For those of you who were with us for the journey last year, we’re glad to have you back! We’ve kicked off our 6th Cohort of The Mentor Network and are thrilled to dig in deeper with each of the founders. Within this Founder Feature Series, we chat with the founders of the 6th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys. They have some great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community!
If you’ve been in the startup community, there’s a good chance you’ve met Kyle Smith. However, today we get to know Kyle in the context of Founder of Determination, Incorporated! Kyle has participated in both E-Scholars and Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, among other programs. Kyle also runs the Own It podcast as part of his efforts to spread his mission and answer his central question — can entrepreneurship help to reduce recidivism?
Determination, Incorporated is a Kansas City-based nonprofit creating a “felony-friendly” path to entrepreneurship. The nonprofit takes a community-based, story-led approach to help currently and formerly incarcerated people adopt the entrepreneurial mindset in order to re-enter their communities successfully, stay out of incarceration, start businesses and become job creators.
What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?
Why this startup? A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?
Determination, Incorporated is a new nonprofit creating a “felony-friendly” path to entrepreneurship. We work with currently and formerly incarcerated people to help them pursue their business goals.
I started Determination, Incorporated, because I believe very deeply that many of our brothers and sisters coming home from incarceration have what it takes to start viable, hiring businesses that can solve problems and create value in their communities.
What was your first milestone/win that let you know you were on the right track to build this business?
I launched my business support group for formerly incarcerated people, Be the Boss, in January 2018. Thanks to the support of Kansas City’s reentry community sending referrals, >30 people have already gone through the program.
Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?
As I started exploring how Kansas City’s entrepreneurial community could help our brothers and sisters coming home from incarceration, many folks raised their hands and said they’d be more than willing to help. In fact, they’ve always cared very deeply about this topic, and now they have an opportunity to use their business acumen and experience to help folks. I joined The Mentor Network to extend this same opportunity to the corporate community. (And to learn, of course!)
What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?
Having the opportunity to slow down and connect with my fellow founders was invigorating and nourishing.
How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?
I have tremendous support from my friends and family, prioritize exercise, and sing along to the soundtrack to Hamilton (a lot!)
KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs. What are we still missing? What gaps do you think we need to fill?
I’m on track to fill one big one!
Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?
Anyone who is pursuing entrepreneurship (or even just thinking about it) should call up KCSourceLink and learn about the myriad resources available to them: 816-235-6500. There’s something for everyone! And I have been so blessed by the classes and support of the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership. If you think you want to start a nonprofit, plug into their offerings. . . now! The Levitt Challenge was a HUGE help in getting me to where I am today.
If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
I’ve done the Determination, Incorporated journey the right way. Now, past entrepreneurial journeys haven’t gone quite as smoothly. To that guy, I would say. . .
Get plugged in! And lead with value and an open heart and mind.
Also published on Medium.