Our Conferences & Events

See a recap of past events

Quarterly affiliate conversations

Quarterly Conversations, an exclusive benefit for affiliate members, take place in March, June, September and December. Each quarter, the agenda includes topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network builders and is an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another.

For more information, contact Pola Firestone at 844-804-8775.

SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation

Thursday, March 17, 12:00pm to 1:00pm CT. (10am PT; 1pm ET)

St. Patrick’s Day – Wear green!☘

Grab a cup of coffee (with a dash of Bailey’s). Pull up a chair and login. We’re going to talk all things SourceLink!

Our agenda that includes:

* Exciting updates to SourceLink℠ Pro, SiteConnex℠ (website) and The Resource Navigator℠
* Fab features such as Open Surveys, Web Forms and the SourceLink WordPress plugin
* Creative websites, custom Resource Navigator views (SourceLink Nebraska) and innovative dropdown menus (The GRID) used by our rock star affiliates that will knock your socks off! 

Would you like to share or learn more about a feature, function, process in SourceLink Pro, SiteConnex or The Resource Navigator? Let us know! 

About SourceLink Quarterly Conversations
Quarterly Conversations, an exclusive benefit for affiliate members, take place in March, June, September and December. Each quarter, the agenda includes topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network builders and is an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another.

For more information, contact Pola Firestone at 844-804-8775. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:30pm CT

Our agenda is packed with exciting activities! 

First, we will introduce our newest affiliates: University of Puerto Rico, SourceLink Nebraska, BizLink Orange, West Virginia BusinessLink and Washington State Microenterprise Association

Then, we will break out into small groups to reflect on this past year and discuss:

  • What have you learned about your network and community during the pandemic?
  • What looks like the new normal for your team and network?
  • What does moving forward look like? 

And finally, we will put our ideas into motion with a Mini Shark Tank! Each small group will create a service or product idea that can benefit a network or community. Winners will be judged on presentation, marketability, and originality. It’ll be short, but loads of fun and who knows, maybe these ideas can be realized in the coming year. 

About SourceLink Quarterly Conversations

Quarterly Conversations, an exclusive benefit for affiliate members, take place in March, June, September and December. Each quarter, the agenda includes topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network builders and is an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another.

For more information, contact Pola Firestone at 844-804-8775.

Thursday, September 23, 2021, 12;00pm to 1:00pmCT

Learn about funding opportunities from the EDA! Plus, two affiliates will present their powerful reporting and impact projects. We have lots of exciting news to share!

  • EDA Funding Opportunities– Mark Werthmann, Economic Development Representative for Nebraska, Kansas and western Missouri
  • Sparkyard Whitepaper and Jobs Website– Marco Johnson and Cameron Cushman
  • Colmena66 Impact Reports– Jahannie Torres, Innovation & Data Scientist

About SourceLink Quarterly Conversations

Quarterly Conversations, an exclusive benefit for affiliate members, take place in March, June, September and December. Each quarter, the agenda includes topics, speakers and discussions suggested by our community of network builders and is an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another.


For more information, contact Pola Firestone at 844-804-8775.

Thurs, March 11, 2021, 12:00 pm to 1:00pm CT

You shared your goals for 2021 at our December Quarterly Conversation, “Good-bye 2020: Hello to New Beginnings.”

On Thursday, March 11, Noon to 1pm CT, you can take action! Join our next SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation when we will break out into groups to discuss your top priorities and create strategies to help you achieve your goals.

Topics include:

  • Engaging with your Resource Partners
  • Working with private sector businesses
  • Outreach to your target markets
  • COVID recovery planning
  • Incorporating diversity and inclusion in all activities
  • Growing your SourceLink organization – the evolving roles of your team members

SourceLink Affiliates can outline their 2021 goals on a Make a Plan worksheet emailed to each individual prior to the meeting and then discuss their plans and create an action plan during the meeting.

From Massachusetts to California, COVID outbreak to the election, our SourceLink network has been busy – and challenged more than ever this year. In November alone, SourceLink welcomed the launch (or in some cases the relaunch) of ten affiliate platforms.

Join us for this celebration of entrepreneurship community building and hear where your peers are headed. It’s also a time for SourceLink to give an update on what to expect from us in 2021 and let’s take time to learn about one another’s goals and how we might champion one another’s efforts in 2021.

Don’t miss out on this fun and engaging Quarterly Conversation, as we say goodbye to 2020 and hello to new beginnings!

Wednesday, December 2, Noon to 1:30pm CT.

