Douglas County supports local entrepreneurs through various programs and initiatives. We are committed to cultivating an equitable entrepreneurial environment, in which anyone can reach their full potential.
The NetWork Kansas Entrepreneurship Community (E-Community) program is geared towards identifying and developing resources to assist local entrepreneurs in starting or growing a business.
Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge
This annual competition consists of students preparing a written business plan or executive summary, a “trade show” booth, and an elevator pitch or presentation.
Culinary Commons is a community incubator kitchen that offers a clean, quiet atmosphere to create delicious recipes to launch your food business or innovate to perfect your dream product.
The NetWork Kansas Entrepreneurship Community (E-Community) program is geared towards identifying and developing resources to assist local entrepreneurs in starting or growing a business. The goals of the E-Community partnership are to:
- Grow a flourishing, sustainable entrepreneurial environment supportive of business startups and expansions
- Engage and/or develop entrepreneurial resources to meet identified community and business needs
- Create a revolving loan fund to provide matching loans to entrepreneurs and small businesses with local control of decisions and terms
One of the resources that an E-Community offers is a locally administered revolving loan fund used to provide gap financing to entrepreneurs within the E-Community. Gap financing is used when the combination of available bank loans and an entrepreneur’s personal savings fall short of the amount of money needed to start or grow a business. The “gap” refers to the difference between the available amount and the amount needed for the project. Gap financing is approved to be spent on the purchase of land, the purchase of real estate, the purchase of business inventory, the purchase of business equipment, and working capital. Generally, the following are not approved uses: paying off or refinancing existing debt, salary or owners draw, payroll taxes, and building renovation not tied to a specific business.
The following resources are also offered by NetWork Kansas through the E-Community program:
- Priority access to NetWork Kansas opportunities for youth entrepreneurship, networking, funding, high-powered technical assistance for second-stage businesses, and more
- The opportunity to attend a statewide conference to participate in peer-to-peer discussion with other E-Communities focused on developing strong entrepreneurial environments
- Materials and support for fostering the E-Community, including marketing materials, training opportunities, leadership team guidance, and more
- Opportunities to engage with entrepreneurship experts for consulting including Kansas Entrepreneurial Communities Initiative (KECI) representatives and the national economic gardening team
The Douglas County E-Community is comprised of Douglas County, Baldwin City, the City of Eudora, and the City of Lecompton. The initiative was formed in 2011, with the first loans being made in 2012. To date, 35 projects have been funded.
Entrepreneurs Loan Program
A NetWork Kansas E-Community has made a commitment to cultivating an entrepreneurial environment by identifying and developing resources to help local entrepreneurs start or grow businesses. Selected communities partner with NetWork Kansas to establish a locally-administered loan fund to assist entrepreneurs with capital, to increase connectivity to resources available to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses, to initiate activities to generate entrepreneurial development, and to participate in a statewide partnership with other E-Communities.
Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge
Douglas County, in association with the Network Kansas E-Community Partnership, is proud to support the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (YEC) program. Douglas County is one of many communities across Kansas to host a locally organized event designed to give junior and high school age students a hands-on entrepreneurship experience.
The annual competition consists of students preparing a written business plan or executive summary, a “trade show” booth, and an elevator pitch or presentation. Students compete against each other for $3,500 in prize money. The students’ work is judged by local entrepreneurs, public sector partners, teachers, and other adults.
The 2017/2018 school year was the first year Douglas County brought this competition to the community with a goal of exposing Douglas County high school students to entrepreneurship. The annual Network Kansas YEC series culminates in a statewide championship, where the top students from each local competition face off against each other for prize money and other honors. The statewide championship is typically held in April at Kansas State University.
Douglas County’s YEC is open to all junior and high school age students residing in Douglas County. While Douglas County works closely with teachers at Baldwin City, Eudora, and Lawrence area public high schools to promote and support the program, participation is open to all junior and high school age individuals, including private schools and home-based settings.
E(ntrepreneur)-Accelerator is a 15 to 18-month program that started in January 2015. It is developed by Advancing Rural Prosperity, Inc. (ARPI) and offered through NetWork Kansas (parent organization of the Douglas County E-Community) that aims to strengthen the relationship between local entrepreneurs in rural Kansas and the communities in which they are located. In Douglas County, E-Accelerator is a continuation of the work of the Douglas County E-Community and so is being facilitated in the towns of Baldwin City, Eudora, and Lecompton, the same members of the E-Community.
The goals of the E-Accelerator program are to:
- Identify the needs of the community’s entrepreneurs and the resources available to meet those needs;
- Designate an invested community member to serve as the ongoing "coach" for the community’s entrepreneurs to act as a conduit for entrepreneurs to learn about and access the available resources; and
- Create and implement strategies tailored to the needs of the community’s entrepreneurs.
One of the unique aspects of E-Accelerator is its focus on bringing together stakeholders from all across the community to support its own local businesses and business owners; these stakeholders include:
- Local business owners
- Community groups
- Invested residents and
- County and state-wide economic development professionals and investors