Sixteen Kansas City, Missouri, entrepreneurs took home cash prizes May 7 as part of the new Dare to Venture Micro-Grant Competition. At a critical time when small businesses need funds the most, the program offered a total of $30,000 in microgrants to entrepreneurs who are starting or growing businesses in the city’s urban core.

Funded by the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and administered by the UMKC Innovation Center, Dare to Venture was open to any entrepreneur currently living or working in Kansas City, Missouri, who had completed one of the 30-hour-plus entrepreneurship classes offered as part of the Urban Business Growth Initiative. The Missouri Small Business Development Center administers the UBGI courses and provides each participant with business coaching.

“This is the beautiful thing about collaborations: UBGI’s partner programs come together to offer many levels of support and expertise to UBGI businesses, helping them get the skills, expertise and learning to succeed,” says Carmen DeHart, senior director of entrepreneurial education at the UMKC Innovation Center and regional director of the Missouri SBDC at UMKC. “Thanks to funding from the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the UBGI suite of classes is helping our metro’s entrepreneurs and business owners discover the next great innovation, create new jobs, grow their operations, and elevate the local economy. And now, these micro-grant awards are continuing to help them push forward, during the most challenging of times for any business.”

The 34 applicants to the grant contest were asked to create and submit a video about their businesses. Voting was conducted by their peers, fellow graduates of UBGI courses. Here are the winners, who received the most votes from their UBGI peers, fellow entrepreneurs who’ve shared their journey of entrepreneurship and education:

Finalists for top prizes:

  • 1st ($5,000) Reda Ibrahim – RK Contractors – CONSTRUCTION Venture
  • 2nd ($4,000) Tate Williams – CoBuild – CONSTRUCTION Venture
  • 3rd ($3,500) Carlanda McKinney – Bodify – TECH Venture
  • 4th ($3,000) Erin Bopp – Lightwork DJ Mobilverse – NEW Venture
  • 5th ($2,500) Juaquan Herron – 2923 Comics – TECH Venture
  • 6th ($2,000) Brandy Archie – AccessAble Living – GROWTH Venture


Each honorable mention will receive $1,000:

Super Supporter Award

  • A $1,000 prize awarded to the UBGI alum who voted in the most rounds: AY Young – Battery Tour

Dare to Venture amplifies the already substantial commitment from the City of Kansas City, Missouri, to providing entrepreneurs with the tools, connections, education and coaching they need to build their business savvy, launch companies and create jobs in Kansas City’s economically distressed neighborhoods and beyond.

“The micro-grant competition is an idea generated through startup community participation in the City Budget Speakeasy public input sessions. It’s exciting to see this come to fruition through our partnership with the UMKC Innovation Center,” says Rick Usher, assistant city manager of the City of Kansas City, Missouri.

Dare to Venture was open to all UBGI scholarship-funded graduates—past or current—of the center’s 30-hour+ entrepreneurship courses who currently live in or whose businesses are located in Kansas City, Missouri.

Apply for Upcoming UBGI Scholarships, Courses

Through UBGI, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, currently provides scholarships that cover nearly 90% of the tuition for UMKC Innovation Center’s multi-week entrepreneurship courses. To date, UBGI has issued 548 scholarships, and its graduates have created a total of 75 business, 455 jobs, $55 million in revenue and $18 million in capital investments.

Apply for the next round of UBGI scholarships (offered at a more than 88 percent discount), starting with NEW Venture, which kicks off July 28. Explore the course offerings below, and apply for a scholarship here.


Not sure if UBGI is right for you? Starting May 12, be sure to check out NEW Venture Nuggets, a free weekly series of five classes on Tuesdays from 9 – 10 a.m. that cover the important pillars of starting or pivoting a business, from getting customers, developing a proof of concept, marketing, sales and more.

About Urban Business Growth Initiative

The Urban Business Growth Initiative encourages businesses owners who will create jobs in Kansas City’s economically distressed neighborhoods and beyond. The initiative targets low- to moderate-income individuals in the urban core who wish to start or grow businesses. Classes and scholarships are open to anyone who lives or owns a business in Kansas City, Missouri.

UBGI is a collaboration of the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the UMKC Innovation Center, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, the Missouri Small Business Development Center, the Women’s Business Center, Justine PETERSEN, AltCap, KC BizCare and KCSourceLink. To learn about UBGI and its impact, read the 2019 UBGI Impact Report.

About UMKC Innovation Center

From whiteboard to boardroom to marketplace and beyond, the UMKC Innovation Center partners with universities and the communities to advance entrepreneurship within our region and across the country. Through start-to-scale entrepreneurial education, the development of technology ventures as well as regional and national ecosystem development, the center helps develop entrepreneurs and our entrepreneurial ecosystem, all to spark, support and sustain innovation, problem solving, economic mobility and economic vitality. The Innovation Center’s individual programs and initiatives include the Missouri Small Business Development Center and its ELEVATIONLab, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Whiteboard2Boardroom, Digital Sandbox KC, KCInvestED, MOSourceLink, KCSourceLink and SourceLink.