Agenda:

INTRODUCE NEW SOURCELINK AFFILIATES with a little music! New affiliates, please select your ‘walk-up’ music that best describes your year and then share what you have accomplished.

  • Blueprint Easthampton
  • Launch Network LA
  • New Bedford SourceLink
  • Nexus
  • NWI BizHub
  • SEEN Startups
  • Start in Wisconsin
  • Starting Block Chattanooga
  • The GRID

INTRODUCE CURRENT SOURCELINK AFFILIATES: Please select your ‘walk up’ music, too. Then share the accomplishment that you are most proud of from this year.

BREAKOUT GROUP DISCUSSION:

  • What are the biggest challenges for your entrepreneurs and for you and your organization?
  • What are your dreams? In a perfect world, what would be the one thing you would do to help your entrepreneurs or your ecosystem?
  • What are the 1 or 2 goals you have for your ecosystem in 2021?

SOURCELINK PLANS FOR 2021

Now more than ever inclusive entrepreneurship support is needed. As community leaders, economic developers and ecosystem builders, our role must go beyond championing entrepreneurs of color and seek to move our communities to racial wealth equity. 

Please join us for our next SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation, Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Building: Moving into Action, on Wednesday, August 5, 11:30am – 12:30pm CT.

We welcome special guests, Stephanie DeVane, Vice President, Entrepreneurship & Business Development, National Urban League, Dell Gines, senior community development advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Rodney Sampson, chief executive officer of Opportunity Hub, to share their insights. Dr. Lomax Campbell, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building in Rochester, NY, will moderate this important discussion.

This conversation is meant to be a starting point and will introduce a framework for how we might think about inclusive community development that incorporates cultural understanding, talent development, and new venture creation.

Additionally, this session will cover two impressive best practice programs excelling in this important effort. The National Urban League, and their network of Entrepreneurship Centers have been at the forefront of this work for well over fifteen years, and Opportunity Hub (OHub), a platform focused on creating racial equity in the tech, startup and venture capital community.

If you were unable to attend, please watch the video

For more information, please contact: Pola Firestone, pfirestone@joinsourcelink.com

Speaker Biographies

Stephanie DeVane Since March 2015, Ms. DeVane has served as a management executive for National Urban League small business and entrepreneurship programs nationally. The role involves management, oversight, and advocacy on behalf of 13 Entrepreneurship Centers located in critical affiliate locations. Her division serves as the primary vehicle for the granting of funds, training, and technical assistance provided to these Centers. Ms. DeVane holds an MBA in finance from the Atlanta University Graduate School of Business Administration and a BA in Economics from Tufts University.

Dell Gines is a senior community development advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where he is responsible for Community Development’s small business and economic development work. While at the KC Fed, Gines has written three guides and an e-book on entrepreneurship-led economic development and led conferences and summits on the subject. Gines is frequently recruited to speak nationally on topics of inclusive entrepreneurship-led economic development and forward-thinking ecosystem building.

Rodney Sampson, a tech entrepreneur, author and angel investor, is executive chairman and chief executive officer of Opportunity Hub, a leading inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem-building platform. Sampson also is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of entrepreneurship at Morehouse College. Sampson also co-authored with Dell Gines, Building Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in Communities of Color.

Dr. Lomax R. Campbell – Moderator, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building in Rochester, NY, is tasked with serving a diverse residential and small business clientele to foster equitable economic growth and create opportunities that make Rochester’s economic recovery more inclusive. Lomax has 17 years of experience in small business entrepreneurship, higher education, and government administration. His expertise encompasses management, organizational culture change, ethnic psychology, urban entrepreneurship, and inclusive workforce and economic development. 

Quarterly Conversation, Thursday, December 12, 12:00pm – 1:00pm CT


SourceLink will be migrating all of our websites to WordPress as our content management framework. This change will mean a whole host of new functionality and enhancements.

We believe Word Press will allow all our affiliates access to increased design capability and ease of use.

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, December 12, 12:00pm to 1:00pm CT, our next Quarterly Conversation is an information webinar to cover more of this update.

Please register by contacting Pola Firestone, pfirestone@joinsourcelink.com.

About SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversations
SourceLink’s Quarterly Conversations are an exclusive benefit for SourceLink affiliate members. Each quarter, the agenda will include topics, speakers and discussions suggested by SourceLink communities to share best practices and collaborate with each other. Questions? Contact Pola Firestone, pfirestone@joinsourcelink.com

Our next Quarterly Conversation will focus on attracting new clients to your website and hotline using a Personal Action Plan, a convenient online tool that connects business owners and prospective entrepreneurs to network resources.

