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

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.

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:
Do you have a solution that can reduce the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, but need help commercializing and rapidly deploying? The Black & Veatch COVID-19 Response Accelerator is designed for growing companies looking to scale emerging solutions to save lives, help communities cope, and protect the economy.

(Selections are chosen on a rolling basis)

Excel, expand, explore what’s NeXt for your business

NeXt Stage KC is a development training program focused on assisting minority and women entrepreneurs expand their existing business and achieve new levels of growth.

Developed by AltCap with partnerships throughout the region, NeXt Stage KC provides small business owners a unique opportunity to participate in the award-winning and internationally-recognized Interise StreetWise ‘MBA’™ curriculum. This hands-on curriculum targets second-stage companies ready for growth and consists of advanced business development training, CEO mentoring groups, and access to a national business network to prepare businesses for increased funding and contracting opportunities.

Are you serious about taking your business to the next stage?

The application period for the Spring 2021 cohort is now open. Please contact Davin Gordon at or (816) 289-9483 for more information. To be notified of the next recruiting period please sign up for email notifications.

Basic eligibility requirements for NeXt Stage KC include:
A small business owner with 51% or greater ownership of the business
$150K to $1MM in annual revenues with demonstrated growth in employment and/or revenueIn business for at least 2 years with 2+ employees
Business located in Missouri or Kansas
Other candidates will be considered

  • Participants invest $1,000 for the full course, which represents only a portion of the program's $10,000 tuition cost. The remainder is subsidized by AltCap and through contributions from our generous partners. Scholarships will be made available on a limited basis.

To learn more, review the NeXt Stage KC presentation and NeXt Stage KC flyer or contact To receive notifications for future cohorts, sign up for email notifications.

If you are serious about taking your business to the neXt stage, you may also be eligible for a revenue-based scholarship. Thanks to generous support from Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and AT&T, scholarships will be awarded on a limited basis to those who apply and qualify for NeXt Stage KC, AltCap's premier minority- and women-owned business development program. 

Thank you for your interest in the program. The E-Scholars program is open to all applicants. You don't need to be a UMKC student to apply.

Since 2011, more than 400 rising entrepreneurs from various backgrounds have completed the program. If you have an idea for a venture, Entrepreneurship Studio can help you turn that idea into a business with growth potential.
The price of the program is $1000, per venture, for the entire year and includes meals on workshop and mentor review days. For students taking for college credit, this will be billed as any typical class. Specific details and information on payments for the program can be found on the E-Scholars website.

A limited number of scholarships are available for entrepreneurs from the community.

UMKC students can get course credit for the program and payment can be made in the same way as all courses at the university. The $1000 yearly cost is waived for enrolled students seeking course credit.

We admit participants in the E-Scholars program on the basis of ventures.  We understand that some ventures include multiple founders. Please designate one founder as the primary participant to complete the application and indicate if there are additional founders in the appropriate section of the survey.  


The Pilot Research Program is a way for your district or school to engage your teachers, students, and parents in the innovation process. We’ll help you gather data and insights so you can prioritize your biggest challenges. Then, we’ll help you select and research an emerging tech-based program to find out if it works in your context

  • Receive up to $10K in grant funding to support teacher stipends and school needs.
  • Access free learning experiences focused on innovation.
  • Educator leadership opportunities & professional development.
  • Make evidence-based decisions to inform whether you should purchase or implement products at scale.

How it works

A school representative starts by completing the short Expression of Interest Form and answering some "Get To Know You" questions. Then, the LEANLAB research team conducts qualitative research through focus groups with parents, teachers, and administrators.

We’ll use those learnings to search the globe and find technology solutions that may work in your context. When a match is found, you’ll go on to co-design a research question and implement the pilot in your school.

All entrepreneurs. All stages. Everywhere. Whether you are dreaming about launching a startup or you already have a Series A round, the Entrepreneurship World Cup can help you take your next big step.

Why sign up for EWC? The Entrepreneurship World Cup is more than just a pitch competition. It gives everyone who enters access to the knowledge, networks and for some, the capital they need to start and scale a company.... oh, and there are also cash prizes.

Click Here to learn more or sign up to pitch 

Have you heard???? JCCC Continuing Education has funds available for businesses AND individuals who have been affected by Covid-19! These funds cover upto 100% or tuition for Continuing Education courses.

