Over the pandemic, I opened…and later subsequently closed, a business with some friends. It was a social media app. We had little capital and no physical office. Doing the paperwork to open our business was relatively easy after we actually found it online. There was no clear guide on “file this paper, send this in the mail, pay this check.” I was able to figure it out since we were a small operation, but I can imagine that burden keeping a company from growing as regulatory complexity increases with revenue, employees, etc.
The thing that brought down our company was the inability to find a computer programmer. We just didn’t know where to look outside of school settings – and even at that, we were unfamiliar with how to properly interview them, how payroll should be set up, how to set long-term business goals, etc. Sure, we gave it a try, but it would have helped to have someone there to ask for guidance and a nudge in the right direction.
In hindsight, we were probably a little green to start what we’d envisioned. But, at our core, we were no different than many people with an idea and even the smallest entrepreneurial spark. The question then becomes what, if anything, should the government do to foster more ideas to come into business fruition.
It’s important to compile and share information about what resources governments provide while at the same time understanding that it’s better to have a strong network of independent businesses instead of an economy held together by government intervention. What exists below is not an endorsement of any specific program, but a look at some of the largest programs around the state of Kansas as an initial step to fostering economic dynamism and entrepreneurship.
This website is an inter-agency collaboration between almost every department of the Kansas state government related to business activities. The Business One-Stop contains links to almost all of the paperwork and formalities that businesses need to file at the state level
For a business startup, the website is relatively linear in its format: it’s organized by where to start with imagining a business, then initial paperwork, then other basic requirements for annual operation. If, for instance, I were to expand my company with more capital or additional employees beyond a certain threshold, I wouldn’t immediately know what new paperwork I would need to file. That’s why more network-based nonprofits and organizations help fill the gaps on what to do.
NetWork Kansas is a statewide nonprofit based around bringing entrepreneurs, existing business leaders, mentors, and investors together to grow small businesses. NetWork’s advantage is they operate as a common space for businesses interested in outreach, and help match entrepreneurs to people who can assist them in the community. The organization also puts a strong emphasis on outreach to businesses started by marginalized groups, including a Minority and Women Business Multiplier loan on top of their other startup loan opportunities. Entrepreneurs can take classes and easily find mentors.
There are 12 Small Business Development Center’s around Kansas that function as part of the U.S. Small Business Administration and Kansas Department of Commerce. The SBDC can offer services to Kansas businesses with less than 500 employees – which encompasses 99% of all Kansas businesses. The SBDC offers advice ranging from online help to more formal professionals who help with things such as business registration, creating business plans, understanding basics such as financial projections, and more. The core of SBDC is offering advising services, but the organization has connections and help on where to find funding opportunities as well as things like cybersecurity.
The source link is a hub for business around the Kansas City area. It advertises itself not just as a place where new businesses can find help with starting up, funding, and managing their companies, but also as a place where potential investors and rapidly growing companies can find area business partners. The organization offers a more localized and personal element by focusing on local loan providers and angel investors for businesses in the region.
Similar to KC Source Link, WIBA is centered around connecting local businesses to local investment and opportunities – this time in the Wichita area. The WIBA works with Wichita schools on programs such as STEM learning and hands-on experience programs to help students anticipate industry needs post-graduation. Some of WIBA’s opportunities include sponsorships and frequent social events to meet local business leaders, guides to entrepreneurship in the Wichita area, and other connections.
NXTUS is a Wichita-based organization focused on connecting investment opportunities to business in the area of Southern Kansas. Some of their most prominent programs include frequent start-up competitions, NXTCONNECT educational videos for business owners, and a wide network of venture capital in the area. NXTUS has much potential for innovative businesses trying to offer a new service – specifically, their competitions have good visibility and can give valuable feedback as needed to new inventions.
From the grassroots level, part of business growth is a function of how easy it is to literally start let alone maintain a business. This means that the Kansas government should remove barriers to entry and help businesses understand things like paperwork or regulations so they can get up and running more quickly. The way forward isn’t with taxpayer subsidies like STAR Bonds, which act more like a handout with little return to the state beyond what would normally happen economically.