t have to search hard to find a community of resources ready to help.

KCSourceLink gives people one stop to find the right resource for their businesses. But people can also access great resources directly: UMKC’s Small Business and Technology Development Center, 1 Million Cups and Kauffman’s Founders School just to name a few.

Beyond the resources, our individual entrepreneurs are always willing to lend a hand and give advice. It’s neverending.  

Your presentation during Start + Scale Business Day is called "The Intentional Entrepreneur." Tell us about that.

I originally wrote this program for the Kauffman Foundation. The inverse of an intentional entrepreneur is an accidental one. And I see those all the time.

People often fall into entrepreneurship. They explore it as a Plan B. They never thought they’d need it, but then Plan A falls out from underneath them.

For instance, when they’re let go from a position, often people will hang out a shingle and try to start a business and go it on their own. Some people sink their savings, 401k, even others’ investments unnecessarily because they haven’t done any planning. This can be a huge loss of time and investment.

The problem is they do no due diligence, no exploration, no planning. They essentially have no commitment to actually being successful.

Intentionality is vital.

When an entrepreneur is intentional, they build a foundation and create a structure so the process is not so happenstance. It makes the path clearer.

Entrepreneurs are never guaranteed success. But planning, being thoughtful and accessing resources really does improve their chances for success.

You are the author of "SheVENTURE, Success Strategies for Female Entrepreneurs." Tell us about this topic.  

I wrote that book in response to the reactions I heard after speaking at various events. After a presentation, I’d be sought out by multiple women saying, “That’s great stuff, starting my own business is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I can’t do that.” And they’d give a host of reasons: I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the resources, any number of things.

The problem is that women don’t see themselves represented amongst the go-to examples for successful entrepreneurs. They’re not Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. “Those people don’t look like me, and I’m not from Silicon Valley, and I don’t have an Ivy League education.”

All of these fears and worries are unfounded. In order for women to succeed, they need to see the possibilities. They must have faith in themselves and pursue their passions.

And women absolutely have specific challenges. One of them is work/life balance. Research shows that women absolutely struggle more than men when it comes to balancing a family, career and other pursuits. I hesitated in the book to prescribe any solution, but eventually put it this way: you have to make time in your life for things that are important to you. I may be willing to give up something my colleagues won’t, and we each have to find the right formula for us.

What sort of support system do the most successful entrepreneurs have around them?

Building a strong team is one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do. If my expertise is sales and marketing but I’m not as strong on the IT or finance side, then how do I get the right balance of talent around the table to take my company to the next level?

We hear from VCs and financial lenders all the time—you can have the best idea in the world, but if I don’t believe you have the right skill set around you, I’m not going to invest in you.

When you’re building a business, hiring friends and family just because they’re friends and family is a problem. Thinking long term is huge.

And as far as a support system goes, we really advocate having a good board around you. There’s a case to be made that having a strong group of advisors is a useful tool. They can come in all forms. For instance, advisors may have expertise in the market you’re trying to penetrate, entrepreneurial experience or subject matter expertise (be it legal, financial or otherwise.)

What is the one thing new entrepreneurs can do to make 2016 as productive as possible?  

Too many entrepreneurs, new ones in particular, get caught up in the technical. They need to be more strategic. Ask yourself, where do I want to see myself in 30 days? 3 months? 9 months? You must have commitments and milestones then hold yourself to them.

For new entrepreneurs, too many limit themselves in terms of what they see as possible. I encourage everyone to think big.

For more great advice and insight from Michele, be sure to join us at Start + Scale Business Day, hosted by KCSourceLink, at 1Week KC. Or get a head start and find the right resource to overcome your business challenge by searching our Resource Navigator.

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