Join Rob and Pola as we demonstrate how to create a Personal Action Plan and discuss the benefits of expanding your markets and managing requests for assistance!

SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation, Wednesday, September 25,

12:00pm Noon – 1:00pm CT

A Personal Action Plan includes:

  1. An introduction to your organization’s network navigator staff members
  2. Customized referrals to three or four organizations based on geography and by type of assistance requested
  3.  A personal connection to your Network Navigators and staff for continued follow-up and communication

Just some of the benefits of adding a Personal Action Plan to your website:

  1.  Reach new markets and increase requests for assistance by promoting your Personal Action Plan on your website and in social media
  2. Automatically add new client data to your SourceLink database since submissions are sent as a Pending Task
  3. Capture client interactions and referrals while sending emails (Email to Interaction)
  4. Use surveys to capture additional information such as overall satisfaction and referral ratings
  5. Use reports to track increases in hotline calls, emails and number of searches

Implementing the personal action plan on the KCSourceLink site has allowed us to reach a new market. We are able to connect with entrepreneurs as they are just entering the ecosystem and looking for resources. This first step is critical in forming relationships and showcasing the power of the KCSourceLink network!
-Jenny Miller
KCSourceLink
See KCSourceLink’s Personal Action Plan 

The Personal Action Plan web form was the perfect tool to help us optimize and manage our leads! After publishing the Resource Railway and hosting the Boricua Entrepreneur Fest, we just kept getting more leads! We designed our personalized action plan using KCSourceLink’s model and in 4 weeks, reduced our response time from 25 days to 24 hours!
-Denisse Rodríguez Colón
Colmena66
See Colmena66’s Personal Action Plan

See the full help doc for more information!

About SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversations

SourceLink’s Quarterly Conversations are an exclusive benefit for SourceLink affiliate members. Each quarter, the agenda will include topics, speakers and discussions suggested by SourceLink communities to share best practices and collaborate with each other. Questions? Contact Pola Firestone, pfirestone@joinsourcelink.com

If you missed attending CALEDInBIA and Kauffman ESHIP Summit, we have you covered! 

Join our next SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation, Wednesday, June 26, Noon-1pm CT.

Dara, Rob and SourceLink affiliates will share highlights and the latest trends discussed at each conference including: 

  • inclusion and diversity in entrepreneurship
  • using data analytics to measure effectiveness of your ecosystem activities
  • corporate engagement in Eship support
  • Kauffman ESHIP Summit goals and objectives to accelerate ecosystem building
  • food and ag entrepreneurship and more!

Plus, Denisse Rodriguez and Cristina Salazar will share how Colmena66 attracted over 1000 entrepreneurs to their first Boricua Entrepreneur Fest (sold out!) and how it helped strengthen their mission of inclusion, access and ecosystem building. 

Quarterly Conversations are an exclusive benefit for Sourcelink affiliate members!

Recent conferences include: 

  • CALED– California Association for Local Economic Development – Annual Training Conference, March 27-29 
  • InBIA – International Business Innovation Association – International Conference on Business Incubation, April 13-17
  • Kauffman ESHIP Summit– May 21-23 


About SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversations
SourceLink’s Quarterly Conversations are an exclusive benefit for SourceLink affiliate members. Each quarter, the agenda will include topics, speakers and discussions suggested by SourceLink communities to share best practices and collaborate with each other. Questions? Contact Pola Firestone, pfirestone@joinsourcelink.com.

Foundations can be powerful allies and financial supporters of your community’s entrepreneurial initiatives. According to research from the International Economic Development Council, more than a third of organizations in the economic development industry receive financial or in-kind support from a foundation.

SourceLink is pleased to announce our nextQuarterly Conversation, Working with Foundations to Capitalize Entrepreneurial Strategies, Thursday, March 14, 12:00pm Noon-1:00pm CT.

We welcome Frank Spillers, co-owner Global Horizons LLC, who will guide our conversation with a panel of experts to help you learn more about how foundations help build sustainable entrepreneur-focused economic development in our communities.

Joining our panel are:

Pam Bishop, whose work at the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, focuses on economic development in Minnesota’s south central 20-county region, including Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) communities and Grow North.

Lauren Pradhan, founder of Grow North MN, a resource and connection hub for Minnesota’s food and agriculture entrepreneur and innovation ecosystem. Pam and Lauren will share their experience in working with each other.

Chris Harris manages the Market Gaps grants at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation funding entrepreneurship support organizations looking to expand successful programs to reach more entrepreneurs. Chris can share how the Foundation evaluates grant applications and what future trends may be in store.

