How KCSourceLink Helped KC Entrepreneurship Grow in 2017
Entrepreneurs are at the center of all we do here at KCSourceLink: they are our passion and our mission.
For the past 15 years (our crystal anniversary is coming up this June!), we’ve helped connect entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time and leveraged our knowledge of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and key players to build collaborations and fill gaps in entrepreneurial services.
We truly believe that entrepreneurs (that we all, for that matter) are better connected.
KCSourceLink had a great year in 2017: we helped make more people-to-people connections between entrepreneurs, investors, coaches, advisors and mentors than ever before. Each year, we tell the story of our work with the annual Year in Review that looks at our network access, strength and reach. (You can read past years' summaries here.)
We know that what’s measured is what gets prioritized, and we believe it’s critical for our economy that entrepreneurs get the help they need to start and grow businesses better, faster. Why? Because entrepreneurs fuel dreams, solutions, economic mobility, economic empowerment and, of course, jobs.
More on that—and on what KC entrepreneurs need—below. And be sure to stay tuned for our We Create KC report, coming out in the spring. (We’ll drop a copy in the Kansas City Business Journal on April 6.) There, we'll share the work of our Resource Network and update you on KC's progress toward becoming America's most entrepreneurial city.
Network Access: What Do KC Entrepreneurs Need?
Making resources visible and accessible: that was KCSourceLink’s original mission and it drives everything we do today.
We answer a hotline (real people, we call them Navigators, answer real phones), we host a smart directory on our website (The Resource Navigator), we provide extensive biz tips and entrepreneurial stories on our website—all in the spirit of giving entrepreneurs and small business owners access to the information they need, when they need it: 24/7/365. And none of it is cut and paste. We listen to what you need and help you find the right resource to overcome your challenge.
Get a personalized action plan for business (816-235-6500 or via the Interwebs at www.kcsourcelink.com/myplan) and let us know what you think.
- Entrepreneurs seeking assistance through hotline or email: 3,651
- Online searches for assistance using The Resource Navigator®: 5,483
- Web sessions: 230K+
Here’s a little bit more about who we helped in 2017 and what KC startups and small business owners needed.
Need Help with Your Business? Call KCSourceLink
We talk to entrepreneurs via our hotline, email and face-to-face every day, all day long. Last year, 3,651 startups and existing business owners called, emailed or dropped by KCSourceLink for business help in a range of areas, resulting in 9,425 interactions between our Network Navigators and clients. Based on these requests for assistance, we made 5,073 referrals to our Resource Partners, organizations in our network that provide business-building services.
The chart below depicts our clients' top five requests for assistance through the hotline and/or email:
Business Help Is Online at KCSourceLink.com
Entrepreneurs need access to resources 24/7/365, so we developed The Resource Navigator® interactive database to provide a systematic way to identify and organize community resources into an easy-to-use online database.
You input your industry and your need and The Resource Navigator® gives you a customized list of resources you need to talk to next. (You can also filter results by zip code, business type, business stage and if you are from an underserved community.) Entrepreneurs can find the help they need, and it helps let us know what resources are needed (or are missing) in Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Entrepreneurs and owners from a range of businesses seek assistance through The Resource Navigator®, our top five industries are:
- Information Technology
- Health and Childcare
The top five most requested types of assistance included:
And just one more: we also know when entrepreneurs seek help from KCSourceLink. The following chart shows requests by business stage:
Network Strength: KC Has a Deep Bench of Resources for Startups and Small Businesses
Anyone can provide a referral. KCSourceLink strives to link small business entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time—and make sure the resources that serve small business and entrepreneurs know each other.
That’s why we regularly update and publish our Resource Rail®, why we hold quarterly Resource Partner meetings and why we get to know every entrepreneurial service provider in Kansas City.
- Resource Partners in the network: 248
- Client Satisfaction: 100%
We follow up with every client we speak with—and we’re proud of the quality connections we help them make. We collect that feedback from clients via online survey, using the Biz-Trakker® client relationship management system. This survey system allows us to better understand our clients’ needs and their outcomes.
Super proud of this: About a month or so after speaking with one of the Network Navigators at KCSourceLink, 100 percent of our clients were satisfied with our services.
