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: Start a Business  Part Five

Build a Lean Canvas

Learn how to craft a simplified business plan that helps you break down your business idea. 

The trickiest parts of starting a business can be data and direction. How are you organizing your ideas? What problem are you trying to solve, and how will you solve it? Are you even asking the right questions? And how are you communicating all of this?

Lean canvas helps entrepreneurs break down their business ideas. It’s a simple document that’s designed to replace elaborate business plans.

What is lean canvas?

Lean canvas is a business plan on one piece of paper. The template is broken into nine boxes:

Problem: Your customers’ top three problems, plus how these problems are solved today

Solution: Your new way of addressing the problem

Key metrics: Numbers that tell you how your business is doing

Unique value proposition: The compelling message that will get people interested

Unfair advantage: Something that can’t be easily copied or bought

Channels: How you reach customers

Customer segments: Target customers and users

Cost structure: Your fixed and variable costs

Revenue streams: Sources of income

These sections seem pretty simple, but they each do a lot of heavy lifting. Each box forces entrepreneurs to distill the who, what, where, when, why and how of their businesses. Look at it this way: It’s not that hard to explain something in 1,000 words. But it takes an expert with clear vision to explain it in only 10.

Who can use lean canvas?

Lean canvas is for any entrepreneur at any point of business development. But the sooner you create a lean canvas, the better. It can help clarify the problem you’re trying to solve and give you new insight on how to work toward a resolution. Plus, referring to a one-page business snapshot is easier than rifling through a multi-page business plan.

What do I need to create my lean canvas?

Many books and online resources can guide entrepreneurs on how to create a lean canvas. While it’s possible to complete the plan in just an afternoon, getting outside input gives the plan breadth and depth – and improves the chances of business success.

Some courses ask entrepreneurs to record their assumptions about their businesses and then turn those assumptions into questions. Then, the entrepreneurs ask potential customers the questions. These interactions can provide surprising feedback and help shape a business’s future.

Working through lean canvas creation with another entrepreneur can be valuable as well. An accountability partner can help you make the most of the process and challenge concepts you might take for granted.

Be prepared: Not every lean canvas leads to business success. Instead, some lean canvases point entrepreneurs in other directions.

If a business plan has too many holes in it or doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the market, you may be better off redirecting your efforts. But lean canvas can help you figure that out sooner rather than later.

What are the next steps once I’ve created my lean canvas?

Once you’ve talked to people, processed their feedback and completed your lean canvas, you’re all set, right?

Not quite.

The lean canvas is a living document that can change as your business does. Think of it as an interactive tool, not a static, complete picture. Many entrepreneurs use Post-Its or pencil to keep changing their lean canvases. Others just keep making copies. No matter how it works best for you, your lean canvas should reflect how your ideas about your business – and how you meet the needs of your customers – shift.

Even as a lean canvas evolves, it remains a one-page road map that’s powerful in its simplicity. It focuses on the customer’s problem, the entrepreneur’s solution, financing the business and meeting those needs.

Where can I get help with my lean canvas?

Many of KCSourceLink’s Resource Partners use lean canvas. Reach out to one of our Network Navigators to find the best resources to help you. We’ll create your free Personal Action Plan and help you connect with the services that are right for you.

You can also turn to theleanstartup.com to further explain the principles of the lean canvas. And leanstack.com provides useful background on lean canvas and how Ash Maurya adapted the lean canvas from the business model canvas.

Here's a list of KCSourceLink Resource Partners that can help:

Provider Information

Bioscience & Technology Business Center - Lawrence

The BTBC, with locations at both the University of Kansas (KU) Lawrence Campus, and Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC) in Kansas City, is the largest incubator system in the state. It is comprised of three separate facilities totaling approximately 90,000 square feet of wet lab, office space, and shared work spaces.

Block Knowledge

Block Knowledge, previously known as Project United Knowledge. Our goal is to continue assisting nontraditional founders to realize their fullest potential and to impact communities. We have numerous classes & workshops to provide entrepreneurial knowledge, financial knowledge, and technological knowledge to the community.

Capital Access Center

The Capital Access Center is a free service to help a business find Capital Resource Partners. The Capital Access Center (CAC), part of the Kansas Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and funded through the 2020 CARES Act, is a consulting service to small business owners needing Capital (Loans, Lines of Credit, etc).

Central Exchange

Central Exchange is a preeminent membership organization in the Kansas City area which provides the venue and voice for women seeking to reach their full personal and professional potential.

City of Excelsior Springs, MO

A new division of the City of Excelsior Springs assisting businesses in locating, expanding and moving to the community. Find more information at www.cityofesmo.com/economicdev.html or email Melinda Mehaffy at mmehaffy@ci.excelsior-springs.mo.us

Craig School of Business - Center for Entrepreneurship

The Center for Entrepreneurship exists to train, mentor and support entrepreneurs. Our staff will provide one-on-one business coaching and connect clients to needed programs and resources.

Determination, Incorporated

Determination, Incorporated is a Kansas City-based nonprofit creating a pathway to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people through entrepreneurship.

EnCorps Partners

Dedicated to building community through supporting economic development and business growth, EnCorps Partners, LLC works with developers and city officials to create sustainable flex office spaces tailored to community needs.

FastTrac

The world's leading provider of high-quality learning curricula and networks specific to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce

The Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce provides business assistance, networking opportunities & other services for businesses operating or wishing to operate in Gardner, Edgerton or New Century, KS.

GUILDit

GUILDit spurs Kansas City artists and entrepreneurs. Our mission is to create communities around best business practices in the way of forums, panels, lectures, and alike programming.