Pam Lewis is director of the New Economy Initiative, which is one of the country’s largest philanthropic partnerships and is managed by the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. Pam focuses her attention on building an inclusive network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses to diversify and strength the regional economy of southeast Michigan. Over the last 10 years, NEI has awarded more than $110 in grants to area organizations that support innovation and entrepreneurship in the southeast Michigan region.

Learn more about:

  1. The mission, programs and impact of each foundation
  2. Types of funding resources foundations offer
  3. Metrics that win investments
  4. Insider information … tips for building relationships with foundations
  5. Trends/ challenges in grant making community we should know about

Please join our Quarterly Conversation, an exclusive benefit for Sourcelink affiliate members!

About guest speakers:

Pamela K. Bishop is the vice president of economic development at the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) a donor-supported foundation, investing for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $111 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 32 years. SMIF’s key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. 

Lauren Mehler Pradhan is the Founding Director and General Manager of Grow North MN, a program of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship (HCE) at the Carlson School, University of Minnesota. Grow North is making Minnesota a key leader and destination for food and agriculture innovation and entrepreneurship by connecting and advancing this entrepreneur ecosystem. 

Christopher Harris
 is a senior program officer in Entrepreneurship for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he manages the Market Gaps grants, which seeks to expand the most effective and scalable entrepreneurial support models across the United States. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation, created by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, and is the world’s leading foundation for entrepreneurs. 

Pamela D. Lewis is the director of the New Economy Initiative (NEI), Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, one of the country’s largest regional economic development initiatives led by philanthropy. Funded by 13 national and regional foundations, NEI makes grants to support and convene organizations that serve metro Detroit entrepreneurs and small businesses, from neighborhood-based businesses to high tech and high growth enterprises. 

Moderator: Frank Spillers, co-owner, Global Horizons LLC
Frank Spillers is a coach, teacher, trainer, author, and speaker on building and sustaining civility through a process called “Relationship Economic Development.” He has spent his career as a business owner and economic developer at the local, state, and federal levels creating growth environments, specializing in rural America. 

With 30 years of experience, Frank’s passionate specialty is developing leadership skills and behavioral changes for successful individual, business, community, school, and worship center growth. His energy and enthusiasm have fired up audiences around the country, having been referred to as the “Zig Ziglar” of rural community development. Frank and co-owner and wife, Kim, home office from Atlantic, Iowa.

About SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversations

SourceLink’s Quarterly Conversation conference calls take place in September, December, March and June. Each quarter, the agenda will include topics, speakers and discussions suggested by SourceLink communities so we can share best practices and collaborate with each other. Questions? Contact Pola Firestone, pfirestone@joinsourcelink.com.

How can your community create opportunities for aspiring business owners, regardless of background, ambitions, or location? Investing in an equitable entrepreneurship ecosystem goes beyond job creation. Entrepreneurship offers individuals and families the ability to achieve economic independence and lift the community around them.

Last spring, our 2018 Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit focused on creating economic growth through entrepreneurship in urban and rural communities. On Dec. 6, we will continue the conversation with three SourceLink network builders who will share programs and strategies for empowering women and minority entrepreneurs.

Please join us for our next Quarterly Conversation, an exclusive benefit for Sourcelink affiliate members!

Thursday, December 6, 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. Central Time

 Featured Speakers:

Caron Washington
Director, Entrepreneurship and Business Development, National Urban League, New York, New York
Caron Washington oversees the National Urban League’s 12 affiliate Signature Entrepreneurship Center Programs that provide leadership and skill training to minority entrepreneurs to start or grow businesses, win contracts and create jobs and wealth in their communities.

Vanessa Roanhorse
CEO, Roanhorse Consulting, Albuquerque, NM
Vanessa Roanhorse is a fierce advocate for Native-American women entrepreneurs and business leaders. Two-and-a-half years ago, she launched Roanhorse Consulting, LLC, to encourage economic empowerment from within Native America. Vanessa is a co-founder of Native Women Lead, an organization creating an inclusive pathway for native women entrepreneurs. 

Michael Carmona

Director, Community and Business Development Hispanic Economic Development Corp., Kansas City, MO
Michael Carmona oversees HEDC’s Business Development Program and oversees projects including the Westside Equitable Neighborhood Development Initiative, to identify and develop community building resources and creating a Community Improvement District along Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City. 

