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Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies announces retirement after 22 years of leadership and impact

Guillies’ leadership set a path aimed at generational impact on entrepreneurs, educators, and students.

Wendy Guillies

Wendy Guillies today announced her retirement from the Kauffman Foundation, having served as President and CEO for the past eight years of her twenty-two year career with the Foundation. She will leave the Foundation this fall to pursue new ventures and spend time with her family.

As CEO, Guillies worked with the board and senior leadership to develop and implement a strategic plan aimed at helping people achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity – regardless of their race, gender, or where they live. Under her leadership, the Foundation’s grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives have supported the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities.

Guillies noted that she was proud of what the Foundation and its grantee-partners have accomplished over the years, and that the chance to fulfill Mr. Kauffman’s legacy was one of the greatest honors of her life.  

“Like many people over the past extraordinary few years, I’ve reflected on my professional and personal priorities,” Guillies said. “What won’t change is my drive to engage in work that makes our community and country a better place for all. At the same time, I want to strike more of a balance personally and spend more time with my family and new granddaughter.”

She added, “The next leader of the Kauffman Foundation will be one lucky individual, coming in at a time when the opportunity to support a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development is so needed by our communities and nation.”

Under her leadership, Guillies focused the Kauffman Foundation on new and impactful education programs, including the launch of KC Scholars, SchoolSmartKC, and Real World Learning, as well as support for critical civic institutions, ranging from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to the World War 1 Museum.

In support of entrepreneurs, the Kauffman Foundation has recently committed more than $20 million to support Kansas City-based small business lending. It has also concentrated funding to entrepreneur support organizations in the Heartland states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, with an emphasis in Kansas City. Nationally, Guillies and the Foundation team have zeroed in on increasing access to entrepreneurs of color through innovative initiatives such as the Capital Access Lab and a Living Cities “fund of funds” to support diverse fund managers.

Before becoming CEO, Guillies served as vice president of communications. Among her achievements was her role to help develop Global Entrepreneurship Week. Launched in Kansas City in 2008, it has expanded to more than 180 countries and engages 10 million people annually.   

Board Chair John Sherman and Chair-Elect Esther George will begin the search process soon, with gratitude to Guillies for supporting a seamless transition and for her dedicated service to the Kauffman Foundation.

“Wendy led the Foundation in the spirit of Mr. Kauffman,” said John Sherman. “She focused the Foundation on his intent and commitment to Kansas City, approaching the work with humility and a collaborative spirit. She’s put the Foundation on a great path to support the communities we serve, and to ensure our important work continues. For that, we are grateful.”

“Mr. K first and foremost believed in people and wanted everyone to have the opportunity to reach their highest potential,” said Julia Irene Kauffman, “He also wanted his Foundation to focus on Kansas City, work together with the community, and support big ideas that meet our region’s most pressing opportunities and challenges. Wendy has kept Mr. K’s lessons close, and I have appreciated her leadership to continue his legacy.”

For media inquiries, contact Larry Jacob >