If you are a business you could qualify for up to $25,000 in employee training per calendar year if the business has been impacted by Covid-19.   

Email to see if you qualify!

The Overland Park CDBG Small Business Economic Recovery Program will award another round of grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses located in Overland Park, KS, which may not qualify for other forms of financial relief.

Applicants must:

  • Have a business with a physical location Overland Park, Kansas
  • Be in an industry/sector deemed as "non-essential" due to the required response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including retail, food service, arts & entertainment, hospitality, fitness, personal service, and transportation. (Non-profit organizations and home-based businesses are not eligible. Eligible businesses cannot be corporately owned, or publicly traded. Local franchises are eligible.)
  • Prove the business is legally operating and current on State and Local taxes
  • Be in good standing in the City of Overland Park, Kansas, including no unpaid code enforcement liens or open code enforcement cases and not operating in violation of any Federal, State, or local laws; and
  • Can demonstrate a loss of income since July 1, 2020, due to the necessary measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Community Capital Fund  staff will be available by appointment or walk-in for application assistance. In-person Office Hours for applicants at  Myron Scafe Building, 8500 Antioch Rd., Overland Park, KS 66212.

June 28, 2021 - 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

July 12,15,16, 2021 - 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Apply Here - Deadline to apply is Friday, July 16, 2021. 

While COVID-19 took a tremendous toll on our lives and livelihoods, it also unleashed a wave of creativity and energy as our community developed responses to the pandemic. Comeback KC Ventures is an effort to help turn the innovative solutions developed during the pandemic into a permanent part of our economic recovery. The Comeback KC Ventures program is designed to highlight new solutions that have emerged in response to COVID-19 and to support entrepreneurs developing these solutions into ongoing products, service lines, and businesses.

Here are the specific ways you can get involved:

As solutions are discovered, and on a rolling basis, at least 20 entrepreneurs will be invited to become part of a Comeback KC Venture Fellows group. Through Comeback KC Venture Fellows, entrepreneurs will importantly connect with each other, but also to training, counseling, and industry experts help provide needed support to rapidly develop solutions to meet these opportunities.

Each Comeback KC Venture Fellow will:

  • Create and meet with an advisory board
  • Build community through peer-to-peer roundtables
  • Increase visibility to investors
  • Attend classes and educational sessions
  • Have an opportunity and get application support for funding through programs like SBIR and Digital Sandbox

This program is being funded through an 18-month grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, led by KC Digital Drive and the UMKC Innovation Center and is open to people that reside within the 9-county Kansas City region. We are hoping to sprint toward 10 new high-growth potential companies that generate 30 new jobs and $5 million in follow-on funding by October 2022.

All Participants are encouraged to apply for Digital Sandbox KC proof-of-concept project support.  An average of $20,000 in direct technical assistance is available per project. See

$5,000 - $25,000

For-Profit Entity POC funding is available for projects to be undertaken by or on behalf of a Kansas-based, for-profit entity for the purpose of evaluating and/or commercializing unique and innovative technology that is scalable and targeted for development via entrepreneurial enterprise in Kansas. Qualifying entities may not have received in excess of $750,000 in total capital from other sources.

This POC funding is designed to help develop a project/product to the point where the entity can raise significant amounts of external capital. Typically, these awards will be used for commercial assessment and/or technology validation, such as advanced testing or prototype development.

If a funded project or the intellectual property to which it is directed results in commercial advancement satisfying specified conditions (e.g., partnering-based funding, equity financing, or sales/licensing revenues to a pre-determined level), recipients are required to repay the award according to agreed terms. If, however, such conditions are not successfully met, POC Convertible funding does not require repayment.

To be eligible, the project must:

  • Have clear technical or commercial objective with innovative technology
  • Be undertaken by a Kansas-based, for-profit entity that has not raised in excess of $750,000 total capital from other sources
  • Be reviewed by and submitted through one of the approved partners

POC funds can be used for, but not limited to, the following:

  • Technical Validation
  • Advanced Testing
  • Prototype development
  • Commercial Assessment
  • Other technology-focused activities

POC funds cannot be used for:

  • Normal salary costs of the applicant (or related persons or entities)
  • Fixed overhead costs
  • Previously incurred costs
  • Costs for securing intellectual property rights (e.g. patent costs)

