With a $75,000 contribution from Fidelity Bank in hand, the leadership of Wichita’s e2e Accelerator/Incubator said Thursday that it’s time for the concept to blast off.
Accelerator CEO John Dascher and director Jacob Wayman told a room of about 100 Wichita entrepreneurs and business leaders that the idea – designed to give a small group of business owners the skills and contacts needed to take their companies to the next level – is ready to begin in the form of a three-month, mentor-based program.
The Accelerator will accept applications for companies to be a part of the first cohort until June 21, Wayman said. The first class of up to six companies will be selected in early July with the program scheduled to run from mid-July until Oct. 5.
The announcement of the grant and the start of the program occurred Thursday over lunch at the Kansas Leadership Center.
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“We’re going live now,” Dascher told his audience. “Thanks to Fidelity Bank’s investment contribution, we’re no longer in the strategic planning phase, we’re strategic doing. We’re activating you, and it’s time to execute.”
Dascher said Thursday’s presentation served as the start of a campaign in which he hopes to recruit mentors, participant companies and contributors to the cause. The mentor program will focus on concepts like customer development, branding, product development and sales and marketing.
“We have a responsibility to invest in our community,” said Aaron Bastian, president of Fidelity Bank, which is based in Wichita. “Especially when that investment is fueling the long-term economic growth of Wichita.
“For business leaders grappling with how to help build a better future for Wichita, e2e is the answer. We hope others step up in a meaningful way.”
Bastian, who attended Thursday’s talk, said he was pleased to see what he considered to be a high turnout.
“It’s exciting,” Bastian said. “If there would have been 10 people here, it might have been worrisome, but there is a lot of interest.”
Fidelity’s contribution is being made through its fund established with the Wichita Community Foundation. The Accelerator itself arose from the Greater Wichita Partnership’s entrepreneurship task force earlier this year.
Since taking his position with the Accelerator in May, Wayman said he has researched several other incubator programs that have had success in other U.S. cities.
“What I found was they were all community-driven and mentorship-driven,” Wayman said.
“We want to build a mentor network. We want people to know that they can make a huge impact on the future of Wichita entrepreneurship by acting as a mentor.”
Wayman said he and Dascher are looking for mentors in different phases of their careers.
“An entrepreneur knows where they want to be – it’s one of those gut things,” said Jeff Jones, founder of Tru-Building, a Wichita construction firm. “There’s a gap from where you are right now to where you want to be. That’s where mentors can be very powerful.”
For more information on how to apply for this summer’s program or on how to become a mentor, visit e2ewichita.com. The “e2e” in the organization’s name stands for “entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur.”