UMKC Innovation Center partners with the university and the community to spark and sustain entrepreneurial efforts within our region and across the country.

KCSourceLink connects KC entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time.

MOSourceLink connects Missouri entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time.

Whiteboard2Boardroom connects entrepreneurs and businesses to technologies available for licensing.

Digital Sandbox KC provides early-stage proof-of-concept support for digital products.

Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center provides technical assistance to startup and existing businesses.

ScaleUP! Kansas City helps businesses with revenues around $200K scale toward their first $1 million.

Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers helps local businesses obtain government contracts.

KCInvestED helps investors learn more about investing in KC startups.

SourceLink® helps communities nationwide build vibrant and vital entrepreneurial ecosystems.
UMKC Innovation Center

Awards and Competitions

Name recognition, free promotion and greater perceived prominence are just a few benefits of getting an honor.

Make your company a household name and get well-deserved recognition by competing for and winning locally and nationally sponsored awards.

Check the list below for Misouri's most prominent business competitions that are currently taking nominations.

If you'd like to list a competition or award, please contact

The BALSA Grant is designed for first-time St. Louis entrepreneurs wanting to start or grow their early stage businesses in St. Louis. We welcome applications from all business sectors, and from non-profit as well as for-profit organizations. 

We offer the BALSA Grant to help first time entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. 

BALSA Grant finalists receive:
  • Free (non-dilutive) cash grant of $1,000
  • The Learning Series, a 10-week comprehensive entrepreneur training program that helps participants realize their potential,  introduces them to the St. Louis business ecosystem and brings them industry experts every week that also includes one on one time with each presenter after the session. (Valued at $20,000+ in-kind professional services)
  • One-on-one mentoring 

You can apply to The BALSA Grant twice a year, January 1-15 and July 1-15. 

Learn more and apply here

Interchange is a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance made possible with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Interchange is designed to strengthen communities and individual artists within our region by supporting artist-led projects focused on social impact.

Interchange grants will be awarded to 16 artists with an active, socially engaged creative practice in the Mid-America Arts Alliance region through:

  • $20,000 in direct project support
  • Professional development retreats with Interchange grantees
  • Mentoring

    Follow the link to learn more:

Digital Sandbox KC: Where Innovators Come to Play (Ongoing)

Digital Sandbox KC brings together people, ideas and resources to build thriving companies. The program provides much needed early-stage funding to rising stars. The region's longtime leaders including private companies, government agencies and universities have united to help this new wave of entrepreneurs. It's an unprecedented metro-wide effort to help make KC America's most entrepreneurial city.

93 proof-of-concept projects funded for area startups
35 new KC-based companies created
53 companies have secured follow-on investment
$38.2 million in follow-on funding
More than 480 new jobs created, with more than $12 million in payroll

Digital Sandbox KC broadly seeks new innovation in information technology.  The Sandbox provides innovators with proof-of-concept resources to support early-stage commercialization processes. The Sandbox may cover expenses for project consultants, market research, legal support, equipment and other market validation, prototyping and beta testing needs.

The Digital Sandbox KC process requires:
- Completion of the Digital Sandbox KC Online Application
- A Meeting/Pitch Evaluation
- A Board Vote

Please keep in mind that this application will be viewed by those evaluating your submission; those participating in your meeting/pitch and by the Sandbox board for voting purposes. Once your application is received, it will be reviewed for completeness and you will be contacted with information regarding next steps. Submission Tip: Thoroughly reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions prior to submission may improve your outcome.

With the financial support of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Downtown Shareholders is pleased to announce the launch of the third round of Pop-Up! Downtown KCK, a retail development initiative to enliven Downtown Kansas City, Kansas. Pop-Up! Downtown KCK matches select entrepreneurs with high-visibility, well-sited spaces at free or reduced rent, and provides an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to test a retail concept or determine whether Downtown KCK is a viable long-term location for their business.

To learn more about this program or to download a funding application, check out our website.

The Emerging Leaders Initiative is an intensive executive-level series intended to accelerate the growth of high-potential small businesses in America’s underserved cities.  Developed by SBA and drawing on the experiences of advisors and business leaders in urban communities across the country, this comprehensive curriculum provides the tools to catapult your company to the next level and help it emerge as a force in your community.

Do I qualify to participate?

