LaunchKC Announces New Social Venture Studio to Support Socially Minded Entrepreneurs

In LaunchKC by EDCKC Staff

At this week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, LaunchKC, an initiative of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri (EDCKC) and the Downtown Council (DTC) announced its latest program for entrepreneurs called the Social Venture Studio.

The first of its kind in Kansas City, the Social Venture Studio will support entrepreneurs that seek to provide both return on investment and social impact together sustainably.

While initially focused on finding applicants in the Kansas City region for the first year, the studio will expand the search for entrepreneur participation nationwide. Reconciliation Services, which owns a prominent KC social venture in Thelma’s Kitchen, will closely advise as a social venture industry expert and, as with all other LaunchKC efforts, Keystone Innovation District will administer programming. The Social Venture Studio was made possible due to the generosity of the Sunderland Foundation.

“Kansas City is a city with a heart, and also a city with strong entrepreneurial minds. The Social Venture Studio demonstrates this, and allows us to show that we can tackle many societal issues with creative and sustainable business models that also drive job creation and investment for KC,” said Jim Erickson, on behalf of EDCKC and LaunchKC.

Applications for the studio will be accepted starting in December and a cohort of five to seven companies will be announced in March. In April, the companies will kick off a six-month studio program receiving professional support, grant awards, mentoring and network connections to strengthen their social venture business concepts. A culmination event in the fall will be a chance for the companies to reveal their pitches to potential funders and supporters.

“We live in a complex world facing social challenges that require more innovative and sustainable solutions than traditional for-profit and nonprofit models can deliver,” said Father Justin Mathews, Steering Committee Co-Chair and Founder of Reconciliation Services. “Social venturing offers us the opportunity to harness the best entrepreneurship and philanthropy to create more sustainable and impactful social good in our region.”

A Steering Committee for the first annual Social Venture Studio has been established to help guide programming and support with industry-specific expertise.

• Co-Chair – Drew Eanes, The Hadley Project; JE Dunn
• Co-Chair – Fr. Justin Matthews, Reconciliation Services
• Jim Erickson, On behalf of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City and LaunchKC
• John Tyler, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Kauffman Foundation
• Rita Cortes, Executive Director, Menorah Heritage Foundation; KCPS School Board
• Thomas Sunderland, Vice Chair of the Sunderland Foundation & Hadley Project
• Dan Smith, Co-Founder, Porter House KC
• Davin Gordon, Program Officer, Hall Family Foundation
• Theresa Garza, Manager of Economic Development for Missouri West, Spire Energy
• Kevin McGinnis, President & CEO, Keystone Community Corporation
• Anja Winnika, CMO & Co-Founder, Maroo

LaunchKC continues to see momentum, wrapping up its seventh year, having invested $3.5 million in cash grants to 86 companies, as well as continuing to strengthen its mentorship ecosystem. 49% of LaunchKC participant companies are minority or woman-owned businesses and $236 million in follow on funding has gone to support these companies – investments that would not be in our community but for LaunchKC.

Past LaunchKC programming includes: the Launch Health accelerator with Nueterra Capital (fall of 2019). Black & Veatch’s IgniteX COVID-19 Response Accelerator (spring 2020), and CleanTech accelerator (2019). Additional LaunchKC programming is planned for the first half of 2022.