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Digital Sandbox KC provides early-stage proof-of-concept support for digital products.

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ScaleUP! Kansas City helps businesses with revenues around $200K scale toward their first $1 million.

Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers helps local businesses obtain government contracts.

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SourceLink® helps communities nationwide build vibrant and vital entrepreneurial ecosystems.
UMKC Innovation Center
UMKC Innovation Center

ECJC Brings MIT Program to KC to Nurture Area Entrepreneurs

Venture Lounge is a quarterly event series at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County (ECJC) where “investors, entrepreneurs and industry experts connect over capital and cocktails.”

The 1WeekKC edition of Venture Lounge on Wednesday, May 25, will be a very special event as ECJC announces the first round of business owners accepted to their brand new Growth Mentoring Service (GMS).

An affiliate of MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service, GMS will pair second stage business owners with a team of highly qualified mentors. If you know you're interested in applying, go do that now, applications for the first round close on May 9. 

To learn more about the program, continue reading our conversation with Melissa Roberts, marketing director at ECJC:  

Why did ECJC decide to being GMS to KC?

ECJC has been around for 20 years, primarily as an incubator. In order to get a sense of where our efforts would be used best next, we ran a gap analysis of programs in Kansas City about two years ago.

We found two big holes. The first is a lack of seed funding, which has been corroborated by research out of KCSourcelink, among others. The second is a lack of resources for businesses in later stages of development.

These business owners need mentors they can trust who aren’t trying to sell them something and are going to be around for more than a drop-in session.

MIT’s VMS is a tremendous program. It has been around for 16 years, served more than 2,500 entrepreneurs, has 165 active mentors and trained chapters in 50 countries worldwide. This program will be the first of its kind in Kansas City.

What stage of entrepreneur is this program geared toward?

It’s for business owners whose companies have $100,000 or more in annual revenue and is looking to refine and deliver their product to many more people.

What does an entrepreneur stand to gain from GMS?

In Kansas City there are plenty of places to go to meet other entrepreneurs, but it’s harder to find a place to meet and learn from seasoned professionals, until now.

At our first meeting, all of the entrepreneurs will make a presentation about their business and the mentors will select who they’d like to work with.

At each subsequent meeting, the entrepreneur will work with their team of three to five qualified mentors. This format works well because you receive the best advice from each of your mentors based on their area of expertise and none of them have to make up an answer just to have an answer.

The team dynamic also creates a diversity of opinion and allows the team to have a creative conversation about tough challenges.

All of your mentors are volunteers. What type of mentor are you looking for?

We want mentors who have entrepreneurial experience (perhaps selling a company at a high level) or that have executive experience that would be helpful to entrepreneurs who are managing teams.

What does a mentor stand to gain from the program?

Because each mentor is a part of a team, they will also be able to engage with a community of their peers. And like themselves, this will be a community of people who want to give back to entrepreneurs and are at the top of their respective fields.

The mentors are required to abide by strict code of conduct. They must disclose any conflict of interest, and they cannot consider investment or business arrangements with any of their entrepreneurs. This protects the entrepreneur from receiving any biased advice and improves communication. How you talk to your investors about your business is very different from how you talk to your friends. The entrepreneurs can be confident that they’re getting good, safe advice.

GMS will be accepting applications through May 9. And a few months from now the program will have an open window as we accept applications on a rolling basis.

We hope you  join us at Venture Lounge on Wednesday, May 25, at 1WeekKC to learn more about Growth Mentoring Service and meet the team from MIT.


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