A small group of leaders who work daily with area entrepreneurs is creating a formal group aimed at providing new entrepreneurs resources to grow their business and to give them a voice when it comes to public policy.
Entrepreneurship Wichita is spearheaded by Trish Brasted, CEO of Wichita Technology Corp., a public-private agency that assists high-tech startups. The group held its first meeting Monday night, and Brasted said 62 people, many of them entrepreneurs, attended.
Entrepreneurship Wichita, she hopes, will bring experienced entrepreneurs together as well as resources such as WTC and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Wichita State University.
“If we create the support system, the network, … nice things will happen for our community,” said Tim Pett, director of the WSU entrepreneurship center.
Long term, Brasted said, the goal is for the group to be run by entrepreneurs, to assist new entrepreneurs with education, networking and access to investors who might provide funding for their ventures. As important, she said, is that the group grow in scope and influence to where it has the ability to be a part of public discussion about economic development strategies for the area.
“Our focus is how do we support our entrepreneurial growth companies, create an environment that starts and grows these businesses,” Brasted said.
Joni Cobb, president of the Pipeline entrepreneurship grooming and networking program based in Kansas City, Kan., said such a group is needed in Wichita because it’s one of the few large cities in the region — Des Moines, Omaha and Kansas City — that doesn’t have a local organization comprising established entrepreneurs supporting early-stage entrepreneurs.
“I believe that by binding together it creates a bigger buzz of what’s going on in Wichita,” said Cobb, who attended Monday’s meeting. “You have to show up on the radar.”
She said Entrepreneurship Wichita will also help Pipeline identify and recruit candidates for its yearlong fellowship program.
“It’s creating a robust partnership to support and generate entrepreneurs in the early stages,” Cobb said.
Gary Mason, CEO of iSi Environmental and an alumnus of the Pipeline fellowship, sees the group establishing a “local ecosystem” of support for entrepreneurs while also raising awareness of local entrepreneurs and their activities.
“I don’t know that we’ve done as good a job connecting with everyone in the community,” Mason said. “I think this is kind of that missing piece to get the community gelled around entrepreneurship.”
Brasted said the next step for the fledgling group is to conduct a survey of area entrepreneurs to determine what their challenges are, what they need, and why they chose to launch their startups in the area. That information will help shape the group and its objectives in the coming month, she said.
For more information on Entrepreneurship Wichita, contact Wichita Technology Corp. at 316-651-5900.