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Partner Feature: A self-described “misfit” turns into entrepreneurship ecosystem “rock star”

By: NetWork Kansas

Jim Correll

Partner Feature: A self-described “misfit” turns into entrepreneurship ecosystem “rock star”

Jim Correll is a longstanding NetWork Kansas partner who helps others bring their ideas to life

Jim Correll is a problem solver who has activated solutions to build and empower entrepreneurs.

Whether through NetWork Kansas programs or in his role as the Director of Fab Lab ICC and a facilitator/business coach for the Growth Accelerator Program with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Independence Community College (ICC), Correll is all in when it comes to ecosystem building.

“Jim is an outstanding entrepreneurial ecosystem building ROCK STAR!” said Jenn Laird, Manager, Eastern Region with the NetWork Kansas Entrepreneurship (E-) Community Partnership. “Since becoming an E-Community in 2013, he has led an inspirational community effort by utilizing the full potential of NetWork Kansas loans and programs. By capturing the imagination, innovation, and potential of the entrepreneurially minded residents of all ages across Montgomery County, Jim has helped infuse more than $1,221,656 in gap financing into his community with 40 successful loans.”

For more than a decade, Correll has been connected with NetWork Kansas and E-Community programming since the 2010s starting with laying the groundwork for two rival communities to work through, what he calls an “unhealthy rivalry”, to become a united E-Community. The Montgomery E-Community has representation from leaders in Independence and Coffeyville, Kansas, bringing entrepreneurship programming and loan funding to the area.

“When you’re playing marbles against the rest of the world, it’s not productive for two of the players to try to take each other out,” Correll said about the shift in mindset that he has witnessed. “There’s more and more people who don’t even know why the rivalry came about.”

Correll also points to NetWork Kansas’ Ice House program as another promoter of the mindset shift by helping people to think more entrepreneurially.

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Accepting his role at Independence Community College was another way to help mitigate the rivalry. The college, Correll said, was also looking for a “misfit like me to launch the Successful Entrepreneur Program in 2006.”

Not one to settle in places too long, Correll’s professional journey led through a stint as a photography small business owner, a position working in glass manufacturing, did a bid with a technology company that became a casualty of the .com bubble and worked at an Amazon fulfillment center.

“All those experiences have set me up perfectly to run the Fab Lab,” said Correll, who joined ICC in 2006. “I never saw myself doing the same thing for a whole career.”

Fab Lab ICC is one of roughly 2,500 Massachusetts Institute of Technology-chartered Fab Labs in more than 27 countries and the first within a Kansas Community College, the program reports. The program offers activities, classes and seminars to help inspire creativity and innovation. It serves thousands of people annually.

For residents such as Heather Morgan, the Fab Lab is a place where “people can come and imagine, envision and then create and not be worried about failing.”

Morgan, who describes Correll as a ball of energy, said the cost structure of Fab Lab ICC is also appealing.

“For a very low cost, you can have access to tools that would cost thousands of dollars that you may not be able to have in your home” she said. “Not only do you have access to the tools, but you have a community of people who are looking to help you succeed.”

That community of people includes Joanne Smith, owner of Fab Creative Services and Southeast Kansas Living Magazine. She also serves as director of Fab Lab ICC’s STEM program for middle school girls. Smith said she originally sought out Correll, who she knew to be a business coach, after her 22-year role in marketing with a local hospital ended due to the hospital closing. Correll offered Smith an opportunity to perform freelance marketing work for Fab Lab, which grew into Smith developing her own customer base, as well as overseeing several grant programs operated by Fab Lab ICC including a STEM camp for middle school girls that is funded by Verizon. In 2016, she acquired Southeast Kansas Living Magazine using a NetWork Kansas E-Community loan.

“He has been an invaluable resource to me — both him and the Fab Lab,” Smith said of Correll. “The possibilities are limitless. You are only limited by your imagination, and Jim is an amazing resource in himself. He's there to really encourage people. He's generous in that way in that he wants everyone to succeed so he really works to help you succeed.”

For Correll, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with people and helping people to do better,” he said.

Registration is now open for the Fall 2021 Maker Space Boot Camp at Independence College. This 2.5-day training, which happens September 14-16, 2021, is for communities that want to learn how to create an entrepreneurial mindset and makerspace. Early bird registration ends August 15th. For details and to register, visit: https://www.fablabicc.org/event-4205540. For more information about Fab Lab ICC, please visit: https://www.fablabicc.org/.