A The new Kansas City-based social enterprise studio should help social entrepreneurs avoid a lack of grants – and rely too heavily on financial donations – instead of models focused on innovative measures towards sustainability, said Father Justin Mathews .
“I was very excited to be doing social activities – this idea of being able to harness the best of entrepreneurship with the best of philanthropy; to be able, as a community, to create opportunities to solve social, environmental, racial and economic problems – and to do so in a sustainable way, ”said Mathews, Founder and Executive Director of Reconciliation Services, as well as co-chair of the committee director of the new Social Venture Studio, powered by LaunchKC.
“It’s about creating an economic engine that also creates social good, where we can deliver a return on investment while providing a social return on investment,” he continued. “And Kansas City, I believe, is at the forefront of this movement.”
Applications for the six-month program opened in December and selections are expected to be announced in March, with a cohort of five to seven companies unveiled in April, organizers said on Friday in a launch announcement as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City (GEW KC). Participants are ready to receive guidance, mentorship, funding, and network connections to strengthen their concepts and plans.
“While we initially focus on finding people in the Kansas City area in the first year, we hope the studio will expand the search for participating contractors nationwide,” said Mathews. “And we want to bring them here to Kansas City. We want to build the ecosystem of social enterprise in Kansas City.
Watch LaunchKC’s Social Venture Studio how-to video below, then keep reading.
Reconciliation Services, which operates a leading social enterprise in Kansas City – Thelma’s Kitchen – will advise closely as an expert in the social enterprise industry and, as with all of LaunchKC’s other efforts, Keystone Innovation District will administer the programming. The Social Venture Studio was made possible with funding from the Sunderland Foundation.
The structure of the studio gives the effort the potential to offer greater opportunity for growth over time, said Kevin McGinnis, president and CEO of Keystone Community Corporation.
“Why not call it an accelerator?” Why not call it an incubator? ” he said. “A studio gives us the flexibility to not just focus on acceleration, but to focus on the right structure and have the flexibility to provide the right support. “
Support from the Sunderland Foundation gives the studio a runway of at least three years, added Jim Malle, program director for LaunchKC, noting the studio’s expectation of validation by the end of this period.
“At this point, we’ll prove that we can deliver and run the program – and also show that there is a need in Kansas City for it,” he said. “We see this as a long-term program that will be implemented in Kansas City and the Keystone Innovation District.”
LaunchKC has gone from a grant competition to a technology accelerator and a studio platform, organizers detailed. It continues its momentum, concluding its seventh year, having invested $ 3.5 million in cash grants in 86 companies, while continuing to strengthen its mentoring ecosystem.
Forty-nine percent of the companies participating in LaunchKC are minority-owned or female-owned companies, and $ 236 million in follow-up funding has gone to support these companies, reports LaunchKC.
“Over the years, LaunchKC has been very effective in creating programs to support specific industries, be it insurance technology, healthcare technology or clean technology,” said Jim Erickson. , head of economic development and government affairs at the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City. , which operates LaunchKC alongside the Downtown Council.
“And what we’ve basically done over the last year is ask ourselves a question, ‘Could we answer now? Could we do something nationally unique and deliver a program that not only supports the entrepreneurs who are the job creators and economic engines of tomorrow, but does so in a way that finds social enterprises? , who have a mission? “”
“We’re talking a lot about innovation,” McGinnis added. “I think a lot of people confuse invention with innovation. And for us, the opportunity to achieve innovation in this space is extremely important.
“Innovation at its core is to use existing tools, existing practices and reuse them in new ways to solve new problems,” he continued. “Being able to use the resources that we have for traditional, venture-funded, technology-based entrepreneurs and reuse them in this space is extremely exciting for us. “