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Central Standards

The Central Standards RFP provides matching funds to encourage and accelerate collaborations between two or more entrepreneurship support organizations working together to support Heartland entrepreneurs in the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Meet the organizations whose projects will be funded in the second round (announced fall 2021)

Partner: UNeTech

Support for the launch of Opportunity Corps, an I-Corps inspired program designed to support women in STEM as they explore the viability of launching tech ventures.


Support to establish a cohort of four rural Heartland communities for the purpose of providing customized ecosystem strategies and education programs for entrepreneurs and community leaders.


Partner: Verge Solutions

Support for expansion of the entrepreneurship education program at Emerging Builders, an organization providing education to individuals pursuing a career or launching a business in the trades in the Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas region.


Extend Invest Nebraska’s Operational Assistance Program for entrepreneurs, collaborate with Northeast Community College to focus on agriculture related startups, and stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Norfolk, Nebraska region.


Support for the statewide expansion of Iowa Center for Economic Success to the Muscatine and surrounding areas. The Iowa Center’s mission is to empower Iowans with the potential to succeed as they pursue opportunities for financial success. It is our belief that to be successful in small business one needs support in education, capital, and networking. We provide a wide array of services to support local entrepreneurs including 1:1 counseling sessions, education, networking opportunities, access to capital, and many other services.


Support for the launch of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center to develop and coordinate technology focused entrepreneurship education programs at Missouri University of Science & Technology, Lincoln University, and Washington University.


Support for the launch of the Return to Better framework for entrepreneurial ecosystem building, using a tangible set of tools & resources created to seed, build, and grow entrepreneurs and small businesses from all walks of life in Muscatine, Iowa. This balanced approach to nurturing entrepreneurs through multiple phases of their growth connects capital, education, and resources for measurable social and economic impact across the entire community.


Support for the expansion of the NXSTAGE Competition at NXTUS which is designed to support startups in sectors that are aligned with the economic strengths of Kansas. Startups will be supported in developing relationships and pilot projects with mature business customers throughout the region.


Support for the launch of the Iowa Kiva Hub to enhance capital access for low to moderate income Iowans across the state.

The power of connected communities

Chris Harris

If we’re going to build the Heartland that includes all communities and voices, we need to start with focusing on growing an inclusive economy that centers entrepreneurship and innovation. As difficult as that work will be, it will be made even more difficult if we try to do it alone and disconnected. Central Standards grantees are partnering and collaborating to build thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems in the Heartland while also connecting the region to the most innovative practices from across the country.

Chris Harris, Senior Program Officer, Entrepreneurship

Meet the organizations whose projects were funded in the first round (announced summer 2021)

Partner: ESU-13

Support for the establishment of entrepreneurship education programs, in partnership with local ESU-13, to support entrepreneurs with disabilities in Western Nebraska.


Support for the launch of the Missouri Center for Employee Ownership to provide education to current business owners and prospective entrepreneurs on employee ownership structures and concepts.


Support developing and launching the UrbanMain entrepreneurship support program to provide education for entrepreneurs operating in low to moderate income neighborhoods in St. Louis, MO.


Support to establish a cohort of twenty rural Nebraska communities for the purpose of providing customized entrepreneurship education programs and facilitated peer-based entrepreneurship support best practices.


Support to launch The Prospect Urban Eatery, a kitchen incubator providing entrepreneurship education and prototyping support to low-income food industry entrepreneurs in Kansas City, MO, which is operated by The Prospect KC, a groundbreaking organization working to increase the rates of minority employment and successful businesses, as well as improve social equality. The Prospect KC is fiscally sponsored by Community Capital Fund (CCF), a Kansas City, MO, nonprofit service organization that since 2012 has supported innovative community development initiatives.


Support for the establishment of a statewide entrepreneurial mentorship program delivered through the five John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers in the state of Iowa. The Iowa mentor program will utilize the MIT Venture Mentoring Services model that has been implemented in over 100 organizations.


Partner: Kiva

Support for the establishment of a Kiva Hub in St. Louis, MO, to provide micro-lending capital access options to entrepreneurs from communities in the region that have been systemically left behind.


Why Central Standards?

The Kauffman Foundation intends for this funding program to help build connections between entrepreneurship support organizations (ESOs) operating in the Heartland and with ESOs based outside the region.

The projects advance at least one or more of the strategic priorities of the Kauffman Foundation’s Heartland Strategy:

  • Inclusive prosperity in the Heartland | Funding programs and initiatives that support all entrepreneurs of all backgrounds in the Heartland.
  • Rural revitalization | Funding projects that enable rural ESOs and communities to provide the support necessary for rural entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses.
  • Transitioning to an entrepreneurship- and innovation-led economy | Supporting the development of vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems, build new idea economy-relevant clusters, and diversify the region’s economy.