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
UMKC Innovation Center

Guide: Growing Your Business  Part Eight

Business Competitions and Awards

Name recognition, free promotion and greater perceived prominence are just a few benefits of getting an honor.

Make your company a household name and get well-deserved recognition by competing for and winning locally and nationally sponsored awards.

Check the list below for Kansas City's most prominent business competitions that are currently taking nominations.

If you'd like to list a competition or award, please contact

Sprint Accelerator

Sprint’s 5G Development Team is actively searching for the next disruptive emerging technology that will lead to the development and commercialization of 5G enabled products, applications, and solutions that deliver on the brand promise of True Mobile 5G.  Ideal participant companies will share a common desire to create a symbiotic partnership seeking mutually beneficial goals and a long term relationship with Sprint.  Innovative companies that leverage Sprint’s brand new 5G network will win by taking advantage of its increased capacity, low latency, and blazing fast speeds that will radically transform the way individuals experience the world around them and the way businesses operate.  The diverse mix of candidates we seek will likely come from, but are not limited to, the following industries and verticals:


Consumer Gaming & Entertainment: 
Enhanced mobile experiences in gaming, entertainment and social networking
Mobile fan engagement for viewing, content creation and live event interaction
Smart home

Internet of Things (IoT)
Edge Computing
Digital Infrastructures (security, asset management)
Smart Places (city, factory, building, corporate campus, etc.)
Mixed Reality / Immersive Simulations
Healthcare and Telemedicine
Tactile Internet
Web 3.0, Data Security, Hyper-Ledger, Block-Chain, Business Process Improvement


To learn more attend an information session (online)
Tues, Oct 8th @ 11:00am Central
Mon, Oct 28th @ 2:30pm Central
Mon, Nov 4th @ 11am Central

Digital Sandbox KC: Where Innovators Come to Play (Ongoing)

Digital Sandbox KC brings together people, ideas and resources to build thriving companies. The program provides much needed early-stage funding to rising stars. The region's longtime leaders including private companies, government agencies and universities have united to help this new wave of entrepreneurs. It's an unprecedented metro-wide effort to help make KC America's most entrepreneurial city.

93 proof-of-concept projects funded for area startups
35 new KC-based companies created
53 companies have secured follow-on investment
$38.2 million in follow-on funding
More than 480 new jobs created, with more than $12 million in payroll

Digital Sandbox KC broadly seeks new innovation in information technology.  The Sandbox provides innovators with proof-of-concept resources to support early-stage commercialization processes. The Sandbox may cover expenses for project consultants, market research, legal support, equipment and other market validation, prototyping and beta testing needs.

The Digital Sandbox KC process requires:
- Completion of the Digital Sandbox KC Online Application
- A Meeting/Pitch Evaluation
- A Board Vote

Please keep in mind that this application will be viewed by those evaluating your submission; those participating in your meeting/pitch and by the Sandbox board for voting purposes. Once your application is received, it will be reviewed for completeness and you will be contacted with information regarding next steps. Submission Tip: Thoroughly reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions prior to submission may improve your outcome.
Application Deadline: Ongoing!

DTSKCK promotes economic development, housing, wellness, cultural, and social opportunities in downtown Kansas City, KS. Their Small Business Grant Program provides the small business owner or entrepreneur the possibility of partial “gap filling”, which their research indicates is greatly needed. One qualification: you are in, or plan to locate in, our service area: 4th to 18th; Washington to Sandusky.

Questions are encouraged! Please contact DTSKCK at (913) 371-0705 or for more information, or visit their website.
iStart is the go-to site for entering business competitions from around the world, browsing pages of startup ideas and networking with hundreds of innovative, energized entrepreneurs. 

Find out about business competitions all over the world.

With the financial support of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Downtown Shareholders is pleased to announce the launch of the third round of Pop-Up! Downtown KCK, a retail development initiative to enliven Downtown Kansas City, Kansas. Pop-Up! Downtown KCK matches select entrepreneurs with high-visibility, well-sited spaces at free or reduced rent, and provides an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to test a retail concept or determine whether Downtown KCK is a viable long-term location for their business.

To learn more about this program or to download a funding application, check out our website.

** $75,000 in Prizes to Student Entrepreneurs! **

The Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge (KEC) is sponsored by the Kansas Masonic Foundation and Kansas Masons in partnership with Kansas State University and the Network Kansas Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) Series to promote entrepreneurship and small business development in Kansas.  The competition is for student created, managed, and owned ventures.

