Top 10 KCSourceLink Kansas City Entrepreneur, Small Business Stories of 2022

There’s nothing like learning from someone who’s been there, done that. The KC entrepreneurs who share their stories help us all dream bigger, anticipate roadblocks and dare to succeed.

In 2022, these tales of business creation and growth were more popular than ever. But behind every entrepreneur’s story is a flock of people, programs and organizations that educate, guide and support. Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is strong.

At KCSourceLink, we’re proud to highlight more than 230 Resource Partners that help fledgling entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners alike. These nonprofit resources can help you start and grow a business. And if you don’t even know what you don’t know, we can help. Our Resource Navigators will work with you to create a free, customized Personal Action Plan of your next steps to help you meet your goals.

To learn more about how our Resource Partners have helped KC entrepreneurs meet their goals, read on! And prepare to be inspired by our 10 most popular entrepreneur stories of the last year.

Dan Schwarzlander and Nick Bennett of VaccineAssist

Nick Bennett and Dan Schwarzlander, VaccineAssist

Nick Bennett says he and business partner Dan Schwarzlander are “happily employed but side-passioned.” They’ve worked in health care for a long time and identified a need — and a huge opportunity — to connect pharmacies and the communities they serve. VaccineAssist is a platform that helps providers share information proactively. Patients feel empowered to make decisions and public health improves in the long run.

Learn how Dan and Nick are moving their startup full-steam ahead while also loving their full-time jobs.

Resources used: Comeback KC Ventures, Digital Sandbox KC, Technology Venture Studio

Dave Alburty and Ann Packingham of InnovaPrep

Dave Alburty, InnovaPrep

Want proof that you can start a business where you want and have it thrive? Look to Dave Alburty. He started InnovaPrep in Drexel, Missouri, because that’s where he wants to live. With a population of 900-1,000 people, Drexel might not be the first place you’d expect to find a microbiology tool company. But the venture now employs 40 people and is at the forefront of public health, thanks to its wastewater monitoring capabilities.

See how the right resources meant InnovaPrep was ready to roll when faced with a public health emergency.

Resources used: BioKansas, ELEVATIONLAB™ Tech Venture, Global Market Access Program, Missouri Biotechnology Association, Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri International Trade & Investment Office, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC, MO STEP=UP

India Wells-Carter, owner of Fresh Factory KC

India Wells-Carter, Fresh Factory KC

Some ideas won’t leave you alone. That’s what happened to India Wells-Carter. Fresh Factory KC, her selfie studio and event space, started out as that pesky idea. India knew she needed to take action, and she wanted to do it right. Support from Resource Partners gave her the tools she needed — and the confidence to present at Global Entrepreneurship Week – Kansas City. Who says you can’t jump in with both feet?

Learn how India showed up for herself and started a business that sparks joy.

Resources used: AltCap, Entrepreneur Business Basics, Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC, The Porter House KC

Erik and Paley Carmona

Erik and Paley Carmona, Carmona’s Chamoy

Starting a food business is more than, well, making food. This couple knew they’d created a winning recipe, but they weren’t sure how to turn it into a thriving business. “We knew we needed to do X, Y and Z. But we didn’t know we needed the whole alphabet,” Paley says. Fortunately, the Carmonas found the info and guidance they needed in the robust KC entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Taste success and follow Carmona’s Chamoy through its commercial journey.

Resources used: Hispanic Economic Development Corporation, Latino Arts Foundation

Alicia Graham of Cupcake Joy poses with her sweet treats

Alisha Graham, Cupcake Joy

After 18 years of making sweet treats for friends and family, Alisha decided to turn her side hustle into a front-and-center business. She and her family had just moved across the country, but that didn’t stop Alisha. Thanks to guidance on logistics like her business entity and mentorship from an expert in the industry, she created Cupcake Joy. Now, the catering-style bakery is delighting taste buds around KC.

Learn how Alisha transformed her passion into a profession.

Resource used: Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City

AbdulRasak and Alicia Yahaya of Open Minds Child Development Center

AbdulRasak and Alicia Yahaya, Open Minds Child Development Center

Starting a business is challenging. But scaling a business opens a new can of worms. Abdul and Alicia Yahaya offer a much-needed service, and their business grew rapidly. But their entrepreneurial journey has included closing a location. Their story shows that when one door closes, another opens: They’re opening a third location soon. Mentoring and educational opportunities have helped the couple connect with other entrepreneurs and make their business the best it can be.

Read more about how the Yahayas are advancing their business thanks to opportunities like Scale UP! KC.

Resources used: Kansas Small Business Development Center at JCCC, ScaleUP! Kansas City, U.S. Small Business Administration

Digital Sandbox KC Q1 2022 Awardees

Workplace Healing, Foothold Labs, DataSource, DataAppraisal, VaccineAssist

When innovators need support to get their technology off the ground, Digital Sandbox KC is there. This highly selective program has awarded more than $3 million in funding to 165 Kansas City startups. The result is $198 million in follow-on funding, more than 1,100 new jobs created and more than $169 million in sales. These five latest startups each received $20,000, expert mentoring and more.

Learn more about how Kansas City’s startups are using this program as a springboard to success.

Resource used: Digital Sandbox KC

Dion Dodson, owner of Deluxe Transportation Group

Dion Dodson, Deluxe Transportation Group

Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. When Dion Dodson sold his lawn-care business, he celebrated by buying his dream SUV. Soon, he was driving high-end customers and Deluxe Transportation Group was born. Dion invested his time in self-development and leadership skills, taking classes and working with mentors. The knowledge and know-how he gained are helping him scale his business. And he’s planting seeds for young entrepreneurs to follow in his footsteps.

Ride along as Dion shares his entrepreneurial journey, its ups and downs and his hopes for the future.

Resources used: ELEVATIONLAB™ New Venture, Growth360, Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC

XReps extended-reality program screenshot

Brandon Fuhr and Joel Stephens, XReps

Self-described “huge football fans” Brandon Fuhr and Joel Stephens had the idea of a smart football. But feedback from experts and potential customers caused them to change their game plan. Now, thanks to that agility, they’re getting XReps on the market faster with a headset-only product that runs on a popular virtual reality system. “Some people might say you’re not focused, but we had to seize these opportunities,” Brandon says.

Learn how rolling with the changes is helping this startup roll out its first product.

Resources used: Comeback KC Ventures, Digital Sandbox KC, Enterprise Center in Johnson County, Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC

Jonaie Johnson, Interplay

Jonaie Johnson, Interplay

Jonaie Johnson’s first business venture was selling bracelets in elementary school. This active entrepreneur hasn’t stopped since. Her company Interplay is developing a dog crate attachment that allows owners to feed, water and engage with pets remotely. It’s an idea she first had as a teen, seeing her aunt leave events early to tend to her dog. Jonaie proves that inspiration is everywhere — and you create your own success.

Sit. Stay. And fetch more info about how Jonaie makes the most of KC’s entrepreneurial resources.

Resources used: Digital Sandbox KC, InnovateHER KC, KC Collective, Pipeline Pathfinder, Regnier Venture Creation Challenge, UMKC Entrepreneurship Scholars Program

Stay connected to KC entrepreneurship

Get entrepreneurial insights, inspiration and events delivered right to your inbox. 

Click Here to Start Today