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Banking on KC – Kevin Fryer and Keri Lauderdale Olson

 

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. With us on this episode is Kevin Fryer, the Executive Director of KC Velocity, and Keri Lauderdale Olson, the KC Velocity Board Chair. Welcome to both of you.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Hi Kelly. Thanks for having us.

Kevin Fryer:

Thank you.

Kelly Scanlon:

KC Velocity is a rather new nonprofit in Kansas City, and you're dedicated to entrepreneurship quite simply. I mean connecting entrepreneurs with each other, with opportunities, with experts, with knowledge, anything that can help them grow, essentially any of those kinds of resources. Kevin, that's a big broad-level view of it. I'm sure you can drill down on it and explain how KC Velocity is specifically connecting the entrepreneurial community.

Kevin Fryer:

Yeah. Again, thank you for having us. But the way we're trying to go at this is connect, collaborate, and grow. It truly is, Kelly, all about education and resources for entrepreneurs. And it's more of just in time resources versus your traditional accelerators that do cohorts and things like that. So what we plan on doing is having professional experts in every category that an entrepreneur could have a question around, and we'll get those experts from our corporate sponsors. If you think about a corporation in Kansas City, they all have legal, accounting, HR, marketing, SEO, tax people, all those resources within their company.

Kevin Fryer:

If they sponsor KC Velocity, their employees can get involved and answer questions directly from the entrepreneurs as they go to our website, fill out the form, and request our services. Then on the other side that we also will have an educational piece to this, which will have online videos around every subject you can think of, it'll have training courses available online, et cetera. Those will be available almost nationwide. And a lot of that educational material will again come from our corporate sponsors, because as you know, Kelly, corporations make videos about themselves and their subject matters all the time. We plan on reutilizing those, edit them down, and make those available as well.

Kelly Scanlon:

So if I'm considering launching a marketing campaign and I need a little bit of assistance with that, I could go out to your website and I could either reach out directly to one of the experts that you have available in your database, or I can go online, again, to your website and view a video that is already uploaded there. Correct?

Kevin Fryer:

We're not going to disclose who our experts are, so you'll just fill out a questionnaire and a subject matter category. And then on the other side of that, we have a matching program that will take your request and match you with one of our subject matter experts who will then reach out back to the entrepreneur and help them any way they can.

Kelly Scanlon:

Keri, I said that KC Velocity is newly launched, but it might be more accurate to say that it's relaunched because it does have a history. As a board member who's been with the organization for quite some time, can you walk us through that reimagining of the organization and the need for your current expansion?

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Absolutely. People might have heard of Lee's Summit Velocity, which is how we started back in 2018. Velocity Lee's Summit was built or created to foster and grow entrepreneurship in Lee's Summit with a collaborative environment. We were funded by the City of Lee's Summit for our first few years. And with COVID and everything else that was going on within the city, the city was no longer able to fund the organization. As a nonprofit, we are a 501(c)(3), the board looked at that as an opportunity to really expand beyond Lee's Summit into all of Kansas City. So strategically we made the decision to rebrand to KC Velocity in October of 2021.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

We developed a new mission, and vision, and values. Our new mission is to create and develop an interactive community of entrepreneurs throughout the Kansas City metro by connecting them with the direct access to resources, professional expertise, and educational programs that they need to succeed. Our board is really excited about this expansion. We have strategic partners. Kevin is the first executive director that we have as an organization. So it's been a very fast change, if you will, in terms of an organization rebranding and recreating our vision and our purpose, but it really is just an expansion on how we started out.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Velocity was started by entrepreneurs because we saw a need for just a place to go to connect with other entrepreneurs who truly got it. You know, when you're an entrepreneur, it's really hard for others to understand the challenges you face if they're not entrepreneurs themselves. So having a community where they could go to events and connect with other entrepreneurs and then being able to provide resources, and with the expansion into the entire KC metro we are partnering with other entrepreneurial support networks throughout Kansas City and really broadening our reach. So we're super excited about it.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

But some of the things that Velocity Lee's Summit was known for we are going to keep like the Pitch Pub Crawl and our events that were really, really a lot of fun and gave these entrepreneurs a chance to network. But then adding things like the Velocity Professional Advisor Program that Kevin talked about, as well as this educational platform that we're actually growing from something that we started. Everything that we're doing is something that we're doing that can be scaled to other cities. Everything from the way we named, we changed the name to KC Velocity, to the things that we're putting into place, we're making everything scalable with procedures, and processes, and things that can be scaled if this is successful, to launch to other cities.

Kelly Scanlon:

Is the community membership-based or can anybody if they see an event posted on a calendar, or if they get wind of your website, can anybody just go out there and access your resources, or do you have to be a member?