Kansas City’s first entrepreneurship competition for formerly incarcerated people

Hosted by Determination, Incorporated

The Rise Up, Get Started Entrepreneurship Competition is to help formerly incarcerated people in the Kansas City-area kick start their business endeavors by competing for grants and completing a simplified business plan, project plan, and a professional and entrepreneurial portfolio. Applications are accepted in two categories:

  • This is a test: Every business starts with a little experiment to see how potential customers will react to your product or service. (For for-profit businesses currently in the idea phase)

  • Fuel: If you already have a small business up and running and need a boost. . . we can help. (For existing, for-profit businesses with regular customers. See “Notes” below for more details)

For the Rise Up, Get Started Entrepreneurship competition in November 2019 during Global Entrepreneurship Week, the judging panel will award 3 grants worth $750 in the “This is a test” category, and 1 grant worth $1500 in the “Fuel” category.  

How to compete:

Rise: Submit this interest form and we will be in touch to set up. . . 

Up: Schedule 1-on-1 with Determination, Incorporated team and a KCSourceLink Resource Navigator 

Get: Submit full application

Started: Attend at least 3 Be the Boss business support groups or Rise Up, Get Started working sessions between July-November 2019 (schedule below) 

Competition schedule:

Applications open: July 9

Applications due: Monday, November 11

Judging session: Thursday, November 14

Rise Up, Get Started Entrepreneurship Competition award event: TBD, November 18-22 during Global Entrepreneurship Week 

Questions? Contact Kyle J Smith, co-founder of Determination, Incorporated: or 816-607-1873. 


Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) Accelerator:

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a national cooperative owned by more than 8,500 dairy farm families from across the United States. DFA is committed to providing value to its farmer-owners through marketing members’ milk, providing services and resources on the farm and connecting our family farms with plants and brands such as Borden® CheesePlugrá® Butter and Kemps® to name a few.

For the 2020 program, DFA is seeking early-stage food product companies that are dairy-focused or dairy-based. On the AgTech front, DFA is looking for companies with ag-tech applications related to any portion of the dairy value chain, including but not limited to product testing, data management, herd health and management, supply chain optimization, sustainability and traceability.

Food Product:
Companies that are doing new and interesting things with dairy as the main component

ERP systems
Drone technologies
Robotics and automation technologies for the farm
Sensor technologies in agronomy, digester efficiency, and new technology in animal health around mastitis


To learn more you can attend an informational session (online)
Tues, Oct 14th @ 2:00PM Central
Tues, Oct 23rd @ 10:00am Central

We offer the BALSA Grant to help first time entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground.

BALSA Grant finalists receive:

  • Free (non-dilutive) cash grant of $1,000

  • The Learning Series, a 10 week comprehensive entrepreneur training program that helps participants realize their potential, introduces them to the St. Louis business ecosystem and brings them industry experts every week that also includes one on one time with each presenter after the session.

    (Valued at $20,000+ in In-kind professional services

  • One-on-one mentoring

The BALSA Grant is designed for first-time St. Louis entrepreneurs wanting to start or grow their early stage business in St. Louis.  We welcome applications from all business sectors, and from non-profit as well as for-profit organizations.  

You can apply to The BALSA Grant twice a year, January 1-15 and July 1-15.

Before applying, be sure to download and read the Entrepreneur's Roadmap.  Also, submitting your idea to Idea Support is a great way to get feedback to improve your BALSA Grant application. 

More Details about the BALSA Grant:
Register to pitch your business at the Kansas City Casting Call for ABC’s Shark Tank on Friday February 21, 2020.

On a first come, first serve basis, companies may be selected to pitch their businesses to the casting team from ABC’s Shark Tank.

OHUB Ecosystem Lab 10:00AM CST

Please note: Shark Tank occasionally features entrepreneurs who have a “good idea,” but the vast majority of entrepreneurs that appear on the show display traction through user acquisition, sales, and/or intellectual property protection. We look forward to seeing you pitch your business.

This event is sponsored by Shark Tank, Values Partnerships, and our KC partners.

Finalists and winners will be honored at the No Coast event on May 1, 2020.

Show the trailblazers in your life some love by nominating them before February 28. Check out the outline of the four awards and their criteria below:



Presented to an instrumental advocate for tech-related legislation at any government level from Kansas or Missouri.




