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Pipeline gives entrepreneurs resources, network to expand

  • Published Thursday, Sep. 15, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.

Starting and operating a successful and profitable business is tough.

Any entrepreneur will tell you that success requires great people and resources to help work through challenging decisions. Starting a Kansas-based company focused in the bio-medical industry makes the challenges all that much tougher.

For years, Kansas has been considered a "flyover" state, that is, most of the biomedical industry is based on the East and West coasts. However, that reputation is quickly changing for our industry — as well as all entrepreneurial industries — with the Pipeline Entrepreneurial Immersion program.

As a current member of the 2011 Pipeline class, I can truly say that the national network of mentors and contacts is helping JCB Laboratories expand its national reach. Additionally, as other companies are in the middle of hiring freezes or layoffs, JCB is hiring highly qualified and skilled people looking for a long-term career in the medical industry.

My greatest hope is that other entrepreneurs in the area will find the inspiration, guidance and support they need to achieve similar success with their own high-potential ventures. These companies have such an important role to play for the future of this region's economy.

I can think of no better way to make sure those entrepreneurs receive what they need than for this community to come together in support of Pipeline.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has stepped forward with an $800,000 grant for Pipeline's regional expansion, challenging entrepreneurs, civic leaders and others in our community to match that amount with contributions of our own.

Let me tell you a little about why Pipeline was so important for putting my young company on the road to success and how it can be a catalyst for other high-growth ventures in the region.

I am a pharmacist and spent my early career working in a pediatric hospital. I learned a great deal about the clinical aspect of pharmacy, which I still use on a regular basis.

I have always had a desire and urge to start and run something innovative and different. I had the chance to start my own company in 2002, joining a group of very talented and entrepreneurially minded executives. We started JCB Labs and have had great success since the beginning.

But there are always challenges growing to the next level.

When I heard about Pipeline, I jumped at the chance to participate in the yearlong program that has been changing the lives of other regional, high-growth entrepreneurs. Pipeline provides unprecedented resources and a national network of the biggest names in technology and business to help you grow. I was very fortunate to have been selected as one of the Innovators in Pipeline's current class.

The mentors, investors and other business leaders we work with during Pipeline workshops and one-on-one sessions are helping me think about my company in new ways. They challenge me to refine my strategy, focusing on the problems my company can solve and finding the best way to communicate that to customers.

The other aspect of Pipeline that is so amazing is the opportunity it offers to meet fellow entrepreneurs. Better than anyone, they understand the challenges of running a start-up because, just like me, they are living it.

We have come together to support each other, offering encouragement and sharing ideas or helpful insight about our experiences. These connections are strong and will remain intact long after the year we spend together in Pipeline.

My company, JCB Labs, is enjoying tremendous momentum and growth. Pipeline contributed to this success, and I am only halfway through my "immersion" year.

I am so encouraged about the future of Pipeline and, with our community's support, the expansion of that program that will help more entrepreneurs drive our region's innovation economy forward in the years ahead.

Wichita has always mattered to Pipeline. Now let us show Pipeline that they matter to us as well.

Brian Williamson is the founder and CEO of JCB Labs. He is a current 2011 Pipeline Innovator and resident of Wichita.

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