We all know that startups, entrepreneurs, and small business owners have passion, an idea, and an incredible commitment to turn that idea into a reality. What they do not have is a lot of free time to find all the answers they need when it comes to starting, running, or building their business.
This month I attended a small business expo in Kansas City and took in a breakout session, “Access to Capital: A Banker’s Perspective.” Two bankers, one from a top six national bank, the other from a community bank, shared tips for small business owners. The Big Six banker started talking about the many Kansas City resources available to small business owners and recalled sitting in on a presentation about KCSourceLink, a web-based tool for small businesses. He was writing as fast as he could, trying to take down the resource partners being mentioned, when he realized he didn’t need to do that. He just needed to know how to reach KCSouceLink. He knew he could send his small business clients their way because KCSourceLink is connected with all the local resources a small business would need. Piece of cake!
So, just who are KCSourceLink’s 175+ partner resource organizations? Well, KCSourceLink partners with angel groups like Women’s Capital Connection and incubators like the Enterprise Center of Johnson County. Other resources include more than a dozen economic development groups like Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation and a slew of business planning and training partners such as FastTrac national headquarters. Other partners offer expertise in procurement; research; assistance with taxes, permits, and regulations; networking and mentoring; technology assistance centers; and disaster planning and mitigation.
The online network tool was initially founded and fine-tuned in the greater Kansas City area via a partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the SBA, and the UMKC Henry Bloch School of Business and Public Administration. KCSourceLink is now flourishing as the Kansas City region’s premier resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs, linking startups, emerging and established businesses with non-profit organizations with the right service, at the right time.
But you don’t have to move to Kansas City to benefit from this streamlined collaborative tool; this online clearinghouse of resource partners has been replicated across the country via USSourceLink. Just this month, with newly inked agreements with the Greater Des Moines Partnership and State of Iowa Economic Development Authority, USSourceLink has now spread its wings to 20 networks in 17 states.
And it’s not just individual businesses that benefit. A former Kansas City Chamber of Commerce person provided a great example of KCSourceLink’s unique value to the community as a whole. Kansas City’s sole micro loan program shut down a few years ago, leaving a void in the region. Potential partners were identified using the networks created via KCSourceLink. As a result, St. Louis–based Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation made their first westward expansion to the Kansas City region this spring. They have partnered with the Women’s Employment Network and the Women’s Business Center, and in just a few months, this micro lending collaboration has provided approximately $85,000 in loans to 15 small companies.
If you are fortunate enough to be located in a region currently being served, enter the USSourceLink door at www.ussourcelink.com. If you are a business looking for answers, click on your region and use the Resource Navigator button to locate the resources that are right for you. If you’re a nonprofit or other agency, you can enrich the experience for others by adding your organization as a resource provider.
If your region isn’t currently part of the USSourceLink system, ask your region’s economic development folks to look into joining his vibrant, collaborative system which helps communities strengthen their economic development initiatives. For information call 866.870.6500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
USSourceLink provides small business owners with easy access to the help they need, when they need it, at no cost to the business.
—Becky Greenwald, Region VII Advocate