This training is for established business owners and is not for start-ups or people who are thinking about starting a business. The Emerging Leaders Initiative advanced training series is open to small business owners and executives that:

  • Have annual revenues of at least $250,000
  • Have been in business for at least 3 years
  • Have at least one employee, other than self

What are the key program highlights? 

  • Customized training for “C” (CEO, COO, etc.) level executives with demonstrated business sustainability of at least 3 years in business and annual revenue of at least $250K 
  • Participant recruitment begins in February through SBA’s local district offices and classes typically begin in April
  • A three-year strategic growth action plan with benchmarks and performance targets to help the participant emerge as self-sustaining businesses that creates jobs and build communities
  • Includes 100 + hours of professional specialized training and peer-to-peer counseling delivered over the course of seven months
  • Specialized areas of training include:
    • Growth Strategies Plans
    • Financing and Access to Capital
    • Government Contracting
    • CEO Mentoring

What types of businesses participate in the program?

There are currently no restrictions on the types of businesses that can participate. Some examples of participating businesses include:  manufacturers, retail/wholesalers, contractors, professional services and food service.

In what ways does the training help my business?

The training is specifically designed to stimulate and support the expansion of your business. The curriculum provides strategies to help you access new avenues of capital. It offers practical tools to pursue new paths for business development. It surrounds you with a network of government resources and local business leaders prepared to invest time and energy in your business.

What are the overall benefits of participation? 

The end result of the executive education prepares and encourages small businesses to move to the next level on their growth trajectory and to help them emerge as self-sustaining businesses that create jobs and build communities.  At the conclusion of the training, entrepreneurs produce a three-year strategic growth action plan with benchmarks and performance targets that will help them access the necessary support and resources to move forward.  

Is participation in the Emerging Leaders Initiative free?

The only cost is your time and commitment to complete the curriculum over the course of seven months. All other costs are covered by SBA and our local partners. 

Learn more and apply here!

While COVID-19 took a tremendous toll on our lives and livelihoods, it also unleashed a wave of creativity and energy as our community developed responses to the pandemic. Comeback KC Ventures is an effort to help turn the innovative solutions developed during the pandemic into a permanent part of our economic recovery. The Comeback KC Ventures program is designed to highlight new solutions that have emerged in response to COVID-19 and to support entrepreneurs developing these solutions into ongoing products, service lines, and businesses.

Here are the specific ways you can get involved:

As solutions are discovered, and on a rolling basis, at least 20 entrepreneurs will be invited to become part of a Comeback KC Venture Fellows group. Through Comeback KC Venture Fellows, entrepreneurs will importantly connect with each other, but also to training, counseling, and industry experts help provide needed support to rapidly develop solutions to meet these opportunities.

Each Comeback KC Venture Fellow will:

  • Create and meet with an advisory board
  • Build community through peer-to-peer roundtables
  • Increase visibility to investors
  • Attend classes and educational sessions
  • Have an opportunity and get application support for funding through programs like SBIR and Digital Sandbox

This program is being funded through an 18-month grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, led by KC Digital Drive and the UMKC Innovation Center and is open to people that reside within the 9-county Kansas City region. We are hoping to sprint toward 10 new high-growth potential companies that generate 30 new jobs and $5 million in follow-on funding by October 2022.

All Participants are encouraged to apply for Digital Sandbox KC proof-of-concept project support.  An average of $20,000 in direct technical assistance is available per project. See

SLUStart I-Corps is a program managed by the Research Innovation Group in Saint Louis University's Office of the Vice President for Research. It is designed to help academic researchers, community inventors and innovators, and aspiring entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region extend their focus beyond academia, the laboratory, and the workshop so that they create successful products and services that deliver real value.

By participating in SLUStart I-Corps you can get help pursuing your innovation or new venture concept and possibly qualify for up to $50,000 in non-dilutive financial support.

SLUStart I-Corps helps participants ensure that their research and innovations will have greater economic and societal benefit. It integrates the original SLUStart program and the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site program at Saint Louis University. As such, SLUStart I-Corps projects that qualify as NSF I-Corps Site projects have full access to the NSF I-Corps ecosystem.

SLUStart I-Corps aims to:

  • Train participants in the lean startup methodology (i.e., customer development process) popularized by Steve Blank.
  • Increase the quality and impact of research conducted at Saint Louis University.
  • Advance the commercialization of SLU intellectual properties.
  • Increase the effectiveness of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs in the St. Louis, Missouri region.
  • Increase the participation of underrepresented groups, such as women and African-Americans, in entrepreneurship and the technology industry.

