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2022 Uncommon Voices: Building Momentum

As we enter the New Year, those who work toward an economy that works for everyone share their enthusiasm, apprehensions, and projections as they consider what’s next.

Written by Asia Jones

Those who partnered with us this past year through grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities, continue to sow the seeds for a more equitable economic ecosystem. Access to support, knowledge, funding, and opportunity are crucial – and while there is more work to be done, they’re feeling momentum.

As we step into 2023, read how to keep the momentum going as these uncommon voices share their experiences, insights, and what they look forward to as they continue to make their efforts for an economy that works for everyone not just a talking point, but a call-to-action.

A photo of Lucy Petroucheva

“After a year of listening to entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders in the Heartland region, a few things are clear to us. First, communities and entrepreneurs need each other. Communities need entrepreneurs to bring in ideas, resources, and solutions to local problems, and entrepreneurs need their communities to support them in a broad range of ways as they take on new challenges and risks. Second, the people who provide entrepreneur support services are doing great work and are deeply focused within their respective domains. And third, that to take an entrepreneurial ecosystem to the next level, we need to build integration between domains: partnership across service areas, an understanding of the broader system, and the exercise of leadership to strengthen that system. 

“We are optimistic about our charge in 2023, which is to equip ecosystem builders, support organizations, and community members with a language and framework for this kind of leadership so that individuals and communities will move more quickly toward inclusive economic prosperity.” — Lucy Petroucheva, Civic Engagement Manager, Kansas Leadership Center

A photo of Henry McKoy, Jr.

“2022 has been a transitional year for me. It has certainly been an interesting change joining the Biden-Harris Administration mid-year to lead a new infrastructure and climate team within the Department of Energy and this administration. I am always both hopeful and cautious as I navigate changing landscapes.

“During the past two years, we have witnessed the largest financial investments in addressing climate change in the history of the United States. Also notable, has been the administration’s commitment to ensuring those investments are broadly shared with historically disadvantaged communities. I am hopeful that justice can be intertwined with these investments; however, unless we plant the seeds of equity deep enough to take firm root, then the opportunity may again pass us by.

“To that end, the one thing that must move us forward into the new year is charging into every day with resiliency to live up to the ideals of justice and equity – especially as it relates to matters of economics. Therefore, I will continue into 2023 using my life and my work to attempt to make a transformational and lasting impact.” — Dr. Henry C. McKoy, Jr., Inaugural Director, U.S. Office of State and Community Energy Programs, U.S. Department of Energy, and Director of Entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Research Clinic & Lab (EERCL)

A photo of India Carter Wells

I think there’s a mixture of both excitement for the upcoming year and concern with the state of our economy. The condition of the world’s current economy has an effect on consumers who are being more frugal with their dollars.

“But I think one thing is true and what I’m most hopeful for, is that my customers exist; they are out there. So, it’s a mixture of understanding the landscape and being optimistic that I have a community of people who love what Fresh Factory has to offer, who are willing to pay for it, and who have a commitment to supporting locally owned, small businesses here in Kansas City.

“I believe 2023 is going to be a great year as I evolve as an entrepreneur and as my business develops. I’m so grateful for the support, both from the Kauffman Foundation and so many others in our entrepreneurial ecosystem who have helped me along my journey thus far.” — India Wells Carter, Founder, Fresh Factory KC

A photo of Samuel Morris

We’ve learned the importance of quality technical assistance, government transparency, and people-focused service for entrepreneurs in 2022. We look forward to continuing that service – identifying small business’ municipal challenges and evaluating the feasibility of potential policy solutions in 2023.” — Samuel Morris, Small Business Advocate, Neighborhood Services Department, KCBizCare

A photo of Ruben Alonso

“Generally, I am optimistic about next year and the direction AltCap is headed. It is an unprecedented time for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in terms of growth and development. I am excited about the capacity-building investments we have made and the expanded geography we are covering to support more small businesses and make a bigger impact.

“As we enter 2023, my concerns are less with our involvement in supporting small businesses but more with the increasing politicization of our economy (i.e., crony capitalism) and the continued challenges we see in creating broad community support for public education – particularly in low-income communities. We have an opportunity to make a positive impact on innovation, small business start-ups, and development, as well as market-driven solutions to entrenched problems. We can also support adequately funded public education systems that are inclusive, focus on real-world learning, are performance-driven, and accountable.” — Ruben Alonso, CEO, AltCap

A photo of Matt Dunne

“I am heading into 2023 with a great sense of potential for rural America. In 2022, we saw unprecedented investment in rural communities, both by the federal government and, increasingly, philanthropic efforts. Through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build to Scale Program Venture Challenge, we helped seven of our Rural Innovation Network communities leverage a collective $12 million in federal matching funds. The total amount invested through this program to back communities in building tech economies came to nearly $30 million.