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

There really isn't a membership fee or a membership requirement. They do have to register through the website because we want to be able to track how many entrepreneurs we're serving. Right? We need to be able to report on that because as we are getting funding, our sponsors and potential funders want to know how many people we're able to help. But it doesn't require a membership per se. You can go to one event, you can go to multiple events. Basically signing up on our website just gives you an opportunity to be included, and be in the know, and get notifications of our events and things that are going on.

Kelly Scanlon:

What stage of entrepreneur is your primary target?

Kevin Fryer:

We're actually co-partnering with a lot of the other entrepreneurial organizations around Kansas City like The Porter House KC, Kansas City G.I.F.T., The Toolbox over in Kansas City, Kansas. What that means when I say partner is, we promote each other, so KC Velocity will be a resource for the Porter House KC cohorts that go through there, for the Kansas City G.I.F.T. recipients that get it. So we want to be as diverse in the entrepreneurship community as we can be, and that means women, people of color. We want to be inclusive of everyone, and that's really important to us as we go about building this thing out.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

And to add on to that Kelly, it is all stages of entrepreneurship. Because what we found is, mentorship programs are great, but they require a time commitment from both the entrepreneur and from the mentors that aren't always as useful as they could be because not everybody needs the same information at the same time. So you may be an early-stage entrepreneur looking for resources when you're starting out, or you may be an entrepreneur that's growing, and maybe you need to know how to franchise your concept. So the idea of having that Velocity Professional Advisor Program means that we can give you the right resources regardless of what stage you're at, and connect you with somebody who can help you and be a resource for you.

Kelly Scanlon:

Both of you are entrepreneurs in your own right in addition to the work that you do with KC Velocity, what is KC Velocity offering right now that you wish you had been able to tap into as early-stage entrepreneurs?

Kevin Fryer:

Well, for me, it'd be like almost every category. I think back when I was doing some early-stage startups, and if I would've had access to SEO marketing people, or legal people around when to incorporate, banking people around how do you even set up a bank account? What do you need in order to go to a bank and open a business account? It's just all the little things that if I'd have had immediate access to that, it would've cut the time to launch significantly down.

Kelly Scanlon:

You said you were a serial entrepreneur. What kind of businesses were you involved with?

Kevin Fryer:

I've done everything from Fortune 500 mergers and acquisitions to running the internet division, to doing financial startups where we had a patent around comparing mutual funds to each other to tell you the percentage of overlap between the two funds so you'd know whether you were diversified, all the way to financial modeling tools. And I did launch SparkLabKC, which was another business accelerator. That was about nine years ago. We ran 30 startups through there, nine of which are still going. It's been a fun ride, and I'm excited about KC Velocity and what it can do for the entrepreneurship community.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

For me, I think the key is just having access to that community. I think when you start out as an entrepreneur it can be very overwhelming. There are a lot of resources out there, especially in Kansas City, but knowing where to tap into, and knowing the right place to tap into and how, can be intimidating. So I think for me Velocity is really powerful because it offers this open door and this welcoming space where you can come in and you can connect at one of our events and you feel like you found your tribe.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

You're going to talk to other people who know what you're going through and can say, "Hey. We need to connect you to this person." Or, "We have these resources available, and you need this. Let's connect you to our partner over here that might be able to help you with that." So it's really taking that intimidation and maybe some of the guesswork out of how to get engaged with some of the resources in Kansas City.

Kelly Scanlon:

You know, I think you hit on a really good point there. I worked for many, many years in the entrepreneurial community, and one of the things that I guess I never got used to hearing was from people who did not recognize the abundance of resources that we do have for entrepreneurs here. I would sometimes just want to beat my head against the wall and think, "What have I done wrong to not get the word out enough about all of the resources out here that these poor people are trying to slug this out on their own every day?" So how do you plan to get the word out about KC Velocity and everything that you offer? What are you going to do to promote yourself?

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

The hope is that one of the things that Velocity was known for in Lee's Summit was our events. Our events were fun. They were engaging. People learned a lot. So we are going back to our basics and going back to events where people can connect. But the difference is, our sponsors are going to be hosting those events onsite and they're going to be able to spread that reach around Kansas City, share expertise. But there's also going to be a fun networking component to every one of our events because that's what we heard entrepreneurs loved.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

We're also going back to having one or two entrepreneurs pitch at every one of our events. That gives some visibility and some practice as people are wanting to fine tune their pitches, but it also gives us an opportunity to build up to our signature event, which is the Pitch Pub Crawl, which will be this fall, where nine entrepreneurs pitch off against each other in different pubs and the entire bar moves from bar, to bar, to bar, and it's a live Shark Tank. We think that's going to really increase that visibility, but also contribute to that community of entrepreneurs that will grow across the city.

