UMKC Innovation Center partners with the university and the community to spark and sustain entrepreneurial efforts within our region and across the country.

KCSourceLink connects KC entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time.

MOSourceLink connects Missouri entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time.

Whiteboard2Boardroom connects entrepreneurs and businesses to technologies available for licensing.

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

Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center provides technical assistance to startup and existing businesses.

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.

KCInvestED helps investors learn more about investing in KC startups.

SourceLink® helps communities nationwide build vibrant and vital entrepreneurial ecosystems.
UMKC Innovation Center
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path toward snow-capped mountain

How a KCSourceLink Network Navigator Can Help Your Business Idea Scale Mountains

So you’ve got a great idea for your business (and your friends keep telling you that every time you talk with them) … or maybe you’ve already started a business but aren’t sure about the next steps to take. Who you gonna call? KCSourceLink. More specifically, if you do give us a ring, chances are the friendly voice on the other end of that line is a Network Navigator.

What’s a Network Navigator? Meet Leslie Walton. So you might not know that Kansas City has hundreds of resources for entrepreneurs—pretty daunting to think about, right? Which do you access? And when? Leslie is your entrepreneurial sherpa. She can outline a clear path up the entrepreneurial mountain until you reach the summit and embark for the next peak.

“Network Navigators are a GPS for your business; we’re confidants, soundboards,” she says. “We’re some of everything because we really have to listen to what you’re asking for, even though you might not know what you need. We make sure we’re asking the right questions, so you know how you should prepare and proceed, and you have connections to the resources to help you. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

The Resource Rail: A Map to Guide Your Journey

If you’re trekking through any uncharted territory, you need a map. Yep, we’ve got that, too. (That’s called the Resource Rail, but we’ll get to that later.) However, you don’t need the whole thing all at once, so we give you the turn-by-turn directions of one part of the journey at a time. We call that a Personal Action Plan, which clearly outlines which resources you should seek depending on where your business is and what you want to do. Registering your business? Starting a business in Kansas or Missouri? Hiring employees? Determining if your product is viable? Looking for marketing, legal and financial help? Yep. We can help with all that and more. Depending on what help you’re seeking, your personal plan will direct you to the resources you should contact (with direct contact information like emails and phone numbers, mind you) that can help you get to where you want to go.

“There’s no way you can be in business and not use some of the resources we have,” Leslie says. “If you look at the KCSourceLink calendar, it’s the nucleus for a lot of things. In business school, they don’t always introduce you to the entrepreneurial community. We can.”

Your Personal Plan for Your Business

And Leslie won’t drop 200+ resources on you at once and say, good luck! No, no. She’s careful to craft a concise and doable list based on your conversation with her. We’ll give you a ring in a month to see how you’re doing. And when you’ve completed that Personal Action Plan, we’re ready to craft your next concise plan. (Because smaller bites are easier to chew.) Get stuck? Have questions? We’re here whenever you need us. You’re never alone when you start a business in Kansas City. How cool is that?

Now, what’s a sure-fire way to make the most of the KCSourceLink Personal Action Plan? Leslie says it’s pretty simple: Follow it. She says planning (especially creating your business plan) is a key step. But you can certainly call us if you just have an idea—no matter how “out there” you think it is. Try us. We’ll get you pointed in the right direction so you can use those KC resources to make that dream real.

“Working here has opened my eyes to a lot of things, made me aware of a lot of people who are really here to help,” Leslie says. “It’s important to network and be part of the entrepreneurial community.”

You’re Never Alone Starting or Running Your Small Business

Now, it’s not all fun and games. There’s a lot of work involved—and some paperwork. But for those who like to work smarter, not harder, our Resource Partners actually have ways to make the journey up those entrepreneurial mountains a little less arduous. For example, there are a ton of templates for Writing Your Business Plan (Small Business Association) and Business Planning and Financial statements templates (SCORE Kansas City), so you’re never really starting from scratch. And for those of you who are insanely busy, keep your eyes peeled for webinars and online courses you can take at your own pace. And Leslie says many organizations will offer mentorship programs that can help hold you accountable or guide you to a bigger milestone.

“You still have to reach out to the mentor, listen to the advice and put it into action,” Leslie says. “If you want to start a business, how serious are you about making that happen?”

A KC Community of Entrepreneurs

And Leslie isn’t just hustling in the office. She’s out in the entrepreneurial community at events, classes, you name it. (KCSourceLink has a list of calendar events that will make your head spin. There’s something for everybody. Literally.) And while you’re at it, you could subscribe to our newsletters. Leslie sends out a snapshot of a few of the awesome events in our calendar, so if you like a bite-size event listing, this one could be your bag.

She’s in touch with hundreds of resource partners and meets with them one-on-one, keeping their services up-to-date. So she knows you, she knows the Resource Partners and she knows when and which partners are the best for you. Solid.

“I want to know exactly what those who call me are looking for so I can connect them to the right resources at the right time—that’s our thing, really,” she says. “We have to stay just as active with our Resource Partners as we are with our entrepreneurs.”

And with so many resources, we’ve divided them into distinct tracks, a Resource Rail, if you will, so you can chart your progress and reach out to the right resource at the right stage in your voyage, depending on which type of business you have.

And Leslie isn’t new to this whole entrepreneurial thing. She’s got some cred with her own ventures in catering and the nonprofit world. But years and years ago, she was in the same spot we all were. You’ve got an idea, but where do you go? What do you do? When do you do it? How do you insert yourself into the entrepreneurial community? KCSourceLink can lead you to the answers.

Make It Happen

But at the end of the day, even with all these resources, remember that YOU are the only one who can make it happen. Wishful thinking alone won’t get you there. All talk and no action won’t, either. So set small daily goals based on your Personal Action Plan. If you can’t reach the summit in a day, small steps toward the top are key. That’s progress.

“You can’t just say, ‘I want to start a business and, poof, it’s there,’” Leslie says. “You have to research your competition, find out who their target market is, do their pricing. There’s a lot that goes into starting a business. An idea is a good starting point, but it will eventually have to be more than and idea if you want to take it anywhere. That’s where some people get stuck.”

Skeptical? Need some proof. Chris Goode of Ruby Jean’s Juicery, and countless other successful people like him, used KCSourceLink’s resources (like ScaleUP! Kansas City) to invigorate a passion and start and grow a business.

“Chris used the information we sent him,” Leslie says. “The next thing we know, we’re seeing stories written about the success of his business.”

But like all things in life that are worth it, you have to put in the work—but you’ll never work alone. Leslie and Co. are just a phone call (816-235-6500) or email away.

So if you’re ready to take that next step with your business, give us a ring or tell us a bit about yourself. Stop thinking, “What if?” And start saying, “I am.”

Photo courtesy of Giiseppe Milo CC BY 2.0.

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