Join our SourceLink Affiliate Quarterly Conversation as we welcome Mark Werthmann, U.S. Economic Development Administration Representative, who will share funding opportunities for your network including:

  • Public Works (construction)
  • Planning and Technical Assistance
  • Economic Adjustment
  • Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS)
  • University Centers

Learn insider best practices on how to construct a successful application with tips on what you should do (and not do!). Mark will share several examples of winning grant applications and those that were rejected.

Wednesday, September 12, 12:00 Noon-1:00pm Central Time

Mark Werthmann

For more than ten years, Mark has been a tremendously valuable resource to communities, helping them to understand how to access and apply for resources from the EDA to accelerate economic development efforts. He comes from the economic development industry and understands the opportunity and challenges many of us face- having held positions with state and local government and non-profit development sectors. He earned his Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is certified as an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP).

About the EDA

As the only federal government agency focused exclusively on economic development, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) provides financial assistance to communities and organizations so they can encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Conferences & summits

GROWING ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITIES SUMMIT

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

April 25 and April 26, 2018

The Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit was a practitioner-focused summit designed to help economic development and small business practitioners effectively create economic growth through entrepreneurship in local communities. The 2018 Summit, subtitled Entrepreneurship on the Edges, focused on providing information and practitioner insight in how to effectively develop disadvantaged urban and rural communities using entrepreneurship-led development strategies.

This summit was held in April 25 and 26 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in partnership with NetWork Kansas, SourceLink, The Edward Lowe Foundation and the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship. More than 200 from across the country attendee. The first national summit was held in 2016 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Presentations:

Interested in learning more? Reach out to Dara Macan and tell us what you are excited about in your community; we’d love to learn from your expertise and feature you as one of our forward-thinking leaders in our emerging industry.

Short on time? Sign up for our e-newsletter. We promise to share innovative best practices from our front-line troops engaged in pioneering entrepreneurial infrastructure development with actionable insights.

Looking for a really great read? Go Beyond Collisions and grab your free chapter on measurement or read our full playbook on how leaders like you are shaping the future of economic development through entrepreneurship.

SourceLink Convenes: Meeting of the Minds

(November 29th and 30th, 2017)

“We are entering into a new phase of economic transformation in America. One that will require forward-thinking builders who have been in this field for a long time to support our industry in how we both gather and share our collected knowledge to move our field forward and retool existing efforts to build on the infrastructure for who we recognize are the job creators and innovators vital to our local economies- entrepreneurs. Our thought leader gathering was a wonderful opportunity for us to explore this together, and to craft a strategy for how we will certify, research, explore and communicate this emerging opportunity to the economic development establishment to inspire others to follow our bold lead.” – Maria Meyers, SourceLink 

The call is clear: entrepreneurs are the future of economic advancement for communities who are on the “edge”.

Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development Certification

We should consider developing a white paper that lays out the need for this type of certification. The white paper would address audiences (traditional economic developers as well as broader audiences), the role of entrepreneurship in economic development and why someone should care, and how this type of certification could be developed. Special attention would be paid to terminology, particularly the word “ecosystem” and what this term means to different audiences.

Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development Research

One suggestion was to convene a small working group to look at data gaps and define a data strategy. This group could look at what methodologies are being used, what types of metrics seem to work with various communities, and best practices in data collection. There also seemed to be energy around collaborating to find case studies/success stories of how entrepreneurship-led economic development is transforming communities (especially tracking ROI) and then develop those stories into something that could be shared broadly. Other points: a central repository, standard methodologies and metrics.

Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit: Entrepreneurship on the Edges

The group collectively developed an outstanding list of potential speakers and additional topics for breakout sessions for our collaboratively driven Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit 2018. We’ve plugged all the ideas generated into a central database system and the planning committee will begin finalizing the agenda based on that input.

Interested in learning more? Reach out to Dara Macan and tell us what you are excited about in your community; we’d love to learn from your expertise and feature you as one of our forward-thinking leaders in our emerging industry.

Short on time? Sign up for our e-newsletter. We promise to share innovative best practices from our front-line troops engaged in pioneering entrepreneurial infrastructure development with actionable insights.

Looking for a really great read? Go Beyond Collisions and grab your free chapter on measurement or read our full playbook on how leaders like you are shaping the future of economic development through entrepreneurship.