Kelly Scanlon:

You mentioned the Pitch Pub Crawl, but then you have some new ones. What are some of your other new ones?

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

The events that are going to be sponsor-led will be new, and they will be completely new, but they'll follow the same format each time so people know what to expect. Meaning, they will have an educational component, something that's relevant to entrepreneurs that they need to know about that's timely, and then a networking piece, and then the pitching piece. We have the Pitch Pub Crawl, which will be in the fall. Then we also are going to be doing a roundtable expo event. It'll probably be late summer, early fall, where we will have some of Velocity professional advisors located at a table in a very, very large space that each one will be talking about a specific topic.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Entrepreneurs can come, they can sit at the roundtable, they can get a tidbit of advice, and then a bell rings after 20 minutes, and then they move to another table and learn another topic. So it's almost like this rotating fast-paced environment where entrepreneurs can actually get snippets of knowledge that are relevant to them in a very fast-paced environment but meeting one-on-one with those professional advisors. It's going to be a very fun event. We're super excited about it, and in the process of getting that all planned out and finalized now.

Kelly Scanlon:

In addition to getting the snippets, as you called them, the snippets right there at the event, they have the beginnings of a new relationship with those experts. So they can meet them for coffee or they can connect with them later and take a deeper dive into some of the categories.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Yeah exactly, Kelly. They're going to be able to make those connections, not only with the Velocity professional advisors, but also with all the other entrepreneurs at the event. It also gives an opportunity for those Velocity professional advisors to showcase their expertise. A lot of times we have a lot of experts in categories that may not get that direct connection with entrepreneurs, so this is going to give them an opportunity to connect directly with all of these entrepreneurs at the event.

Kelly Scanlon:

Absolutely. Now, how would anyone who's listening today get involved? Is it as simple as going to the website and signing up so that you get notices?

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Yeah. Currently, our website has a place where you can go and you can sign up, and it will ask you a few questions, whether you want to be a professional advisor, or whether you're an entrepreneur. Then that will allow us to be able to send you notices and be the first to know when we have events coming up what's going on. Kevin mentioned early on that we have three basic platforms. There's Connect, which is really our events and connecting people into these interactive community things that they can join into. Collaborate is all about working with these Velocity professional advisors, and the sponsors, and really kind of working with other people to collaborate on your business. Then Grow is our educational piece, and so that's where you can have access to the quick expert tips.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

We have a whole section on book reviews written by entrepreneurs. These are the books that you need to read, because every entrepreneur has some books that really helped them in their path. And it's great to read from other entrepreneurs, "These are the books that you should be reading right now." To a toolbox, to videos. We're very, very fortunate that one of our board members is Dr. Donna Duffey. She led the entrepreneurship program at JCCC for many years, and she's a very, very active part of our board, and she's in charge of this whole Grow section. But she brings a great depth of experience and knowledge to putting together curriculum and helping us format that into a way that will be useful for entrepreneurs

Kelly Scanlon:

Your website, where they can go and sign up, and see all of these resources, and get notices is ...

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

KCvelocity.org. We're also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and Instagram as well. So they can follow us on social media, get connected with us on the website, which is the fastest way to be notified when we start launching our events, which should happen in the next few weeks, and just join our community. Come be a part of it.

Kelly Scanlon:

So multiple ways to engage. Kevin, Keri, thank you so much for what you are doing for Kansas City's entrepreneurial community. They really are the backbone of Kansas City, and we appreciate all of the work that you're doing to ensure that they do grow and contribute to the community.

Keri Lauderdale Olson:

Thank you, Kelly, for the opportunity.

Kevin Fryer:

Thanks for having us. It's fun to share the enthusiasm, the excitement, that Keri and I have. You know, it is a giveback. And it is important that entrepreneurs have access to the knowledge base because that's how they learn and grow as well, and that's good for everybody.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Kevin Fryer and Keri Lauderdale Olson for being our guests on this episode of Banking on KC. Launching and growing a business isn't for the faint of heart. Challenges will arise just when you think you've got everything working together. Competitors give you a run for your money, equipment breaks down, employees leave, and the marketplace constantly changes.

Joe Close:

Fortunately, Kansas City's home to business resource organizations like KC Velocity that help entrepreneurs build a foundation for success. As a family-owned bank, Country Club Bank understands the daily challenges, hopes, and dreams of entrepreneurs. Our goal is to be your partner during each phase of your business. Give us a call so we can schedule a meeting to discuss your goals and work with you to achieve them. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

 

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