SLUStart I-Corps holds cohorts on a rolling basis throughout the year.  It also partners with local community-based organizations to reach target populations and deliver the SLUStart I-Corps curriculum.  SLUStart I-Corps partners include:

  • Arch Grants
  • Inventors Association of St. Louis
  • IT Entrepreneurs Network (ITEN)
  • Veterans Business Resource Center

If you have questions about SLUStart I-Corps, contact Malcolm Townes in the Research Innovation Group at To participate in the program, submit your application.

To submit your Application

For More information:

About this Event

This PitchForce will take place virtually using Zoom Webinars. Please see the description on the virtual format for more details.

After signing up for your free ticket you will be given a link to register for the webinar via Zoom.


PitchForce is a weekly event for early stage high-tech startup entrepreneurs to get a chance to deliver a 4-minute elevator pitch to a panel of seasoned angel investors. Please send your deck and executive summary to for approval before signing up.


Producing the event is Max Shapiro, CEO of PeopleConnect, a 20 year-old high tech startup recruiting firm. He has been hosting monthly pitch events for the past 8 years. PeopleConnect is the most unique recruiting firm in the world, featuring their Employees Without Paychecks model whereby PeopleConnect places individuals at early stage tech companies who are willing to work for options only for the first three months of their employment

PitchForce Virtual Format

· Each company will deliver a 1-minute elevator to the Investor Panelists. There will be up to two questions from the panel.

· After each company’s elevator pitch the panel will vote on a scale of 1-5 as to how much they like the company.

· The top 5 vote getters will get to do a 4-minute ppt followed by 4 minutes of question and answers followed by 4 minutes of non-rebuttal feedback. The panelists will vote again on the company based on their 4-minute ppt.

· Winners will be announced following the pitches. Companies that do well often get meetings with the investors that result in beginning the process for Angel investment.

Want to pitch?

If you want to present at this PitchForce please send your deck and exec summary to:


Up to $1,000 available to Missouri retail locations that carry Missouri Grown products.


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Today, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced funding for the Missouri Grown Retail Promotion Matching Grant through the Missouri Grown program. The grant awards up to $1,000 for reimbursement of expenses associated with promoting Missouri Grown member products at retail locations in Missouri.


This competitive grant program will provide advertising funds to Missouri retail locations that sell products from a minimum of five Missouri Grown member companies. The grant raises awareness to communities about the products grown, raised and produced by members of the Missouri Grown program. The grant also improves understanding of raising food and promotes agriculture in those communities.


To be eligible, retail locations must carry product from a minimum of five Missouri Grown member companies. Projects must be matched on at least a dollar-for-dollar basis to meet eligibility.


Examples of qualifying expenses may include permanent signage, billboards, radio spots, digital or print advertisement. Awardees must include the Missouri Grown logo on promotional materials and be prepared to submit receipts for dispersed funds, scripts of radio advertisements and copies of any artwork created.


Ineligible expenses include food, employee payroll, donations, infrastructure, equipment, clothing and reprinting of existing promotional material.


The maximum award amount for each retail location is $1,000. Applications are due December 1, 2021. To apply, visit the Retail Promotion Matching Grant page for a full list of program requirements, a grant timeline and printable application.


For more information about the this grant or other grant opportunities available through the Missouri Department of Agriculture, visit the Department online at Agriculture.Mo.Gov


In honor of Innovation Day, join us for an IdeaBounce® and pitch your best, innovative idea. Receive feedback from local community leaders, network with fellow students, alumni, and faculty, and make connections.

This event is open to everyone. Prizes will be awarded to those with the best ideas! Sign up to pitch or to cheer on your favorite ideas – all are welcome!

Wednesday, February 16, 2022 @4:00pm - 5:30pm

Skandalaris Center, Mallinckrodt 128, 6465 Forsyth Blvd #128, St. Louis, MO 63105


The grant funds are in turn granted to projects and organizations to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops; assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops; expanding availability and access to specialty crops; and addressing local, regional, and national challenges confronting specialty crop producers. Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture.”

Applications will be evaluated by a team of external reviewers. The team will rate proposals on their ability to successfully promote specialty crops in Kansas and make a positive impact on the Kansas economy. Those recommendations will be submitted to the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, who will make the final awards.

Applications are due to KDA no later than 5:00 p.m. CST on March 31, 2022. For more information, please download and carefully read the 2022 KDA Request for Applications from the KDA website:

Technology and innovation companies applying for an SBIR/STTR grant, can get help completing their application with help from the Missouri SBDC!

