By Steve Radley | July 2, 2014
In the first two parts of my discussion about cultivating entrepreneurial culture (Part 1, Part 2), I focused on elements of an entrepreneurial culture and then highlighted real-life examples of steps communities are taking to increase connectivity to expertise, education, and economic resources.
Now I would like to share a few ideas for the community of Wichita, Kansas.
Suggestions for Wichita: Step 1 – Leadership Teams based upon business type
In our forty-four (44) E-Communities across rural Kansas, there are more than 460 entrepreneurs, bankers, and civic leaders who are members of each community’s leadership team. These leadership teams are tasked with building an entrepreneurial ecosystem by increasing connectivity to expertise, education, and economic resources. Because the communities are smaller, they can work across every business type. In Wichita, one team cannot do it. The job is simply too big. So my first suggestion is to create three community-led teams based upon business type. The E-Leadership teams would be broken down to the following types of businesses 1. Microenterprises and Main street, 2. 2nd stage growth, and 3. Innovation Led.
Suggestions for Wichita: Step 2 – Build Assets, Increase Connectivity, and Try Something Different
The best way to explain how a community does step 2 is to provide examples for each business type. Here are 3 examples off the top of my head. An E-Team focused on these efforts will yield even better ideas.
1. Microenterprises/Mainstreets: Tap existing funding sources, publicize and increase connectivity from businesses to partners, and do something new such as offering Kauffman’s Icehouse Program, a modified Wichita State Growing Business Program, or a city-wide high school business plan competition.
2. 2nd Stage High Growth: NetWork Kansas has approved $24,750 in funds to offer high-end technical assistance through Wichita Technology Corporation and Mid America Technology for up to 7 high growth businesses in Wichita. Identify the businesses and find sources for the matching funds required to implement.
3. Innovation Led: Invest and leverage assets to generate activity. Wichita Technology Corporation is the state leader in connecting high growth businesses to angel capital networks across this region of the country. Look for additional methods to support WTC. Wichita is already trying something new by launching the Unconference, a conference designed to bring entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders together to network and collaborate with the goal of turning ideas into action. Additional opportunities to generate activity would be to launch a broader-based Startup Weekend or One Million Cups, two programs created by Kauffman to encourage a more robust network of potential high growth entrepreneurs.
In conclusion, the great recession has highlighted the need for increased entrepreneurial activity in communities across Kansas and the rest of America. The good news is that there has never been a more robust set of education, expertise, and economic resources available to encourage entrepreneurial activity. But there must be an intentional “new” focus that seeks to leverage these resources and assets to encourage the type of activity that creates an entrepreneurial culture.