Wichita Entrepreneurs Have Access to Suite of Resources
Wichita has always been a place where innovative businesses can grow and prosper, and today a new generation of entrepreneurs is following in the footsteps of William Coleman, Clyde Cessna, Bill Lear, brothers Dan and Frank Carney and many others.
Their companies – Coleman lanterns and outdoor gear, Cessna aircraft, Lear Jets and the Pizza Hut restaurant chain – helped create modern America. Today Wichita’s vibrant and diverse economy and attractive quality of life are creating new opportunities for emerging businesses.
“Wichita is just a great community overall. The quality of life in this town is attractive to others across the nation, and as a result, people want to live here, work here and create their futures here,” says Troy E. Lott, president of Intake Studios, a company he founded with partners Todd Schwartz and Heath Balderston in 2004.
As do many startup businesses in the region, Intake Studios took advantage of the many resources Wichita has to offer entrepreneurial businesses, including assistance from the Kansas Small Business Development Center at Wichita State University.
The university’s Center for Entrepreneurship is a popular resource, offering academic programs that prepare students for the challenge of starting a business. The center’s BizInc incubator provides space and technical services to early-stage companies.
Inventing the Future
“It’s about innovation. It’s creative thinking. Everything’s entrepreneurship,” says Dr. Tim Pett, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Wichita provides fertile ground where small startups can grow into big businesses. Just ask Laura McMurray, president and CEO of Complete Landscaping Systems, which designs, installs and maintains landscaping for residential and commercial clients. The company’s 934 percent growth from 2007 to 2010 earned a spot on the "Inc. 500," Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the country.
“Wichita has consistently maintained itself as a growing metropolitan area with small-town appeal. Wichita’s pro-business environment contributes to low startup cost that appeals to young businesses,” says McMurray.
A wealth of hands-on help and advice is available, she says.
“The Center for Entrepreneurship, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and other local business associations provide access to essential business tools, resources and networking opportunities that promote an enabling environment for small enterprises that aid in Wichita’s wider scope of economic development,” McMurray says.
Wichita's Global Presence
From small beginnings, Wichita businesses attract investors from around the world. That happened when Pulse, a provider of electronic health records and medical practice management software, was acquired in 2010 by Paris-based Cegedim, a leading European provider of medical, paramedical and pharmacy management software. Now Pulse is a key part of a company with 8,500 employees and revenues of more than $1.2 billion.
“We’re no longer a small startup. Being here in Wichita allowed this to happen. We are part of a larger organization with greater opportunities,” says Basil Hourani, Pulse’s president and CEO.
Wichita’s mid-continent location, quality of life, cultural attractions and educational institutions make the city an ideal place, he says.
“This is the best-kept secret for a place to live. The environment of investing is good. Being right in the middle of the country makes it easy to service clients on the East Coast and the West Coast. And then there’s the entrepreneurial environment,” says Hourani.
At the Center for Entrepreneurship, Pett is working directly with the next generation of entrepreneurs. They have much in common with the men and women who came before, he says.
“I often think of the long history of entrepreneurship in Wichita. First was agriculture, and oil, with a mindset of risk-taking. Aviation created an entire industry. That was a technology bubble.”
Today’s entrepreneurs are keeping alive the spirit of their forebears, says Pett.
“A handshake means something," he says. "There’s a spirit of ‘I win, you win.’”