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. 

For more than 50 years, National Small Business Week has celebrated the inspiring achievements of America’s small businesses and the countless contributions they make to their local communities, and to our nation’s economy.

SBA Awards given in celebration of National Small Business Week from May 3-9, 2020 include the following:

·       Small Business Person of the Year

o   One from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

·       Small Business Exporter of the Year

·       Phoenix Awards for Disaster Recovery:

o   Phoenix Award for Small Business Disaster Recovery

o   Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery, Public Official

o   Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery, Volunteer

·       Federal Procurement Awards:

o   Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year

o   Small Business Subcontractor of the Year

o   Dwight D. Eisenhower Awards for Excellence (for large prime contractors who use small businesses as suppliers and contractors)

o   8(a) Graduate of the Year

·       Awards to SBA Resource Partners:

o   Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Excellence and Innovation Center Award

o   Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award

o   Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Year

·       Jody C. Raskind Lender of the Year

·       Small Business Investment Company of the Year

·       District Office Award

All nominations must be submitted no later than 3 p.m. EST, Jan. 7, 2020.  All nomination packages must be hand delivered or mailed to the nearest SBA Office.  Email submissions of SBA Awards forms will not be accepted as they contain personally identifiable information (PII). 

For contact information and other District Office information visit online at


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

The 2019 InvestMidwest showcased 36 companies representing 15 states in three industry tracks of life sciences, technology and food/ag/bioenergy. Accredited investors are welcome to view information regarding these companies--please click here to request this information.

The application process for the 2020 InvestMidwest forum begins on December 9, 2019, with the early consideration deadline on January 6, 2020.  The final application deadline is January 31, 2020. 

Who should apply to present at the annual InvestMidwest?

Apply to be a
presenting company

Up to 45 companies seeking funding are selected to present. The conference showcases companies in three industry tracks: life sciences, technology/general business and food/ag/bioenergy. The InvestMidwest selection committee will consider companies that meet the following criteria:

  • Located within the center corridor of the United States
  • Seeking $1M to $20M in funding
  • Revenue projections of $20 million within five years (with the exception of life sciences companies)

When is the application deadline?

To pre-qualify for a Presenting Company spot at the next InvestMidwest Forum, please click hereCompanies that have completed their full application by the early application deadline of January 6, 2020, will receive preferential consideration by the selection committees. The final application deadline is January 31, 2020. All companies will be contacted by March 13, 2020 regarding their acceptance.

Is there a fee to apply?

There is not a fee to apply. If you are selected, the fee to participate in the program is $750, which includes two registrations to the event. Companies that are selected will have the opportunity to present an 8 minute PowerPoint presentation before a prominent audience of venture, corporate and angel investors.

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:

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