Celebrating 20 Years

Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely business.  It is often the solopreneur, sitting alone in his/her “garage,” trying to cull together their startup idea.  To abate such loneliness, these pioneers of business must surround themselves with a strong network comprised of mentors, advisers, customers, friends, family, other entrepreneurs… whoever it is who can help to provide support, championship, encouragement and a dose of reality every now and then.

Research has shown that the most successful entrepreneurs are those who establish very strong peer-to-peer networks.  The relationships established through these networks particularly help in terms of growing businesses, gaining access to resources and information, and learning from the experiences (e.g. mistakes, challenges, wins) of other entrepreneurs.

For me, this intersection of networking with entrepreneurship is where my passion resides!  It is why I feel so privileged to serve as president of Kauffman FastTrac.  For those who are less familiar with the organization, perhaps a bit of background…

On a bitterly cold day in January 1993, Ewing Marion Kauffman, the founder and benefactor of the Kauffman Foundation (the foundation of entrepreneurship) scheduled the launch of a new program for entrepreneurs called FastTrac®. Ewing Kauffman, or “Mr. K” as he was affectionately known, was legendary in Kansas City because his company, Marion Merrell Dow, provided more than 3,000 high-paying jobs, he was the owner of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, and through his foundation, he helped families in disadvantaged areas get an education – even paying for college for many.

On that same morning, however, nature decided to dump on Kansas City one of the worst snowstorms in its history. Kauffman’s staff debated whether to cancel the event, since people were being asked to stay off the roads, and Kauffman was extremely ill. However, he wanted to hold the event just in case even one person went to the trouble to get there. Turns out, for many, it was no trouble at all!  In fact, 900 people showed up. Yes, some came because it was sponsored by the beloved Mr. K; but most came because they hungered to learn how to start and grow businesses. They wanted to invest in themselves even if that meant braving the storm.

Now, 20 years later, Kauffman FastTrac has touched the lives of more than 350,000 entrepreneurs around the world – helping them to start and grow companies, helping them to establish the peer-to-peer networks so critical for entrepreneurial success.

As a FastTrac graduate myself, I can tell you that it provided me with the tools, frameworks, resources and information that I needed to get my business up and running.  Indeed, it helped me to establish a far reaching network that continues to provide me with the support and championship I need to operate my own business ventures.  What an honor to be part of this global entrepreneurial wave!

This morning in conjunction with Global Entrepreneurship Week, to launch a year-long celebration of our 20th year, Kauffman FastTrac hosted a networking event held at The Roasterie Café Bean Hangar (owned by my friend and mentor, Danny O’Neill, one of the first ever FastTrac graduates).  We were delighted to welcome more than 100 Kansas City-based entrepreneurs, comprised of FastTrac participants and alumni, course instructors, coaches, guest speakers and others interested in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  It was wonderful to connect and reconnect with so many enthusiastic people!

With that, I raise my proverbial cup of coffee to Kauffman FastTrac and to entrepreneurs everywhere.  Thank You to the peer network – Jordan, Kim, Michele and Scott, along with a long list of ad hoc team members – with whom I have the good fortune to work every day as we advance the Kauffman FastTrac mission:  To help entrepreneurs around the world to startup their ideas.  Happy 20th Anniversary, Kauffman FastTrac!

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