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Giving entrepreneurs a voice in state policy

Entrepreneurs' Policy Network (EPN) | Kauffman Foundation

The Kauffman Foundation selects six entrepreneur support organizations to form the first-ever Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network, an alliance of organizations that will bring the voices of entrepreneurs to policy debates at the state level.

Entrepreneurs are the beating heart of the American economy, but they typically are too busy building their businesses to make their voices heard in public policy, resulting in more barriers to new business creation and waning business startup rates.

The Kauffman Foundation has selected six entrepreneur support organizations as grant recipients to form the first-ever Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network, an alliance of organizations that will bring the voices of entrepreneurs to policy debates at the state level.

“Entrepreneurs create most net new jobs, a key driver of the economy, but too few policymakers understand entrepreneurship or how to best support it,” said Jason Wiens, policy director at the Kauffman Foundation. “Entrepreneurs are their own best advocates but their voices are not loudly heard by policymakers. The Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network will empower organizations that champion entrepreneurs to be effective advocates for removing barriers to new business creation.”

To select the grant recipients, the Kauffman Foundation solicited proposals nationwide from nonprofit and for-profit organizations that provide technical assistance, access to finance, education and other resources to entrepreneurs.

The Kauffman Foundation has committed $1.9 million in grants available for this initiative.

Grant recipients are:

  • Bunker Labs: Headquartered in Chicago, Bunker Labs is a national nonprofit with chapters in 17 cities that strive to empower veterans as leaders in innovation by providing educational programs, access to resources and thriving local networks to help military veterans and their spouses start and grow businesses.
  • Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, DBA 1871: 1871 is the home of nearly 500 early-stage, high-growth digital startups and more than 1,500 members supported by an entire ecosystem focused on accelerating their growth and creating jobs in the Chicagoland area.
  • Enterprise Center of Johnson County: The Enterprise Center in Johnson County is a non-profit venture development organization that promotes job creation and economic development by providing education, mentoring and connections to capital for entrepreneurs in the Kansas City area.
  • LaunchTN: Located in Nashville, LaunchTN is a public-private partnership fostering entrepreneurship across the state with a mission to make Tennessee the most startup-friendly state in the country.
  • Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA): Located in Minneapolis, Meda provides capital, business consulting and procurement solutions to minority entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to scale and increase their impact on their community.
  • Venture Hall: Venture Hall is an educational nonprofit in Portland, Maine, designed to provide students, entrepreneurs and organizations the skills and support they need to build high-impact, innovative solutions to challenging problems.*

As members of the Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network, the organizations will:

  • Identify state policies that inhibit entrepreneurship.
  • Educate policymakers about the impact of those policies in erecting barriers to entrepreneurship.
  • Build support for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship generally.
  • Facilitate informational interactions between policymakers and entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network is part of the Kauffman Foundation’s Zero Barriers movement, which seeks to identify and remove barriers to new business creation.

*Venture Hall ceased operations in 2018.