“Thanks to support from the Kauffman Foundation and matching funds from the EDA, we’ve also been able to double down on our efforts to support tech entrepreneurship across the network. Our network now includes 33 communities across 24 states committed to fostering good-paying tech jobs and entrepreneurship that roots wealth in rural communities.

“Rural economies and their people can benefit from these solutions in enormous ways. One way we can move our work forward is to ensure rural leaders are able to access the long-term resources they need to make their visions of a new economy a reality by investing in them. This will require investing in solutions that scale, a practice we’ve embraced through our Rural Innovation Network.” — Matt Dunne, Founder and Executive Director,  Center on Rural Innovation

A photo of Demetric Duckett

In 2022, we have seen remarkable momentum and enthusiasm around efforts to break down barriers to capital access for diverse fund managers and those who support them. The impact investing field has many leaders who are creating paths to wealth for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Their innovation and efforts will benefit us all.

“Because of this ecosystem of support and the progress I have witnessed, I remain steadfast in my belief that all people – regardless of their race, gender, or geographic location – will someday have the opportunity to achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity without barriers.

“Our efforts to build a new fund in our family of funds are boosted by the Kauffman Foundation’s recent commitment to support Living Cities’ impact investing work. We hope that this fund will help to evolve our efforts beyond our prior impact debt funds. Next year, we need this ecosystem momentum to swell even more – the future and resiliency of the U.S. economy depend on it.” — Demetric Duckett, Managing Director, Living Cities

A photo of Tina Metzer

“As the RuralRISE network writes the final chapter of 2022, we feel hopeful. We see the possibilities for rural America to co-create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive story of ‘rural rise.’

“Moving forward, we are hopeful that more opportunities will arise in rural communities, including closing the digital divide and allowing all entrepreneurs to access equal assistance, resources, and investments.” — Tina Metzer, Co-Founder, RuralRISE, RuralTech

A photo of Vilmer Alvarado

“2022 has been a year full of progress, challenge, and opportunity. As the year of my college graduation and entry into true adulthood, I will always look back on 2022 as a very important time of my life as it has allowed me to grow as an individual, to develop as a professional, and taught me lessons that I will keep for the rest of my life. A piece of advice for others is to not be afraid to make big and bold decisions that you are confident in. You only have one life, and you have to make the most of it even if others do not approve of your choices.

“Going into 2023, I feel optimistic and excited, but also careful about the future, as I always feel cautious at the start of a new year with the reality of how the world is constantly changing. For the better or for the worse, what happens around the world affects us, but I hope that 2023 is a year of peace, harmony, and positive evolution for our country and the world.” — Vilmer Alvarado, Kauffman Scholar and recent graduate of the University of Kansas

A photo of Rob Fairlie

“The past year was a tumultuous one. Many of us expected it to be the first year completely out of the COVID-19 pandemic but that did not happen. For example, the university where I teach returned to online instruction during the first four weeks of the winter quarter; however, things are much more optimistic now. Unemployment rates are low, small businesses are doing much better, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we are moving forward, and inflation will subside. 

“I look forward to teaching fully in person in the winter of 2023 and to continuing my work with the Kauffman Foundation to study how small businesses are doing in the recovery from the COVID recession. I hope small businesses continue to rebound and are even more successful in the coming year.” — Robert Fairlie, Economics Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Lead Researcher, Kauffman Indicators of Early-Stage Entrepreneurship

A photo of Michael Carmona

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic and amid social unrest, many leaders and organizations stepped up to support the needs of those impacted most by both factors. During this time, a report was shared that noted the different scenarios that could occur following a period of vaccinations. One of the worst-case scenarios noted that communities already hurt by a long period of disinvestment may face the pain of donors abruptly ceasing to support social and economic justice initiatives by returning to business as usual under the idea they had ‘done enough.’

“Despite the post-pandemic decrease in funding, I’m glad to see so many individuals and groups continuing to center equity in our social and economic justice initiatives. So many continue to commit to intentional good – and that has been great to both see and be part of.” — Michael Carmona, Senior Director,  KCSourceLink

This piece is part of the Foundation’s “Uncommon Voices” series, which features viewpoints from those working hard on issues that reduce racial inequity and support economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.

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