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global entrepreneurship week kansas city panel

Startup to Success: Entrepreneurs Share How to Grow a Business in Kansas City

startup to success global entrepreneurship week

How do you grow a business from a startup to second stage?

That’s the question we posed to six Kansas City entrepreneurs at our Startup to Success panel during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Keep reading to enjoy a few of the highlights along with helpful resources you can use right now to realize your entrepreneurial dream.   

Kelly Wilson, Weave Gotcha Covered

I started my company accidently. I was working at a local retailer for the minimum wage of $5/hour. My business was coming together; I ordered some business cards and I had them in my locker.

I had a chance conversation with a customer at the fabric store, which led to me handing my entire box of business cards to her. She had an in at an extremely large retailer here in Kansas City who ended up being a strategic alliance for me.

I tell the owner of this company frequently that she’s my Oprah Winfrey. My advice is always: if the door opens, walk through it. Do not ask why.

Do you have an idea for a business, but you’re not sure where to start?

Visit our comprehensive business calendar to see what classes and events our 230+ resource network have to offer. You can tailor your search by subject (Legal issues? Marketing/sales? Networking?), business type (see the four types of entrepreneurs, here,) or keyword.   

Tommy Saunders, FEWDM

When I was in school, my passion was football. And I didn’t care about anything else. Once football ended, I didn’t have a direction.

The best advice I got was just pick something and go down that path. You may stop, realize you don’t want to do this, then pick something else. I tried to start a clothing line, a restaurant, a software company… I started a lot of companies in like six months and I realized I didn’t want to do it.

Eventually I came up with the idea for FEWDM. My grandma gave me $4,500 for a prototype and that’s how I started the company.    

As an entrepreneur, you’re going to fail and if you’re not failing, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Once you fail, it’s your ability to pivot, move, figure out how to get over that hurdle and get back on your feet that matters.

Want to learn from other entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles to realize their dreams?

Check out our Entrepreneurs in Action page for tons of great stories, including how Patricia McCreary built a senior recreation center after losing her grandmother and how Earstin Sanders started his lawn service with just $65.

Matt Condon, Bardavon

We’re trying to accomplish something really meaningful and disruptive. We are choosing each other; we are choosing to spend the greater part of our lives together to do something really meaningful.

Which means we have to be okay to hang out with, we have to get along, but we have to be exceptional at our job as well. Being exceptional doesn’t mean perfection, but it means that you learn from your mistakes fast.

When you get a core group of people that believe in the vision and mission, that will work.   

Do you need extra support to help your second-stage business continue its growth in Kansas City?

While growing a business, it’s important to take time to work on your business, and not just in it. Apply now for these awesome programs that combine community and education: Kansas Small Business Development Center’s GAME (Growth through Action, Measurement and Engagement,)  ScaleUP! Kansas City, Pipeline or HEMP (Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program.)

John Thomson, PayIt

I’m a huge believer in diversity of the team, not for any other reason that it just kicks ass. There’s so much value in that, and I say that as a capitalist.

You can build a better business when you have people who have really diverse experiences, but have a common DNA: trust, integrity, work ethic, and they buy-in to what we’re trying to do.

Then they bring different experiences; we wouldn’t want everyone to look and feel the same: that’s a disaster. The culture starts to build and grow on its own: the body will reject the bad organs, naturally.

If you’re doing it right, they’re already gone before you have to push them out because they know it’s not a good fit.    

Want to learn more about building a strong, sustainable business?

Visit our Learning Center for a comprehensive guide to starting and building a business in Kansas City, including “Register and License Your Business,” “Attracting and Retaining the Right Employees,” and “Do You Have a Marketable Product?”

Scott Hanson, PopBookings

Team is the most critical aspect of being an entrepreneur. Nobody can do this by themselves. They just can’t.

Having a really solid team… in the case of PopBookings: Erica is the CEO and co-founder, she handles customer acquisition. And I’m out trying to raise investment as the rest of the team supports us.

And we’re of course helping each other in this process, but having these distinct roles, then trusting each other to hit our goals: team is essential in making it all work.   

Ready to hire your first employee or grow a team in Kansas City?

Jet to our Learning Center to learn about attracting and retaining the right employees, including: how to hire in Kansas and Missouri, tips on expanding your team in a sensical fashion and the nitty gritty like insurance, workers’ compensation and much more.    

Joan Wells, The Wellington Group

Take a risk. Figure it out. Do something you’re passionate about. If you can combine passion, with structure, and actually demonstrate success, you’re set.

My oldest son was passionate about tennis. When he was 14, I challenged him: you need to start a tennis business. I’ll support you, I’ll help you, you need to do that.

When he graduated from high school, he ended up playing college tennis and ran the business: he had a payroll of 21 employees. It was crazy.

He sold the business after his freshman year and he made a lot of money that he then invested and he ended up double majoring in entrepreneurship. Now he’s in investment banking at a high-growth investment bank in Chicago.

At his investment bank interviews, what they asked the most questions about was his tennis business back when he was a teenager. Employers want youth that take risks.

Need some support to start or grow your business in Kansas City?

Head to our Resource Navigator to see which of our 230+ Resource Partners can help your business take the next step. You can tailor your search to your needs, including zip code, “area of assistance,” and “business stage.”

For a more personalized touch, call one of our Resource Navigators at 816-235-6500. They are always ready to give you the help you need, when you need it.  

Want more?

Watch the entire Startup to Success conversation, hosted by our very own Maria Meyer, at our Facebook page. (If you really like it, you should share it.) And sign up for our newsletter to get more great business-building guidance in your inbox.

If you’re pumped and ready to go, send us some info at our contact us page and we will be in touch ASAP with your personalized action plan. We’re ready to help you take the next step in your entrepreneurial journey, don’t wait.


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