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City is dedicated to the creation, advancement, promotion and development of economic opportunities within the Hispanic market and business community.

Hispanic Economic Development Corporation

The Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) is dedicated to improving the lives of Latinos within the greater Kansas City. HEDC achieves this through business development and economic and community wealth creation initiatives.

Independence Economic Development Council

The Independence Council for Economic Development (ICED) acts as a liaison between businesses and government and provides economic research on the Independence area.

Innovation Stockyard

The Innovation Stockyard operates the Kit Bond Science and Technology Incubator on the campus of Missouri Western State University with a focus on economic and workforce development, and animal health and nutrition.

Johnson County Economic Development Corporation

Johnson County Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) provides confidential one-on-one business assistance, microloan funds, financing options and incentives, for new and existing businesses - small to large - for all Johnson County, Missouri.

Kansas City Women's Chamber of Commerce

CONNECT, EMPOWER, INSPIRE...through the collective strength of business women and those who support women in business in Kansas City!

Kansas Department of Agriculture

The mission of the KDA Agricultural Marketing, Advocacy and Outreach Team is to serve all Kansans through innovative programming and delivering solutions designed to create an environment that facilitates growth and expansion in agriculture while increasing pride in and awareness of the state's largest industry - agriculture.

Kansas Small Business Development Center at JCCC (SBDC)

The Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Johnson County Community College provides business assistance to aspiring and existing small business owners in Johnson, Miami and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas through low cost training events and no-charge one-on-one business counseling.

KC Collective

KC Collective was developed by startup founders for startup founders. Through collective collaboration, we leverage our networks to provide introductions, mentorship, generous perks and discounts from our partners, and the education and resources necessary for driving your business forward.

K-State Research and Extension - Johnson County

K-State Research and Extension - Johnson County offers resources and referrals for small business development with emphasis on agriculture, horticulture, and food based businesses.

K-State Technology Development Institute (TDI)

The Technology Development Institute provides a variety of resources and services through collaborative engineering and business development partnerships to advance technologies, people, and companies.

Leanlab Education

LEANLAB Education is an organization that builds communities and launches transformational innovations into K12 schools.

Liberty Economic Development Corporation / LINK Business Facilitation

The Liberty Economic Development Corporation is a public private organization dedicated to the growth and prosperity of the Liberty, Mo area. LINK Business Facilitation is a free resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Liberty area and is for all phases of business; start-up, growth cycles and succession and retirement planning.

Miami County Economic Development Department

The Miami County (Kan.) Economic Development Department assists businesses in their development and expansion while promoting the region's economic growth.

Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (TAAC)

Mid-America TAAC assists domestic manufacturers negatively impacted by import competition by providing cost share grant funding to implement improvement projects to make a business more globally competitive.

Missouri Enterprise, Kansas City and Northwest Missouri

Missouri Enterprise is a dedicated manufacturing expert & your partner to strengthen & grow your company. We assist manufacturers in the following areas; workforce development, technology, lean principles, exporting, quality, food safety & more.

Missouri SBDC at Northwest Missouri State University - St. Joseph

The SBTDC offers confidential, one-on-one counseling, coaching and training to existing businesses and emerging business owners.

Missouri SBDC at University of Missouri Kansas City

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBDC at UMKC is OPEN for (virtual) business; both with our trainings (all online through Zoom) and our appointments with counselors. We learn fast and adapt to changes to keep solving these problems for customers! Contact us at sbdc@umkc.edu to talk about financing options or plans to stay in the game during this time.

Mo-Kan Regional Council

MO-KAN Development Inc. provides loan programs to small businesses in Kansas and Missouri.

Northland CAPS

Northland CAPS students use business standard software, equipment and employer mentorship to solve real world problems for entrepreneurs and business owners.

Piper School District

We're looking to produce client projects for area businesses through our various academies. If your organization has a problem, or a project that’s No. 10 on your “to do” list, give it to our students. They're ready for real world learning.

SCORE

The Kansas City SCORE Chapter is comprised of more than 70 volunteers who provide free mentoring and workshops to entrepreneurs. Volunteers are professionals with time-tested knowledge and experience in almost every industry.

The Black MasterMind Group Charitable Foundation

The Black MasterMind Group is designed to create strategies to help the Black Entrepreneurial Community; Start, Stabilize, Sustain, and Scale businesses in the black entrepreneurial community. The Black MasterMind Group works collaboratively with organizations, community leaders, business coaches, trainers, educators, and business leaders, to teach entrepreneurial financial literacy and business strategies helping the black entrepreneurial community secure funding.

The Family Conservancy

The Family Conservancy supports child care and preschool providers with a wide range of professional development training and consultation.

The Toolbox: Small Business Resource Center

The Toolbox is the go-to resource for everything small business in Wyandotte County, Kansas. All of our services are offered at no-cost to local residents and businesses. We provide support with planning, registering, funding, operating, and growing your business. We take the intimidating checklist of starting and operating a business and distill it down into the essentials through private one-on-one small business coaching. We want to make navigating business-related processes in Wyandotte personable, simple and accessible, so you can get back to doing what you do best — creating, innovating, and succeeding in your business.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Kansas City District Office

Our mission at the U.S. Small Business Administration is to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns.

Whiteboard2Boardroom

The Whiteboard to Boardroom project seeks to commercialize technology through a partnership of education, nonprofit and private sector organizations.

Women's Business Center

Provide training, mentoring, networking opportunities and business consulting to help women start & grow their businesses.

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