'Personal Mission' to Help Small Business Fuels Veteran's Growing KC Tech Startup
Image: Jannae Gammage and Milad Chasempour, co-founders, The Market Base
Jannae Gammage says she didn’t choose to be an entrepreneur. She says entrepreneurship chose her.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 14,” she says. “It's kind of been something that chose me. Maybe I felt like I was forced into it because of my background and my race, my gender. … Most of the time, I saw a gap, and I knew how to solve it, so I just started solving it.”
Today, Jannae runs The Market Base, a SaaS platform that provides on-demand marketing and promotional teams to work directly with entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Before she found her startup niche, though, she was already navigating the ups and downs of her first business, learning lessons in physical and mental toughness on the basketball court and in the military as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army. In fact, the Army shaped her interest in technology and led her down the path of starting her own marketing business.
“In the Army, I was helping find the bad guys, essentially,” she says. “One of the things that I was doing was writing assessments and reports and helping public affairs, so that's really how I kind of got into the digital marketing public affairs realm.”
Eventually, she decided to chart a course from D.C. to Kansas City for her next chapter.
“Just reading and doing research about Kansas City and where it was headed, I saw that it was kind of transitioning and leading the charge as far as tech companies, and I've always been around tech,” she says. “So it just seemed to line up for me.”
Finding fulfillment in entrepreneurship
Because of her experience in digital marketing with the Army, Jannae received several requests from friends and family to help them with online marketing and promotion for their small businesses. She saw an opportunity. In 2019, Jannae co-founded The Market Base a software platform that allows small businesses to work with on-demand teams to produce customized graphic design and marketing, with Donette Lowe and Milad Chasempour.
“It aligns with my own personal core values,” Jannae says. “I believe I was really put here to serve others, and that's really my purpose. When we set aside all the titles, entrepreneurship, tech company, all that, really, everything is just feeding into that personal mission.”
Co-founders find confidence in reassurance
To launch The Market Base, Jannae leveraged resources in the KCSourceLink Resource Partner network. The team completed the OHUB.KC accelerator in 2019, won a KC Collective pitch competition and finished the ELEVATIONLAB® Tech Venture program, which Jannae says was a boon to the company’s outlook.
“Just being in Tech Venture and being able to feel comfortable asking, ‘OK, is this wrong, or is this right? Really, give me your professional opinion and be honest.’ That was great,” Jannae says. “A lot of the decisions we made in the past three or four months were a lot easier. We were a lot more open to doing things because we took Tech Venture, and we had gotten that validation.”
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The course also helped The Market Base team define the baseline information they needed to help them move toward growth and to scale; the program was also a great platform for networking and learning with fellow entrepreneurs.
“We saw that other entrepreneurs are here, they're going through the same struggles,” she says. “They're trying to do the same thing. Everybody just has this passion, and they're trying to make it work.”
And finding that expertise, whether in the class or in her co-founders, has helped move her business forward.
“It's really important that you find somebody you trust,” she says. “It's really important to find someone who has that expertise, or at least find a mentor, someone who has been there before.”
All that hustle paid off. In late 2020, The Market Base team landed early-stage project funding from Digital Sandbox KC.
“We’re honored to receive the Sandbox grant,” Jannae says. “The program aligns with our own personal and company values: to level the playing field for underserved and under-funded founders. We were ecstatic to learn we would be on the receiving end because like most founders, a win like this is the difference between 10-times growth and going out of business. We're looking forward to becoming another Digital Sandbox KC success story.”
And as a seasoned entrepreneur, Jannae has some great lived advice for others who are blazing their own trails and starting their own business, whether it be a tech startup, a Main Street shop or a solo home-based side-hustle.
“Do it. Go for it,” she says. “Because either way, you're going to make mistakes. Either way, there's going to be that fear. The only way to really get to the next phase or next step is to do it and start working out the kinks in the beginning so that a year from now, two years from now, you're focused on growth. Don't hesitate. Don't overthink it. Do it.”
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