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

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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.

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

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UMKC Innovation Center
UMKC Innovation Center
Kansas City serial entrepreneur Gigi Jones works at one of her businesses, Zafar

A Battle with Cancer Inspired KC Entrepreneur Gigi Jones' Businesses

Gigi Jones always had an entrepreneurial spirit. And that spirit helped her battle colon cancer.

Gigi is the longtime owner of Zafar, a health and wellness spa and salon in Kansas City’s Power Light District, and as she grappled with her diagnosis in 2015, she says she saw a pathway to recovery via healthy eating.

“When I look at it now, having an entrepreneur spirit within, you just keep going,” she says. “Being diagnosed with cancer wasn't an uplifting time in my life, but I had to deal with that, and having to find another way to make my body whole and well and learning the tools to do that, I wanted to help others and teach them about what I learned.”

And Gigi turned her health around with healthy eating, especially the vegan diet she adopted during that time. But she didn’t want to keep this revelation to herself; she wanted to share the pathway that helped her with others.

> > > This story is part of our We Create KC 2019 report. See how you can advance entrepreneurship in Kansas City and support entrepreneurs, like Gigi.

So Gigi established her other wellness brands with the help of KCSourceLink and its vast network of nonprofit organizations (over 240) that help entrepreneurs in the KC region. She started Gigi the Vegan, her coaching program that shows others how to live a healthy vegan lifestyle. And there’s also Gigi’s Kale Chips, which you can now find at shops around the Kansas City metro; that’s her brand of tasty snacks that come packaged in a few flavors. She used to only make them at home, until one of her sons (also an entrepreneur) sold them one day at his restaurant. They sold out, and the rest is history.

“When I look at the three businesses, to me, they are successful because I'm helping people, and that's what my businesses are all about,” she says.

Looking back, Gigi says entrepreneurship is a great vehicle to use your passions to help others, especially those who are closest to her heart.

“You know, I want to leave a legacy for my grandchildren, and that's what this is about,” she says. “I want them to be inspired by entrepreneurship and know that they can create whatever it is that they want to do; whatever their heart desires, they can do it.”

See how Kansas City is becoming America's most entrepreneurial city through KCSourceLink's entrepreneurship ecosystem reports at

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