The Missouri SBDC is awarding 20 grants to Missouri technology companies to specifically help these companies hire grant-writing assistance to get their applications over the finish line. The grants are in the amount of $2,500.

Those interested in applying must be based in Missouri, a current Missouri SBDC client or willing to become a client, and be applying for a Federal SBIR/STTR grant.

Interested innovators are encouraged to apply as early as possible. The grants are awarded on an ongoing basis and reviewed individually for fit.


Small businesses in Greene County will be able to apply for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding starting on April 20, 2022. The County will receive a total of $56.9 million in federal ARPA funds to support local economic recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greene County Commission has allocated approximately $8 million for small business ARPA applications. The Commission is planning four rounds of funding over the next two years with approximately $2 million available each cycle. The first round of funding will be open to small businesses in the County for six weeks, lasting until May 31.

Small businesses that are awarded funds from the County will be required to provide a report demonstrating how they’ve utilized the grant funding to support their business’ operations. The eligibility criteria for ARPA funding is as follows:

– The business must be located in Greene County, Missouri.
– The business must be a for-profit or family-owned business that employs 50 or fewer full-time employees, including the owner(s).
– The business must not employ undocumented immigrant workers and must be enrolled in E-Verify.
– The business must have existed in Greene County, Missouri as of March 1st, 2020.
– The business must demonstrate the existence of negative impacts incurred as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency since March 1st, 2020.
– The business is not suspended or debarred from the use of federal funds.

The following are allowable uses for ARPA funding outlined by the U.S. Treasury department:

Revenue Loss Mitigation – Funds may be used to mitigate financial hardship such as declines in revenues or impacts of periods of business closure, for example by supporting payroll and benefits costs, costs to retain employees, mortgage, rent, or utilities costs, and other operating costs.

Facilities – Funds may be used to implement COVID-19 prevention or mitigation tactics, such as physical plant changes to enable social distancing, enhanced cleaning efforts, barriers or partitions, or COVID-19 vaccination, testing, or contact tracing programs.

Small businesses cannot use ARPA funds for the following expenditures:

– Paying non-business debt, such as personal credit cards for purchases not associated with the business.
– Personal expenses such as buying a new family car or making repairs to a home.
– Direct financing to political activities or paying off taxes and fines.
– Purchase of personal items.
– The purchase of drugs, tobacco, and/or alcohol.
– Food and entertainment.
– Bonuses.
– Travel not associated with direct business operations.

Apply for Greene County ARPA Funds

To apply for Greene County ARPA funds, click on the orange “American Rescue Plan Act” tab on the homepage. Then click on the “ARPA small business application” sub-link to begin the registration process.

Capital Innovators provides startups with the resources and connections they need to reach the next level.  Through proprietary processes and techniques developed and iterated on over the program's 10-year history, the Accelerator Program has consistently been ranked as one of the top programs in the United States.

The Capital Innovators Startup Accelerator Program, based in St.Louis, MO, provides tech startups with:
  • Seed Funding
  • Mentorship
  • Access to a Network of Global Startups
  • Connections to Customers and Strategic Partners
  • Co-Working Space in St. Louis
Apply Here:

At Builders + Backers, we believe great ideas exist in every corner of the country. As Winston Churchill once said, “There are plenty of good ideas, if only they can be backed with the power of action.” 

With the Idea Accelerator, we’re doing just that. They help you put your idea into action in a no-cost, no-risk way. Their Builders learn and then apply world-class entrepreneurial ways to run short, high-impact tests of their ideas. No entity, business plan or traction required to apply. Bring your biggest and boldest ideas and let’s get started!

Apply here:

At Builders + Backers, we believe great ideas exist in every corner of the country. As Winston Churchill once said, “There are plenty of good ideas, if only they can be backed with the power of action.” 

With the Idea Accelerator, we’re doing just that. We help you put your idea into action in a no-cost, no-risk way. Our Builders learn and then apply world-class entrepreneurial ways to run short, high-impact tests of their ideas. No entity, business plan or traction required to apply. Bring your biggest and boldest ideas and let’s get started!

The Idea Accelerator—a rapid-pace, 90-day, virtual program to get your idea off the sidelines and into action. All fueled by up to $5,000 in non-dilutive Pebble Funds and powered by our partners at Heartland Forward.


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