Attendees

Mark Bannister
Dean, Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Fort Hayes State University

Pam Bishop
Vice President of Economic Development, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Patricia (Trish) Brasted 
President and CEO, Wichita Technology Corporation

Peter Creticos
Institute for Work and the Economy

Jeff Finkle
President/CEO, International Economic Development Council

Chris Gibbons
Economic Gardening

Dell Gines
Senior Community Development Advisor – Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Kate Pope Hodel
Special Projects, KCSourceLink

Victor Hwang
Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Kauffman Foundation

Norris Krueger
Founder, Entrepreneurship Northwest

Mark Lange
Executive Director, Business and Entrepreneurship Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison, YourEconomy

Penny Lewandowski
Senior Advisor, External Relations, Edward Lowe Foundation

Don Macke
Co-Founder and Director of Entrepreneurial Communities, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship

Deborah Markley
Co-Founder and Managing Director, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship

Maria Meyers
Vice Provost for Economic Development, University of Missouri – Kansas City, Executive Director UMKC Innovation Center and Founder, SourceLink and KCSourceLink

Mark Muro
Senior Fellow and Policy Director, Brookings Institution

Erik Pages
President, EntreWorks

Angela Pate
Co-founder, Startup Quest

Erik Pedersen
Vice President of Entrepreneurship, NetWork Kansas

Nick Poels
President, western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance (wKREDA)

Matt Raker
Director of Community Investments and Impact, Mountain BizWorks

Steve Radley
President and CEO, NetWork Kansas

Rodney Sampson
Partner, Inclusion + Equity, TechSquare Labs

Evan Schmidt
Director of Strategy and Evaluation, Valley Vision

Bruce Seifer
Adjunct Faculty, Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA at University of Vermont

Scott Sproul
Northwest Economic Innovation Center

Tammie Sweet
Director, GrowFL, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute

Brian Vadakin
Social Enterprise Coordinator, Rural Action

Dennis West
President, Northern Initiatives

Rob Williams
Director, SourceLink

Dan Wyant
President and Chief Operating Officer, Lowe Foundation

Full Bios

Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

May 4 & 5, 2016

Focused on entrepreneurial development, the Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit brings together a variety of best practice programs from all disciplines—economic development, academia, for profit; urban and rural entrepreneurship—in one place.

With practitioner round tables and an EntreCamp (think “unconference”-style, deep-dive breakouts on topics of your choice), the Summit is designed to open discussions and enrich conversations around what it takes to build a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Four plenary sessions will focus on the building blocks of an ecosystem. The interactive breakout sessions will allow speakers and participants to explore design, execution and impact.

Key questions:

  • What does an entrepreneurial ecosystem look like?
  • How do you know if a community is ready to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem?
  • How do you get started building an entrepreneurial ecosystem?
  • How do you measure if it’s working?

Click below to access Summit notes:

  1. What is an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?
  2. Is Your Community Ready to Build an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?
  3. How Do You Get Started Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?


Note: If using a tablet, you may need to download the Google Docs application.

To see pictures from the Summit, please click on the link below and download. By downloading these images, you agree to include proper attribution to the Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit, 2016.

If you have any trouble accessing Google Drive resources above, please e-mail hello@joinsourcelink.com.

This event was a collaboration between the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Edward Lowe Foundation, NetWork Kansas and SourceLink.

Interested in learning more? Reach out to Dara Macan and tell us what you are excited about in your community; we’d love to learn from your expertise and feature you as one of our forward-thinking leaders in our emerging industry.

Short on time? Sign up for our e-newsletter. We promise to share innovative best practices from our front-line troops engaged in pioneering entrepreneurial infrastructure development with actionable insights.

Looking for a really great read? Go Beyond Collisions and grab your free chapter on measurement or read our full playbook on how leaders like you are shaping the future of economic development through entrepreneurship.

SourceLink Convenes: Meeting of the Minds

“Environment matters. Japanese koi grow to 2 feet in a lagoon versus 2 inches in a goldfish bowl.”

—Nido Qubein, president, High Point University

“You can’t achieve outcomes unless you’re willing to change your view of the world.”—Chuck Wolfe

The call for entrepreneurship is clear: entrepreneurs strengthen local economies.

But the action required to spark and support those entrepreneurs is a little mysterious. How can cities and regions best attract, develop and retain entrepreneurs—and how can they create the network of resources necessary to fuel their ideas and scale their companies?

Unfortunately, many cities and regions answer that call with a haphazard string of unconnected and often fruitless initiatives aimed solely at starts rather than economic sustainability. They try, but their efforts rarely delivery the results they wanted or the resources—training, funding, talent, corporate engagement—their entrepreneurs really needed.

Last month, U.S.SourceLink invited 17 of the best and brightest minds in entrepreneurial ecosystems to Kansas City’s Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to start a dialogue about the best practices, tools, programs and actions that will help communities spark ideas, support entrepreneurs and fuel entrepreneurship.

