Douglas County Entrepreneur Support Network
Over the course of the global COVID-19 pandemic, communities across the country and the
world are testing their resilience to economic disruptions. The implications of this crisis are far-reaching and may not be fully realized in the foreseeable future. Historically, a vast majority of entrepreneurial startups were launched by choice, not by necessity (88% in KS in 2019). However, the current situation of so many American workers may swing that pendulum. As a community, we can work proactively to ensure that we have systems in place to help people explore the monetization of innovative solutions to problems, be they at the individual or community level or more global.
Douglas County is home to a broad assortment of agencies, organizations and individuals who are dedicated to growing the local and regional economy. Some of these efforts are generally geared toward economic development of all kinds, while many others are targeted at specific industries or subsets of industries. The collective resource that this presents is sufficient to prevent a budding entrepreneur from electing to pursue an enterprise destined to fail or an established business to expand into a marketplace not yet ready for its product. Unfortunately, these lost efforts are a reality – even in an ecosystem rich in resource providers. Another glaring reality is the disproportionate rates at which minority- and women-owned businesses are funded and successfully launched.
Recently, K-State Research and Extension hosted the Douglas County Entrepreneur Support Network Summit to explore the possibility of creating a platform from which these resource providers could amplify their message to the public, create awareness of their strengths and connect with other resource providers to enhance client referrals. At the Summit, participants identified that such a collaboration would only strengthen our community’s ability to nurture successful businesses – and was an effort well-worth their time away from their own work.
One notable attribute of the partners who have gathered to see this work through is that they quickly realized that neither they nor their organizations hold all of the answers for all entrepreneurs. This has allowed for an easy understanding of the necessity of a Network – specifically, a Network oriented toward learning from one another. This has become a foundational motivation of the group from which it will launch its activities.
Now relatively small, the Network plans to establish a structure along with a mission and begin work on some early projects. Once these pieces are put into place, the group looks forward to engaging a broader group of support providers who are interested in this work. We recognize that there are many voices to be heard - some who have been scarcely sought out or listened to in the past – and we are prepared to make space for all of them.
If you or someone you know would like to help us ensure that Douglas County, Kansas has a thriving and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem, please reach out to me at email@example.com.