Fab Lab ICC Director Jim Correll and Independence entrepreneur Joanne Smith, owner of FAB Creative Services, were among approximately 50 guests from across the nation invited to participate last week in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s annual “Entrepreneur Fly-in” in Washington, D.C.
The two-day event included advocacy visits with congressional staffers in the offices of Sen. Jerry Moran, Rep. Steve Watkins, Sen. Pat Roberts and with a representative from the House Maker Caucus working to broaden the understanding of the importance of maker spaces in local, regional and national economies. Correll and Smith engaged in conversations about current entrepreneurship trends across the nation, including southeast Kansas. They discussed how the government might recognize the growing economic and social impact of entrepreneurs – particularly in rural markets - and help level the playing field with larger corporations by addressing challenges entrepreneurs face, such as lack of access to affordable health insurance, funding and specific education programs.
According to Kauffman Foundation statistics, 83 percent of entrepreneurs do not have access to bank loans or venture capital; 65 percent rely on personal and family savings for startup capital; and only 0.5 percent start their businesses with venture capital investments. However, 79.78 percent of startups are still active one year after launching. Kauffman also reports that only 16 percent of entrepreneurs believe they are well represented by Congress, and 66% believe government incentives favor established businesses over startups.
“The event was an excellent opportunity to connect with our federal legislators and make the case for more understanding of and support for our small, rural corner of the world and what enhanced entrepreneurship could mean for our economy,” said Correll. “We invited all our elected officials to visit Fab Lab ICC and see first-hand the magic of combining a ‘maker’ environment with support for entrepreneurial thinking.”
In addition to the advocacy visits, Correll and Smith joined a small group for an “insider’s” tour of the U.S. Capitol led by Sen. Moran. They also attended a reception highlighting two entrepreneurial businesses in Washington, D.C. – the Cotton & Reed Distillery, a rum distillery operation led by two young entrepreneurs who overcame challenges with municipal regulations and financing to launch a successful business; and the Village Café, which features local food growers, cooks and artists of all kinds in its meal service and in multiple special community events.
This was the second year Correll and Smith attended the Kauffman advocacy event, joining other organization leaders and entrepreneurs who have participated in the Kauffman Inclusion Open grant program. Smith coordinates the Fab Lab’s “Women 4 Women” initiative, which is funded by a Kauffman Inclusion Open grant and is designed to inspire and educate women about opportunities in entrepreneurship.
“We were honored to again be included in this event and have the opportunity to address lawmakers on such an important topic,” Smith said. “I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with and learn from other women entrepreneurs from around the country and establish relationships that will help me further develop my own business as well as the Women 4 Women program objectives.”
More information on Fab Lab ICC and how it supports entrepreneurs is available by contacting Correll at firstname.lastname@example.org.