Additional funds are set aside for minority owned businesses. To qualify as a minority owned business, the project must meet the above eligibility requirements and must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more minority individuals. For the purpose of this program minority is defined as any individual belonging to the following minority groups:

(a) “Black Americans,” which includes persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa;
(b) “Hispanic Americans,” which includes persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race;
(c) “Native American,” which includes persons who are enrolled members of a federally or State recognized Indian tribe, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians;
(d) “Asian-Pacific Americans,” which includes Persons whose origins are from Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (Republic of Palau), the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Macao, Fiji, Tonga, Kirbati, Juvalu, Nauru, Federated State of Micronesia, or Hong Kong;
(e) “Subcontinent Asian Americans,” which includes persons whose origins are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives Islands, Nepal or Sri Lank

Application Link:

Applications are now open for the Capital Innovators Accelerator Spring 2022 class.


Capital Innovators is a top-ranked Accelerator for the last 5 years with a decade of experience in accelerating world-class startups.


Get $50K in seed funding, $1 MM in perks, mentorship, global network access, and an opportunity to be part of the CI portfolio! Learn more about the program here. Applications close on Nov. 12, 2021 so complete yours today!

If you are a startup, you have to check out our program that has catalyzed the growth of over 135 businesses that have gone on to raise over $400 million in investment. This is the opportunity to take your company to the next level and provide the resource infrastructure and network for ongoing success into the future.


We look forward to reviewing your application!

Reimagine Main Street, a network of organizations across the country committed to serving and lifting up small businesses impacted by COVID-19, in partnership with Black Girl Ventures, the US Black Chambers Inc., and Walkers Legacy with financial support from Meta is launching Backing Black Business a new program to provide cash grants and other resources to Black women entrepreneurs.

The grant program aims to award a total of $2 million in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to more than 200 Black women entrepreneurs across the country who need a boost after navigating their businesses through or who launched a business during the pandemic, and invites you to apply today.

The Backing Black Business community offers applicants the opportunity to access expert resources from trusted partners and organizations who are committed to your success! The program has additional support from partners such as 1863 Ventures, Association of African American CDFI and CEOs, Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, National Association of Women Business Owners, The Women Entrepreneur Leadership Lab, The Veteran’s Women Enterprise Center, Women Impacting Public Policy, and Women Impacting Public Policy Education Institute.

To learn more and see if you're eligible to apply to the Small Business Grants: Backing Black Businesses program, click here.
Missouri Technology Corporation has allocated up to $2M for investments in the most promising Missouri-based early-stage technology companies for the upcoming fiscal year.

MTC's Co-Investment programs were developed to support Missouri's early-stage entrepreneurs in developing technologies and creating jobs across Missouri while positioning companies for future venture capital investment. The IDEA Fund programs support technology startups through matching equity or convertible debt investments for the purpose of technology and business development.

To date, MTC has made direct investments of just under $44M into more than 135 of the state's most promising early-stage technology-focused companies and those companies have raised over $1bn in follow-on private funding.

Click Here for more information and to learn how to apply. 

Applications will close on Monday, February 7, 2022, at 11:59pm.

A new KCK Small Business Resiliency Grant Program has been announced. Grant applicants are eligible to apply for up to $10,000 in funding. Details below.

Se ha anunciado un nuevo Programa de subvenciones (grants, subsidio) para la resiliencia de pequeñas empresas de KCK. Los solicitantes de subvenciones son elegibles para solicitar hasta $ 10,000 en financiamiento. Este es dinero que no necesita ser pagado/reembolsado/devuelto. Detalles abajo. Aplica aqui!

Click here for details and to apply | Haga clic aquí para aplicar
Techstars has discontinued the Kansas City region accelerator to created a greater reach nationally. However, Kansas City business are encouraged to continue to apply to one of the 50 accelerators worldwide. 

Click Here to find a Techstars Accelerator that is best suited for the needs of your business!

The NGA Accelerator is a first-of-its-kind innovative partnership with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Capital Innovators designed to fund, mentor, and accelerate the growth of next-generation geospatial-intelligence technologies.

We will select up to eight companies to participate in a 13-week accelerator program that includes $100,000 in grant funding, perks, benefits, office space, mentorship and direct engagement with a leading geospatial-intelligence agency. Your startup will have the opportunity to work closely with NGA and receive valuable feedback, connections, pilot opportunities, and unparalleled resources to help your business accelerate and scale into the future.

To Apply:

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