Best Practices

KCSourceLink: How to Make Micros Mighty

Published Apr 18, 2016
By Jenny Miller

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Some 95,000 Kansas Citians are thinking of starting a business—and most of those businesses, more than 70 percent, will be what we call “microenterprises.”

What is a microenterprise?

A microenterprise, by definition, is a business that requires less than $35,000 in capitalization to start and typically employs fewer than six employees. Think food trucks, marketing consultants, handmade goods, farmers, carpenters, freelance copywriters, in-home daycare, graphic design boutiques, etc.

Often called “lifestyle” businesses, these microenterprises may not have world domination in their strategic plan, but they don’t lack potential and they can’t be considered marginal. In Kansas City, more than 132,000 microenterprises provide economic opportunities and social stability for their business owners.  They are the heart of a region’s economy.

But they have their own unique set of challenges, too. Business regulations, licensing requirements, lack of access to marketing, training and financial resources make it difficult for microenterprises in Kansas City to start and survive.

How can we better serve microenterprises?

Recognizing their economic power and their entrepreneurial struggle, two years ago KCSourceLink Resource Partners gathered to discuss the plight of the microenterprise, identify the resources that are available and develop a plan to help fill gaps for Kansas City’s small business entrepreneurs.

What was working well in 2014?

KCSourceLink Resource Partners discovered that KC microenterprises have rich access to:

  • multilingual services
  • “hyperlocal” resources
  • counseling models that lead clients to appropriate decisions
  • peer support groups

That’s all good news. But Resource Partners who work closely with microenterprises also realized that microenterprise owners have limited access to:

  • understanding the startup process
  • business consultants during non-business hours
  • financing structures
  • financial education and technical assistance
  • connections to student interns and low-cost employees
  • legal assistance

Find the opportunities, fill the gaps.

And so, together, we designed an action plan, formed work groups and began to fill the gaps for microenterprises to increase access to vital services, education, training and capital.

Suggested Action Steps in 2014:

Accomplishments since 2014:

Develop an infographic to illustrate the startup process, help clients understand the steps and learn about the resources available along the way.

 

Developed the Resource Rail, a map of Kansas City’s business-building resources, from inception to exit, for each type of entrepreneur: innovation-led, Main Street, second-stage and, of course, microenterprise.

Encourage organizations to provide evening business consultations.

SCORE, SBTDC, Women’s Business Center and Blue Hills Contractor Incubator are offering evening classes leading to consultations

 

Create, enhance or make visible existing programs that provide startup, cash flow and post loan technical assistance.

Point clients to successful models of loan packages.

Continue to develop and invest in microloan pools for funding for small businesses a the following level: credit building; up to $50,000-250,000 levels

 

Launched the We Create Capital Report in June 2015 detailing community action steps that need to be taken to fill funding gaps.

Create a mechanism to match student internships with microenterprises.

Blue Valley CAPS and Northland CAPS were added to the KCSourceLink Resource Navigator offering student interns and project work for small businesses.

What’s next?

We’ve accomplished a lot of our goals in just two years. But we’re not done yet and as these gaps are filled, businesses change and new challenges are faced. So where do we go from here? KCSourceLink talked with our partners and again, have designed action steps and working groups to best help the entrepreneurs and small business owners across Kansas City. Here are a few of the challenges we will be working to overcome in the upcoming months.

Increase funds for microloans.

Microloans fuel early-stage and Main Street businesses unable to secure funding from traditional lending institutions, helping them fund working capital, inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, machinery or equipment. A collaborative has been formed to cross market loan products, provide monthly financing workshops and potentially raise a future loan fund.

Increase awareness of available resources.

Create a single marketing piece that is targeted specifically for microenterprises to help streamline the startup process and increase awareness of the resources available for each stage of the business. Make this piece readily available for all partners of the resource network to share with entrepreneurs. Incorporate KCSourceLink’s online Resource Navigator as part of the partner’s sites to help increase awareness of the resources available. Utilize social media to help create awareness of the resources.

Create an event that covers any topic areas that a microenterprise may need.

During 1Week KC, KCSourceLink and our Resource Partners are planning a single-day event where microenterprises and other entrepreneurs can gain access to resources, here from keynote speakers, and network with other individuals looking to start or scale their businesses. RSVP for Start+Scale Business Day on May 26 to take advantage of this day.

Find help for your microenterprise

Did you know you can filter our entire website by your type of enterprise? True. Just select your entrepreneurial type using the bar below or head over here to find events, tips, blog posts and inspiration specifically for microenterprises

Content contributed by KCSourceLink, a proud affiliate of SourceLink, R & D for your entrepreneurial community.