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Director’s Dialogue: Three Visits, One Lesson

By Corey Mohn | June 27, 2014

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Spring has been a busy season for me and the work we are doing in Statewide Programs for NetWork Kansas. Three particularly big events occurred in the span of six weeks. Although these events were spread across the country, ranging from Washington D.C. to Kansas to Nashville, TN, they were united by a common theme.

1.) National SSBCI Conference, U.S. Treasury (Washington D.C.), April 30 - May 2
I wrote about this event in a previous blog post, so I won't rehash everything, but this event brought together representatives from just about every U.S. state and territory to share best practices and success stories as they relate to supporting small businesses with debt and equity financing. Over the course of three days, I had the privilege to interact with numerous stakeholders from across the country, all with interesting stories and challenges. We all learned from each other (and many of you know that does not always happen at a conference).  

2.) U.S. Treasury visit to Kansas (Wichita, Topeka, and Olathe, KS), May 19 - 20
Normally program managers do not get excited about visitors from Washington D.C., but in this case we were thrilled to welcome the Director of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), Cliff Kellogg, and Regional Manager for SSBCI, David Rixter, to Kansas. The purpose of their visit was to see first-hand the unique model and partner network that has assisted Kansas in deploying funding in a relatively painless fashion to entrepreneurs. Roundtable discussions in Wichita, Topeka, and Olathe focused on the variety of resource partners and how they interact and collaborate to assist entrepreneurs. The Olathe event also included pitch-style presentations from four clients funded through the Kansas Capital Multiplier Venture Fund. An additional stop in Wichita featured Multiplier Loan client JCB Laboratories.  

Cliff Kellogg praised Kansas as "a success story" and described Kansas as "one of the most active and successful at leveraging partners and private capital."

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3.) Visits with entrepreneur-support organizations in Tennessee (Nashville, TN), June 9-11
As a direct result of building a working relationship with a program manager in Tennessee at Event 1, a working relationship formed to share approaches on deploying venture capital funds. Lamont Price, Director of TNInvestco, invited me out to visit in person about these strategies, meet local support partners, and attend startup competition Southland. I met some solid people working to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Nashville Entrepreneur Center is a recently-renovated collaborative space that supports entrepreneurs through education, coaching and connections to capital. Launch TN is a nonprofit that manages nine state-sponsored incubators and issues equity investments in growth companies.  TNInvestco manages a large equity fund that invests in private angel groups that will keep their funds in the state of Tennessee. The Southland event was the big show in town, attracting 750 people from across the country and featuring Silicon Valley celebrities and regional startup companies.  

So what is the common theme? The power of connectivity. In Kansas, we are blessed to have an organized network of partners that provide us the channel to deliver assets. In return, these partners deliver us clients and support services. Connections made outside of Kansas are yielding dividends because we are open to sharing our story and learning what others have done to be successful. When we listen and engage, we win.