As Kansas City businesses work to reopen in a post-pandemic economy, the Regnier Institute has launched a new program designed to support entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The Bloch Entrepreneurship Collaborative is a three phased program aimed at training undergraduate students as business consultants and then pairing them with entrepreneurs with early stage ventures.
The program was championed and funded by Young Sexton, founder of Wingate Travel and the Kansas City Asian Chamber of Commerce, and her family foundation. Young Sexton, her son, Burton Sexton, and his wife, Annie Sexton, have long invested in education initiatives in Kansas City and have a passion for supporting minority owned businesses. “As entrepreneurs themselves they want to give back,” said Alfredo Garcia, Director of Major Gifts for the Bloch School of Management.
The three step program will unfold over one year. Undergraduate students apply for a slot in a 20 person class taught in partnership with the Missouri Small Business Development Council SBDC. The competitively selected students will receive classroom training on business consulting, shadow business coaches from the SBDC, and engage with small business owners directly. At the end of the program the students will earn a certificate in business coaching, in addition to their course credit. The trained students will then move into other entrepreneurial experience courses where they can work directly with clients and be prime candidates for summer internships in entrepreneurial support organizations within the Kansas City ecosystem.
The Bloch Entrepreneurship Collaborative targets ventures that have been in business for over 2 years and have between $50,000 – $150,000 in revenue. The partner ventures are local, often family run, businesses trying to scale up to the next stage of growth. Program Manager Ben Williams explained they are looking for partners “who are different than the traditional venture-backed companies” and pull from “a diverse group, including minorities, women, and veterans.” In addition to their partnership with the student-consultants, the ventures will complete the SBDC’s ten week Growth360 program. The launch of the Bloch Entrepreneurship Collaborative program is timely, as data shows minority and underserved communities have been especially impacted by the coronavirus.
The vision and funds given by the Sexton Family will be boosted by additional support from the Bloch Family Foundation. Alfredo Garcia sees the two gifts combining for a multiplier effect for all involved, “Students get an amazing opportunity to learn in a low risk but high reward environment, the entrepreneurs get excellent students who can help them with very specific problems, and the money can go even further because the Bloch Family Foundation joined the effort.”
“This started from a conversation with the SBDC about how we could be most impactful,” said Williams. “One of the things they said was desperately needed in the Kansas City region is more trained business coaches and more trained people to work with small businesses. Support for small business is even that much more important now because of the pandemic. The SBDC has been inundated with requests for help. So the quicker we can help support ventures, as well as train new business coaches and consultants, the sooner we can get these small businesses back on their feet.”