The resulting conversation was dynamic and intense. Here’s just the tip of conversation.

on COMMUNITY READINESS

  • What does an entrepreneurial community look like?
  • How do you know if a community is ready to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem?

To build a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and get results, communities have to be honest about where they are, where they want to go and who will champion their efforts. The first step to readying a community: assess it. What are the assets? What is the vision? And whom will you invite to the table?

ASSESS THE ECOSYSTEM.

What entrepreneurial assets does your ecosystem have? Most of our thought leaders agreed, before you can start to fortify an ecosystem you have to know your strengths and your gaps.

“‘Who are the entrepreneurs?’ That’s often the most difficult question communities have to answer about their own ecosystems. Often, they don’t have a good sense of that. They know their businesses, they know their key industries, but they’ve never really looked at the landscape of innovators, of creators, of the people who are starting companies.” – Deb Markley

SET A CLEAR (AND UNITED) VISION.

Once you know where you are, you can map a vision for where you want to grow—and how to measure it. But that starts with the hard work of getting the community—as a whole—on board with a clear and united vision.

“Coppola said the difference between making a good movie and bad movie is that when you make a good movie everyone is making the same movie. Our work starts at that conversation, at the aspiration. What does the community want to do . . . realizing that the present tools are only going to get us to where we already are.” –Jay Connor

INVEST IN IT.

Communities that are ready to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem are ready and willing to invest in it—to lend the time, talent, money and resources to set the vision, connect the resources and support entrepreneurs.

BE INCLUSIVE.

The usual suspects will deliver the usual results. Expand the conversation to the larger entrepreneurial community. Talk to the organizations entrepreneurs already trust, talk to those who aren’t at “the table.” Talk to entrepreneurs of all types—high growth and Main Street.

“It’s all about working with everybody across the spectrum of entrepreneurship, not just second stage, not just tech. We’re focused on anybody who is motivated to be an entrepreneur and grow a business. It’s a big tent definition of entrepreneurship. We leave too much on the table if we just focus on high end.” –Tom Lyons

“There are unique challenges for entrepreneurs of color. Many programs in existence don’t seem to be culturally sensitive and focused on business support. We need to bring the two together. African American, Latino, Native American, don’t lump them together. Communities need to develop a set of tools and resources to support those specific entrepreneurs. ” – Linda Fowler

“Good ideas don’t care where they come from. How can we help empower people to transform communities and create opportunities?” –Henrik Scheel

ENGAGE CHAMPIONS.

A set of goals or even a plan on paper won’t do much if you haven’t engaged the right people on the ground who can make the connections and realize the vision.

“Finding the people who will execute on the project is important at the city level. Develop an internal tiger team of early adopters in government who are willing to be a little risky. Find them, work with them. [And then] . . . get out of city hall and see what’s happening in the community. . . . Once you get people out of their comfort zones and expose them to people who want to care and want to give back, just create the bridge for them to engage.” –Jeremy Goldberg

“It’s not just about getting the right people on the bus, it’s figuring out how to get the wrong people off the bus.” –Norris Krueger

TALK TO THE ENTREPRENEURS.

Get the full 360 of the issues—what the city wants, what the entrepreneurs need—and use that to define where your ecosystem is and where it needs to go.

“Entrepreneurs look at a community differently than economic developers. It’s almost like you’re not talking about the same city.” – Penny Lewandowski

REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING THIS.

Remembering Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud, “We are grateful live in a place where we can do this kind of work and not feel like our lives are in danger.”—Philip Auerswald

on ECOSYSTEM BUILDING

  • What are answers to the silo mentality that’s found in most every community?
  • How do you help convince traditional economic developers and community leaders that there are new and different ways of looking at growth, i.e. the recruiting versus grow your own strategy?
  • Do you invest in business or entrepreneurs? Do you focus on high-growth entrepreneurs or take a broad approach?

Turf wars and talent wars—so much of communities’ inability to break down the silos to fully collaborate and build an entrepreneurial ecosystem stems from fear of competition: of losing money, businesses, talent and jobs to other organizations or neighboring regions.

But those communities that have built vibrant ecosystems have proven that when you rally around a common goal, when you work from your strengths rather than your fears, you can build something impactful and sustainable.

RALLY AROUND A COMMON GOAL.

Whether it’s a common threat or an opportunity, when entrepreneurs and support organizations, government and corporations, startups and second stage companies rally around a common and united goal, change happens.

