Highlights from #GrowingESHIP: Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit

I checked in with our team this morning, and it was hard to sleep last night. All of our minds were and still are racing with ideas, insights, best practices, challenges and pure inspiration after just the first day of our second Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit. (Follow along at #GrowingESHIP.)

Attendees at Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit

Yesterday, we spent a full day at the Federal Reserve of Kansas City with some of the smartest on-the-ground practitioners of entrepreneurship-led economic development. Summit organizers (the aforementioned Kansas City Fed as well as the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Edward Lowe Foundation, NetWork Kansas and yours truly SourceLink) guided 200+ economic developers and entrepreneurship ecosystem builders through some critical issues and data around how to advance Entrepreneurship on the Edge.

The first day was structured around three core topics: Entrepreneurship on the Edges, the Rural Edge and the Urban Edge. Each topic was opened by a thought leader on the topic and then followed by small group roundtables that allowed for facilitated deep dive discussions.

Penny Lewandowski led the discussion around Entrepreneurship on the Edges and then pulled in Andy Stoll from the Kauffman Foundation and Denisse Rodriguez from Colmena66 for notes from the field. For rural entrepreneurship, attendees heard from Erik Pedersen of NetWork Kansas, Pamela Bishop of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and Brent Comstock of BCom Solutions. And on urban entrepreneurship, Rodney Sampson of Opportunity Hub opened the discussion on how to bring more people from diverse and underrepresented communities to entrepreneurship followed by field notes from Lyneir Richardson of Rutgers University and Henry Rael of McCune Charitable Foundation.

Be on the lookout in the next couple of weeks: we’ll share insights from the deep-dive roundtables (chock full of best practices from ecosystem builders around the country) and deeper coverage of the speakers.

But for now . . . we’ll drop just a few key highlights that kept us thinking and talking and hatching plans for how to build entrepreneurship on the edges. (And check our Twitter Moments for in-the-thick-of-it takeaways from #GrowingESHIP attendees.)

  • Geography does not have the monopoly on great ideas.
  • The communities taking the biggest risks are on the edges of entrepreneurship. They have the most potential and are on the edge of becoming wildly successful.
  • Places, history, culture matters: every community is someone’s hometown.
  • Diversity matters: Economic output of business increases 15%+ if there’s a woman on the team, 30%+ if there’s a person of color on the team. Inclusion is not just a social matter, it’s economics.
  • You can’t understand place, or begin to build an entrepreneurial infrastructure, without understanding history of people there.
  • Loneliness and isolation are two of the biggest barriers to entrepreneurial success. Find, discover, uncover your entrepreneurs and connect them.
  • Networks are replacing hierarchies.
  • Embrace communities of color and create spaces, so people, especially black youth, can tinker and explore without recourse.  
  • Ride the bus to the edge, because you just might find another path or way to get there.
  • Be color brave, not color blind.
  • The Field of Dreams idea of “If you build it, they will come” is false. If they [entrepreneurs] build it, they will come.
  • Prioritize the people who are farthest from wealth and power.
  • Trust your crazy ideas.

And based on that last bullet, our final question to you: What audacious idea will YOU dare us to follow?

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