An Innovative Incubator

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Bloch Venture Hub provides array of services for start-ups

Kansas City has a new resource for entrepreneurship support services with the opening of the Bloch Venture Hub, a community resource for entrepreneurs at multiple pre-launch stages.

The Bloch Venture Hub is powered by the resources of Country Club Bank and the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Henry W. Bloch School of Management.

The home of the Bloch Venture Hub at 4328 Madison in Kansas City formerly housed Country Club Bank’s commercial and SBA lending division. The facility features a unique three-story layout that provides entrepreneurs with a place to access resources that can help them at whatever development stage they have reached, leading to launching a venture and refining their concept to achieve success and growth. Entrepreneurs at any stage in the start-up process can enter the Bloch Venture Hub incubator at the appropriate level.

At an invitation-only event March 23, UMKC and nearly 60 community officials celebrated the Bloch Venture Hub before the official opening day of March 24. Dignitaries included Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce “Big Five” Champion Matt Condon, Country Club Bank Executive Vice President of Brand Management Mary O’Connor, UM System President Mun Choi, UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton, Bloch School Dean David Donnelly, Regnier Family Foundation’s Bob Regnier and Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation senior program officer in Entrepreneurship Nathan Kurtz.

Back row from left: Matt Condon, Leo E. Morton and Nathan Kurtz. Front row from left: Mun Choi, Jeff Hornsby, Bob Regnier, Mary O’Connor and David Donnelly.

“This is a major step forward in our mission to promote entrepreneurship in Kansas City,” said Jeff Hornsby,Ph.D., director of the Regnier Institute and chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship at the Bloch School. “As Kansas City’s university, we have always been dedicated to supporting venture creation in our community, but now we have a central location for people to easily access our knowledge and resources.”

Mary O’Connor, Country Club Bank Executive Vice President of Brand Management

O’Connor also expressed her excitement on behalf of Country Club Bank. “We are delighted to join forces with UMKC Bloch School in providing the best of class in resources for the pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence. It is our privilege as a privately and locally owned bank to continue that legacy in encouraging and developing the financial well-being of Kansas City’s next generation of business leaders.”

She shared the story of her father, Byron Thompson, an entrepreneur who began his journey with Country Club Bank in 1985 and remained committed to supporting, furthering and encouraging Kansas City’s entrepreneurs throughout his life. She said he looked to the mentorship of others by asking, “What can you tell me to make me better?” A quote by her father adorns the space: “Plan your work. Work your plan.” She hopes that quote drives the ventures within the building.

Condon, CEO of Bardavon Health Innovations, represented the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce as champion of the Big 5 effort to make this city America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.

“It takes a village of incredible thought leaders to build a facility like this,” Condon said. “Events like this are critical to getting us to the Big 5 challenge.”

On behalf of the Kauffman Foundation, Kurtz added his congratulations.

“It’s an honor to join all of you today to celebrate a facility that is going to open doors for entrepreneurs in Kansas City – current and future,” Kurtz said. “The Bloch Venture Hub is a welcome asset to our local ecosystem that will help entrepreneurs thrive by connecting, colliding and collaborating. That’s what the Kauffman Foundation is all about.”

Kurtz mentioned the newly-launched “Zero Barriers to Startup.” Zero Barriers is a national movement that starts in Kansas City with supporters like the Regnier Institute, KC SourceLink, UMKC School of Law, Greater Kansas City Chamber, Country Club Bank and others who are opening pathways to success.

As Chancellor of UMKC, Morton elaborated on the university’s goal to be a community resource and partner for businesses.

“We help to create opportunity, provide support for entrepreneurship and innovation, and make higher education accessible to all people,” Morton said. “The Bloch School, in particular, makes a wide variety of expertise and services available to fledgling entrepreneurs in our community through a variety of programs outside of our traditional degree programs. And that’s really what this facility is all about.”

Dean Donnelly expressed his desire to connect academics, the community and businesses.

“Around the Bloch school, we say the word venture a lot,” Donnelly said. “Much like the man for whom we’re named, Henry W. Bloch, the Bloch School has a strategic focus on two pillars of excellence: entrepreneurship and innovation in the for-profit sector; and social entrepreneurship and innovation in the public, healthcare and nonprofit sectors.”

Donnelly said the Bloch Venture Hub will be a continuation of the Entrepreneurship Scholars program, an intensive non-credit training and mentoring program open to both UMKC students and members of the community. Graduates of the program can come to the Bloch Venture Hub and use it as a base to launch their ventures.

Catina Taylor, Founder of Dreams KC, is an E-Scholar alumna and represented the group of entrepreneurs who will be running their businesses at the Bloch Venture Hub. Her start-up, Dreams KC, is a new elementary school that will be piloted in Kansas City beginning April 10. It is a whole-child model that will begin with kindergarten, and grow one grade level each year until the students reach high school. It focuses on developing the civic, personal, professional and entrepreneurial competencies of children through Project Based Learning, adaptive technologies, gender based classrooms, open/flexible learning spaces, authentic parent engagement and wrap-around services for the entire family.

“This incubator meets my needs by allowing me space to meet with potential funders, board members, my instructional team and strategically plan how we will transform the lives of a generation of children,” Taylor said. “The mentorship program has been particularly helpful. If I succeed, I want to pay it forward by returning someday as a mentor to help guide the next generation of Kansas City ventures.”

Level 1 at the Bloch Venture Hub is home to EntreLab, a new initiative designed to provide mentoring, advice and access to resources to would-be entrepreneurs in the initial idea phase. It provides a physical meeting space for entrepreneurs to meet with mentors, attend educational programming facilitated by the Bloch School, access the startup resources of other UMKC programs such as KCSourceLink and the UMKC Entrepreneurial Legal Services Clinic, and engage informally with peers and industry experts. EntreLab, which is funded by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, will have space for 15 to 30 participants at a time.

Level 2 at the Bloch Venture Hub is a start-up incubator that will serve as a first home for launch-stage ventures. The space will hold approximately seven to ten such start-ups and provide them with access to many of the same services, including the 160 industry experts on the roster of the Regnier Institute mentorship program. Level 2 will also encourage the “collision factor” of a co-working space, promoting idea-sharing, problem solving and synergy among the participants.

Level 3 houses a scale-up incubator for ventures that are gaining traction and require more space to grow. Scale-up ventures avoid the risk of traditional, long-term leases and have access to services, programming and mentors who can provide industry-specific advice tailored to the growth phase.

“What sets the Bloch Venture Hub apart from other incubators is the easy and immediate access to such a wide array of supports and services,” Hornsby said. “Our goal is to remove as many barriers as we possibly can to entrepreneurial activity in this community.”

Learn more about the Bloch Venture Hub by visiting the website.

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