“The whole community—not just youth or startup entrepreneurs—needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Engage second stage companies, engage youth, build existing businesses.” —Steve Radley

“When the larger corporate community aligned around entrepreneurship and connected to grassroots entrepreneurship, things began to change.” –Maria Meyers

“In big cities . . . it’s harder to get people who are your champions. People don’t think of it as a big city but as smaller neighborhoods. My goal: start little fires and create a conflagration.” – Tom Lyons

FIND THE GAPS.

When you know the assets of your community—and its gaps and needs—you can pull people out of their silos to build collaborations that fill the void.

“Find the gaps and then build collaboration to build impact. That’s what funders want to fund.”—Maria Meyers

INVEST IN ENTREPRENEURS.

Do you focus on the top performing entrepreneurs and help them accelerate? Or do you try to raise the tide for all boats? That depends on your goal. But all thought leaders agreed, communities need to focus on building their region’s entrepreneurs rather than recruiting them.

Invest in entrepreneurs, not businesses. “We should be measuring the skills and potential of entrepreneurs. I don’t know how to pick winners. It’s a slippery slope when you try to and you don’t have the tools to do it.” –Tom Lyons

When looking at second stage companies, there are two types: internal and external. “Internal market entrepreneurs sell within the region. They bring personality to the region. Think restaurants, boutiques. It’s tough to grow jobs with these companies. External market entrepreneurs are focused on outside markets, and bring new money in to your region. They focus on new markets and new wealth—and that’s the only way to grow a region.” –Penny Lewandowski.

HIT A SHORT-TERM MILESTONE.

Communities get tired quickly. Attach a short-term milestone to your efforts to give communities the quick win that in turn feeds your long-term vision.

“Keep people engaged. Set achievable milestones in short time horizons, so people won’t get tired and lose sight of the big goal.”—Chuck Wolfe

BUT FOCUS ON PATIENT GROWTH.

The thought leaders agreed that communities need to steer away from the quick fix program and focus on layering strategic initiatives that build sustainable growth for their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

“Patient growth isn’t as sexy as cutting the ribbon, but it has much more stickiness. . . . We’re on a mission to make patient and sustainable sexy because that’s how you develop economic stickiness in a community.” –Penny Lewandowski

BUILD (SOCIAL) CAPITAL.

Most thought leaders agreed that investors invest in people—not in businesses. For that reason, in those regions that have vibrant funding mechanisms—Silicon Valley, for example—the concept of failing (and failing fast) doesn’t carry the stigma it would in smaller communities. For regions that can’t feasibly build their own funding continuum, having angel or VC connections outside of their own communities is key to helping their entrepreneurs accelerate.

“If you fail fast, you tried, you made the attempt, you figured it out, and then called it quits [when you recognized it wasn’t working. For many in Silicon Valley] . . . that’s the kind of person I want to hire.”
–Matt Kaufmann

“It’s more important to recognize, ‘Here’s the outcome we didn’t want to go toward.’ In that sense, failure is a success, it’s a decision.” –Nathan Kurtz

on MEASUREMENT

  • Is there any way to get beyond counting jobs as the sole source of measurement?
  • What are communities using as metrics?
  • How do you know when you have succeeded in creating an entrepreneur ecosystem?

What you measure depends on your goals—jobs, funding, retention and growth of talent, new starts, spin offs, sector density, high-growth firms, program connectivity, accessibility of resources, corporate engagement, increase in media stories, etc. To demonstrate impact, it’s important to tie diverse metrics to the end game.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem is an actual living system. “The network map is like capillaries that allows us to chart the flow of nutrients in an ecosystem.” But that entrepreneurial ecosystem “also needs consciousness and life. Something has to come alive.”— Philip Auerswald

BENCHMARK ENTERPRENEURIAL IMPERATIVES.

Maria Meyers of U.S.SourceLink outlined six strategic initiatives for entrepreneurial growth:

  • Increase available capital for startup and growth businesses
  • Engage the broader corporate community
  • Create a strong entrepreneurial pipeline
  • Build entrepreneurial talent
  • Maximize entrepreneurial support resources
  • Tell great stories in the media

MEASURE VIBRANCY.

In Measuring an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Dane Stangler of the Kauffman Foundation proposes four indicators of ecosystem vibrancy:

  • Density
  • Fluidity
  • Connectivity
  • Diversity

The report defines those indicators along with metrics to benchmark them.

MEASURE VITALITY.

Communities tend to focus on jobs and starts, but what are the measures for a thriving company? What are the measures of increased aspiration? Thought leaders also considered how metrics could benchmark market diversification, customer growth, regional exports and entrepreneurial inspiration—measures of effect and quality in addition to effort and quantity.

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