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.  


Want to launch a career in tech? LC101 — LaunchCode's free, effective, entry-level development curriculum — teaches the skills you need to land a job. Focused on building core programming concept understanding along with JavaScript and Angular JS skills, our custom program has been built with local employers' needs in mind. LC101 graduates have the opportunity to enter our paid apprenticeship job placement program.

For our 2021 courses, LaunchCode has moved all instruction remotely, pending national, state, and local health guidelines and recommendations that indicate it is safe again to hold in-person educational programming. To allow for student success in this format, the timeline of the course is expanded from 20 weeks of classes to 25 weeks of classes.

This course starts on June 1. Classes are held online twice weekly on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 6:00pm - 9:00pm Central Time.

Applications are open until April 30  -  APPLY NOW

Artist INC Express is an intensive workshop created to address the specific professional needs and challenges that artists of all disciplines face.  

Developed to serve communities outside major metropolitan areas with a smaller number of professional artists, Artist INC Express is designed to focus participants on learning the most essential skills in the shortest amount of time.

Led by professional artist facilitators, the workshop is highly interactive and includes activities and discussions focused on goal setting, writing about your work, and building a personal brand – the building blocks for a sustainable art practice and a successful arts business.

Like all Artist INC programming, Artist INC Express immediately activates a network of artists in their community leading to additional peer to peer resource sharing and support long after the workshop concludes.

To learn more visit and learn about additional communities and dates.:

Kansas Military
May 21-23, 2021

 800-473-3872  or

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has been celebrating Small Business Superstars in KC. These are the small businesses that make a big impact on their customers, clients, and the community. Kansas City told us they’re superstars – and now those Small Business Superstars could be the 2021 Small Business of the Year!

Apply now to qualify for the Small Business of the Year Award, also known as The Mr. K Award.
To qualify businesses must have fewer than 250 employees and exemplify the values of Ewing Marion Kauffman: strong employee relations, growth, and a commitment to giving back to the community.

Additional Specialty Awards:

  • The KC Chamber Emerging Business Award
  • The KC Chamber Small Business Equity Award
  • The KC Chamber Weida Award for International Small Business of the Year
  • The KC Chamber Legacy of Kansas City Award

The deadline to apply for these prestigious awards is April 30. If you know a Small Business Superstar who is not a KC Chamber member but wants to apply, they’re eligible for a special membership rate through April 15th. Contact Small Business Director Vicky Kulikov at asap to learn how to benefit from this exclusive Superstar offer.

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