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Entrepreneurs tackling Kansas City social issues get boost from new grant program

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Social Venture Studio winners
Courtesy of Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City
The winners of the inaugural Social Venture Studio in Kansas City, Missouri, will receive funding and other resources to "strengthen their social venture business concepts."

Social Venture Studio helps business owners grow their plans to make a social impact in Kansas City.

In January, 2022, LaunchKC began accepting applications for a unique accelerator program that provides entrepreneurs with grant money, mentors and temporary office space to help expand their business model. But the program has one major requirement —the business must address a social problem within the community and have a sustainable revenue stream.

The concept grew from an idea proposed by Father Justin Matthews of Thelma's Kitchen, and was backed by LaunchKC and partners, according to Jim Erickson, director of strategic initiatives at the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.

Seven recipients were selected in Social Venture Studios maiden launch. Among them, Diversity Telehealth, which matches individuals in underserved communities needing medical appointments with providers who have cancellations.

Also a winner is EPEC Inc. which helps mothers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness receive training in pet grooming, a job that can earn a starting salary of around $40,000 per year.

"We think that these companies can be set up to address social, racial, environmental issues. And it doesn't matter whether it's that for profit or nonprofit model," Erickson said. "As long as the revenue streams are sustainable, and they're not relying on those philanthropic or governmental dollars, year after year after year."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz.
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