· Active champion for tech policy that advances the region’s workforce development and/or access to industry

· Uses their platform, influence and network to raise awareness for tech-related issues

· Fully champions and believes the industry’s ability to grow depends on legislation that allows it to






Presented to the individual whose drive, talent and ingenuity disrupts the tech industry and inspires their peers, leaders or community to continually innovate.



· Serves as a leader, or leader by example, by thinking outside the box to transform technology

· Moves the meter by creating (or enhancing) a unique tech-related product or service

· A through-and-through technology enthusiast and student of the industry






Presented to the company or organization that developed, or partnered in developing, a product or service that significantly advances the tech industry in their respective field.




· Awarded to the company that goes above and beyond for their employees by influencing career development, embodying diversity and inclusion, contributing positively to the Kansas City region and retaining top tech talent

· Presented to the company that developed, or partnered in developing, a new-to-market product or service that significantly advances the tech industry in their respective field





Awarded to a dedicated computer science (or tech-oriented) educator that inspires, motivates and expertly trains the future tech workforce.




· Leverages technology to positively influence and advance student learning

· Connects the tech industry to the classroom

· Dedicated to integrating tech into various aspects of student education


The Porter House KC, a program of Ches inc, is an organization committed to serving the under servedentrepreneurship population. They serve entrepreneurs in the urban community and are primarily minority individuals seeking the knowledge, support and skill set to start, grow, or transition their businesses to the next level. 
With a goal of serving more, they launched the Small Business Development Program and are currently accepting applications through February 29, 2020. 
The Small Business Development Program serves as both a business cohort and a retail space for product and retail based businesses.  
The program will  offer an affordable brick and mortar and will teach participants how to run a brick and mortar store, receive soft skill training to help navigate traditional business road maps, and get resources that support medium to long term growth. 
“Our project provides an opportunity for real world learning for a population segment that is not traditionally considered in entrepreneurial ecosystems. With education, support, eco-systems in place, it makes the opportunity to obtain gains in generational wealth obtainable.”, Founder, Dan Smith said.  
More information about the Small Business Development Program and The Porter House KC can be found on the company website: 
The prestigious Creative Capital Award supports artists with up to $50,000 in project funding, advisory services, career advancement resources, and national networking opportunities valued at $50,000, for a total commitment of up to $100,000 per project. The next application for the Creative Capital Awards opens to artists in all disciplines February 1-29, 2020

The Art Farm Residency Program is for professionals, emerging or established, in all areas of the arts, humanities and related fields.  Accomodations and studio space is offered in exchange for a contribution of 12 hours per week to help renovate and maintain Art Farm's buildings and grounds as well as other projects, suited to skills and temperament.

Residencies are available between 1 June and 1 November (a residency can be of any duration within these months), with accommodations available for up to twelve residents at one time: collaborators and couples are welcome to apply.

The Open Studio Residency at Haystack fosters a dynamic exchange of ideas among peers and provides two weeks of studio time and an opportunity to work in a community of makers.

The program supports artists (ceramics, fiber, graphics, iron, jewelry, and wood) to develop ideas and experiment in various media.

Click here to apply.

The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, located in Nebraska City, NE offers up to 70 juried residencies per year to visual artists, writers, composers/musicians, and interdisciplinary artists from across the country and around the world.

KHN accommodates up to five artists at a time for stays that vary from two to eight weeks. Each resident is provided with private bedroom, private bathroom, their own studio space, fully equipped kitchen and a weekly $100 stipend for the duration of their stay. A non-refundable application fee of $35 applies.

Click here for more information and to apply. 

The ACRE Residency hosts 25-30 artists per session, and offers room & board with comfortable sleeping accommodations and chef- prepared meals. Set on 1000 acres in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, the Artists' Cooperative Residency & Exhibitions provide communal studio spaces compliment access to facilities including a wood shop, screen-printing studio, fibers studio, ceramics studio, sound studio and art & tech lab.

Residents can choose to participate in studio visits with a variety of established artists, curators, and experienced educators through the Visiting Artist program. Workshops, lectures, concerts, reading groups, critiques and other programming is also offered during each session.

Click here for more information and to apply. 

The Tallgrass Artist Residency is a unique program that offers individual artists/artist teams time and space to retreat and research in a rural, tallgrass prairie setting.

Nine artists/artist teams to participate in two-week residency periods between May and September, 2020, with lodging in Matfield Green, Kansas.

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