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Freedom Interiors Host to University of Missouri Kansas City-Technology Venture Studio

Freedom Interiors was host to the University of Missouri Kansas City Innovation Center: Technology Venture Studio’s two-day round table event on July 15-16.  These peer-to-peer round tables gave start up companies in the early stages of innovation the opportunity to meet others in the same position to help further their business and take many of their ideas from concept to reality.

The 18 entrepreneurs met in teams based on the stage of the business to bounce ideas off one another, troubleshoot issues, and discuss growth options. Technology Venture Studio’s Associate Director, Chris Rehkamp, facilitated the event along with Director Jill Meyers.

Beyond entrepreneurs’ access to a support system, the Technology Venture Studio also gives access to capital through early-stage grant programs and equity investments.  The team works in the space to monitor the capital continuum, improve access to capital, acquire community and corporate support and help companies survive “the valley of death”, until they finally begin to generate revenue.

The venture studio also builds relationships with investors and creates the bridge between them and the start up company.   Digital Sandbox KC works closely with the venture studio to support innovators in the Kansas City area.  They seek innovation in information technology and provide proof-of-concept resources to aid in early stage-commercialization processes.  Sandbox covers expenses for project consultants, market research, legal support, equipment and other market validation, prototyping and beta testing needs.

Digital Sandbox KC has funded 140 proof-of-concept projects for Kansas City area startups coming from both sides of the state line Missouri and Kansas, including Johnson County.  In that time, they have given over $2.7 million, including $129 million in follow-on funding. Those startups have created 975 new jobs and more than $117 million in sales.

Other companies such as KCInvestED, also work to connect investors in the Kansas City area with resources, events, and tools to learn more about investing in early-stage companies.  Their goal is to increase knowledge and connections and inform the community about investment activity in our region and how it impacts the economy.

KCInvestEd provides over 240 resources to connect the community and investors to one another.  Having a level of expertise available to the start-up companies, including business-building expertise, is vital to a company’s success, especially when they are seeking funds.

78% of the companies who raise investments or won grants had received assistance from local support organizations and investors.

An interactive dashboard provides a look at the data showing how capital is dispersed throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. You can see specific industries, locations, and the size of the amount invested.

The Venture Studio also partners with Whiteboard2Boardroom to accelerate innovation when they connect entrepreneurs and established businesses to technologies at research universities, hospitals, and corporations across the bi-state region of Kansas and Missouri.  By connecting them to these technologies, they will stimulate applied research, leverage innovation in the marketplace, and accelerate the commercialization of technology.

Technologies available are Agricultural Sciences, Chemistry and Advanced Materials, Environmental Technologies, Software and Computer Programming, Animal Health and Veterinary Medicine, Engineering and Manufacturing, and Human Health.

Each of the partnering institutions are, again, from the Kansas City metro area or nearby including companies from both Kansas and Missouri.

                University of Kansas

                Kansas University Medical Center

                Kansas State University

                Wichita State University

                Pittsburg State University


                Rockhurst University

                William Jewel University

                Saint Louis University

                University of Missouri-Columbia

                University of Missouri-St. Louis

                Missouri University of Science and Technology

                St. Luke’s MidAmerica Heart Institute

                University of Missouri-Kansas City

                Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences

                Jordan Valley Innovation Center

                Children’s Mercy Hospital

                Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies

Since January of 2012, W2B accounts for 161 job creations, 44 start up companies, $35.7 million of capital raised, 1373 entrepreneurs/companies assisted, and 23 partnerships.

Freedom Interiors principal, Carol Espinosa is a former member of Fast Track New Venture, which is now called Elevation Lab New Venture.  While the two are separate from one another, they are both housed at UMKC and both offer assistance for small businesses and start-ups.

During the startup phase of Freedom Interiors, Espinosa created the business model she uses today.

“When I started with the SBDC [Small Business Development Center], Freedom was two years old and our business model already existed.  The problem was that we had no projects.  The program helped develop and improve our business model,” Espinosa said.

While working with the team at Fast Track New Venture, Espinosa created a lifelong relationship with facilitator Rebecca Gubbels, that is still a part of the business today.

“She is incredible and a great supporter, and because of the experience I had I try to send people to the program every chance I get,” Espinosa said.