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Previous Heartland Opportunity Grantees

The Heartland Challenge Request for Proposal (RFP) funds programs, projects, and initiatives located in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

2021 Grantees:

The 2021 Heartland Challenge Request for Proposal (RFP) (now known as Heartland Opportunity) funded projects that built on the assets of community to support business owners and founders, especially those that are underrepresented in the entrepreneurship landscape, located in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. This portfolio consists of grants to support new programming and the expansion or enhancement of existing programming in the region.

  • 24/7 | Support for the Black Business Accelerator provides access, resources, and strategies to promote business resiliency and sustainability in entrepreneurial ecosystems where Black founders face unique networking, education, and capital challenges.
  • Climate Action KC | Support for the Contractor Accelerator program helps Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) startups in the construction industry effectively capitalize on the opportunities presented by the high-performance buildings market in the Kansas City Region.
  • Drake University | Support for Drake University to hire recruiters dedicated to increasing engagement from underrepresented entrepreneurs in local entrepreneur education programs through culturally competent outreach and the development of community relationships.
  • Harris Stowe State University | Support to the HSSU Anheuser-Busch School of Business Entrepreneurship Center to become a leader and safe space for minority and underserved communities in the areas of entrepreneurship, small business development, and innovation.
  • InterUrban ArtHouse | Support for the ArtWorks program, which provides entrepreneurial development curriculum and resources to creative industry workers and artists in the Heartland.
  • Jane Boyd Community House | Support for expansion of the Empower entrepreneur support program and creation of an Empower incubator program to assist entrepreneurs as they start and grow businesses in Cedar Rapids, IA.
  • Midlands Latino Community Development Corporation (MLCDC) | Support and expand MLCDC’s entrepreneurship program that serves new and existing low- and moderate-income minority entrepreneurs in the Midwest.
  • Mission Adelante – The Toolbox | Support for the Toolbox multilingual entrepreneurship resource center, serving entrepreneurs starting new businesses in the Central Avenue corridor of Kansas City, KS.
  • No More Empty Pots | Support for the No More Empty Pots program to improve the efficacy of food entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, leveraging their strengths and assets to maximize existing resources and collaborations while expanding networks and catalyzing opportunities.
  • Prospect Business Association | Support for the Prospect Business Association’s entrepreneurship training program in Kansas City serving low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs.
  • WEPOWER | Support of the Elevate/Elevar Accelerator, a St. Louis-based six-month entrepreneurship development program for Black & Latinx entrepreneurs committed to sparking jobs and economic growth in neighborhoods plagued by systemic disinvestment.

2020 Grantees:

In 2020, the Kauffman Foundation selected 17 organizations from across the region to receive funding through the Heartland Challenge. This portfolio of grantees worked to solve for specific challenges entrepreneurs in the region face, and participated in facilitated, peer-learning communities of practice to share knowledge across the region.

Challenge 1: Co-creating objective, milestone-based entrepreneurship training programs to mitigate the impact of implicit bias faced by entrepreneurs from communities systemically left behind

  • BioSTL | Support for the expansion of their entrepreneur education program, Fundamentals, to better engage women, Black, Latinx, or foreign-born entrepreneurs in STEM business creation.
  • Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas | Support to develop an education and mentorship program designed to help agriculture-related, refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs participating in the New Roots for Refugee program scale and prepare their businesses for outside investment.
  • Center for Rural Affairs | Support to launch a statewide entrepreneurship academy, bias training, and mentorship program for rural entrepreneurs.
  • Credit and Homeownership Empowerment Services | Support for expanding the Porter House KC’s place-based model for providing retail entrepreneur support in the Troost Corridor neighborhood.
  • The Directors Council | Support to increase the operational and marketing capacity of the organization’s entrepreneurship bootcamps in order to strengthen their financial education offerings and serve more counties in Iowa.
  • Jane Boyd Community House | Support to enhance and expand the organization’s entrepreneur education program, Empower, to better serve entrepreneurs from communities systemically left behind in Eastern Iowa.
  • Lincoln University | Support for new and existing businesses in central Missouri through the Small Business Development Center’s entrepreneur education program, Launch U.
  • Seward County Community College | Support for the launch of the SW Kansas Entrepreneurship Center to provide customized entrepreneurship education to rural and immigrant entrepreneurs in the region.
  • The State of St. Louis Foundation | Support to expand the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s Diverse Business Accelerator to serve a greater number of small businesses owned by women and people of color.

Challenge 2: Addressing rural business transfer opportunities by providing education on models of shared business ownership, including business cooperatives

  • Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska | Support for the University of Nebraska Extension to launch a statewide program to assist rural entrepreneurs in considering cooperative business models and provide education on business transition to existing business owners.
  • Kansas State University | Support for the expansion of the KSU Center for Engagement and Community Development in order to offer educational services on cooperative business models and transition planning for independent grocery store owners.
  • Missouri Western State University | Support for the launch of the Regional Economic Vitality Consortium to expand their entrepreneurship education programming across a 23-county region in NE Kansas and NW Missouri.
  • University of Northern Iowa Foundation | Support to launch the Iowa Business Transition Center to educate rural entrepreneurs on cooperative business models and transition planning.

Challenge 3: Building cross-university programs that increase knowledge related to securing research and development funding, and commercializing available technology in order to start new businesses

  • Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska | Support for the creation of a program to provide technical assistance to improve federal research and development grant applications from universities in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa.
  • Curators of the University of Missouri | Support for the administration of an inter-university task force that will work to identify best-practices in engaging faculty, researchers and students in the commercialization process, and create a plan to implement those practices.
  • Iowa State University Foundation | Support for the creation of a coordinated educational event series across John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers in Iowa to better prepare university-affiliated entrepreneurs for launch and investment.
  • Wichita State University | Support for the convening and administration of a multi-university task force to improve the leveraging of federal research and development grants across Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa.