NetWork Kansas: The Power of Opportunity

by: Christina Long and Ted Kriwiel

Opportunities are powerful.Money Bag

They can shift trajectories, outlooks, outcomes and perspectives. Opportunities, when met with preparation lead to success, according to the late Zig Ziegler. Opportunities, according to Emmy-award winning actress Viola Davis, are the “only thing that separates women of color from anyone else …”


Wichita business and community leaders are spending a great deal of time, effort and energy to create opportunities to develop a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem within the city. In doing so, they’ve discovered some trends that are preventing minorities and African-Americans, particularly, from taking full advantage of opportunities to start, sustain and grow businesses in Kansas. That lacking momentum, local economists and regional experts say, have far-reaching implications well beyond the demographic.

According to Dell Gines of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, “the entire GDP of the state grows with more minority business density.” Yet, Gines shared a stark picture of African-American business ownership during the Urban Economic Development Roundtable presented by NetWork Kansas and several partner organizations. According to Gines:

  • Black businesses employ people at a much lower rate than white firms
  • Not only do Black businesses employ people at a much lower rate, when African-American businesses do employ, the salary rates are much lower than other groups
  • Black businesses have $76,000 in average sales per year, which is close to seven times less than the white average
  • Black businesses are also overwhelmingly concentrated in service-providing categories
  • “Yes we’re talking about creating more” businesses, Gines said. “But we have to figure out how to create diversity in all sectors.”
  • That’s the work. That’s where opportunities can be found especially considering the number of local entrepreneurial development efforts happening in the city. To name a few:
  • The existence of the Entrepreneurship Task Force, an outgrowth of the Chamber’s Leadership Council, which meets biweekly to “build on Wichita’s rich entrepreneurial heritage by identifying, engaging, and advocating for entrepreneurial organizations, businesses, and individuals and to leverage public and private resources important to entrepreneurs
  • The Wichita E-Community, which is working on refining its scope to help open more access to loan funds for businesses wanting to establish themselves in distressed areas
  • The Kansas Leadership Center’s Growing Kansas initiative that, among other activities, presented a panel of economists to discuss the economic impact resulting from an increase in minority-owned firms across the state
  • And the Create Campaign Kick-Off event, an effort of the Entrepreneurship Task Force, which attracted a cohort of 77 African-American Wichitans wanting to start, sustain and/or grow their businesses with the assistance of area service providers

These are in addition to the ongoing work that service providers such as the United States Small Business Association, the Kansas Small Business Development Center, SCORE and others provide on a daily basis for entrepreneurs. And while activity is high, the success comes down to making and keeping opportunity accessible.

Christina Long is owner and principal consultant of CML Collective, LLC and Ted Kriwiel is product manager, metropolitan entrepreneurship, at NetWork Kansas. NetWork Kansas is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs. Reposted from