We like this data a lot, too: we also ask our clients what decisions they make after talking with us and our Resource Partners.
Many decide to take the leap and start a business or, if they’re already business owners, leverage KC’s resources to improve their business, expand their operations, solve a problem or hire employees. And some do in fact realize that entrepreneurship isn’t right for them, right how—also a very important decision.
Network Reach: Where Do KC Entrepreneurs Ask for Help?
Certainly entrepreneurs reach out to us via our hotline, email and even when they see us in person at Kansas City's numerous entrepreneurial events and networking opportunities. But we don't wait around for entrepreneurs to find us. We know that sometimes entrepreneurs don't know who to turn to or what questions to ask. Sometimes, you just don't know what you don't know. That's why we show up: we host events, we attend events, we reach out. And that's why we engage on social media. Because that burning question that will transform your business doesn't always hit you Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Social media outreach and campaigns, connector events, impact reports (KC entrepreneurship! capital! jobs!), in-person presentations and week-long celebrations of entrepreneurship—KCSourceLink uses all the tools at our disposal to reach new audiences and help them find the resources they need to vet an idea, start a business or grow one.
- Twitter followers: 13,776
- Facebook fans: 3,264
- Instagram followers: 1,543
- LinkedIn: 1,813
Event attendees: 5,465
So how did we reach out to help entrepreneurs in 2017? Here are just a few things we did to build awareness of the resources available to startups and small businesses.
In the spring of 2017 we started a new series of events called The A.M. Shift. These events combine real-world case studies with a regional roundtable and resource fair. We held two events in the spring: Modern Marketing Strategy was Downtown and Building Your Company Culture was in the Northland. We held an additional two events in the fall: First Impression | Lasting Impression was held in Eastern Jackson County while Customer Acquisition was held in Johnson County. These intimate gatherings offered time for businesses to work together with feedback from resources and were well received by attendees.
In its sixth year, Battle of the Brands, a bracket-style competition between KC’s innovators, Main Streeters, microenterprises and scalers, garnered even more nominations and votes than ever before, helping us create a groundswell of social media recognition for KC’s entrepreneurs. In 2017, microenterprise The Funnel Cake Truck sweetened the competition and took the grand prize in the battle.
We published our fourth edition of We Create KC, Kansas City’s state of entrepreneurship report that benchmarks our progress toward becoming America’s most entrepreneurial city and tells the stories of KC entrepreneurship. In 2017, it featured Chris Dahlquist Photography, Ruby Jean’s Juicery, C2FO, International Builders and Consultants, Shatto Home Delivery and FEWDM as well as reports on KC’s progress on improving access to capital, connecting entrepreneurs to resources and creating an innovation pipeline. We Create KC was distributed in March’s Kansas City Business Journal.
So what’s the economic impact of KC entrepreneurs? We reported on that with our first ever We Create Jobs report. Using a new statistical analysis, it details (for the first time) the impact entrepreneurs make at the metro level and proves that startups provide headline-worthy contributions to economic growth.
We also produced a full-length update to our We Create Capital report, originally published in 2015. It showcases the power and results that come when a community coalesces behind a united mission: to improve access to capital for early-stage entrepreneurs. Check out the summary or download the full report at www.wecreatekc.com/#capital.
Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017. This past year, we crowdsourced events from the community, divided them into four tracks (makers and creators, business growth, business services and youth entrepreneurship) and hosted most of the events in one central location, Plexpod Westport. There were 140 events in total with 105 unique event hosts and totaled attendance topped 5,000. All around GEWKC was a success: 67 percent of survey respondents reported making a connection that can move their businesses forward and 91 percent of survey respondents would recommend GEWKC to another.
But even more importantly, we met a lot of new people and had the distinct opportunity and honor to introduce folks to the KCSourceLink network and KC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem who had never attended an event or workshop or entrepreneurial celebration before.
Each year we host a #ShopLocalKC campaign in May and December to encourage shoppers to keep their dollars local. This year’s holiday campaign included expanding our Shop Local Map to include Kansas City-based ecommerce businesses. More than 30 businesses added their names to the #ShopLocalKC ecommerce list. We could not be more excited to feature Kansas City’s microenterprise entrepreneurs (and you know we love online shopping too).