PCs for People Kansas City and Partners Receive Heartland Challenge Grant To Address The Digital Divide For Informal Entrepreneurs

A new Digital Readiness Assessment app will bridge the gap between informal entrepreneurs and the digital transformation skills and equipment they need to thrive.

Kansas City | September 1, 2022

PCs for People Kansas City, in partnership with The Usher Garage and No-Where Consultants, is spearheading the effort to lift informal and emerging entrepreneurs out of the digital divide in Kansas City. Through the development of a new Digital Readiness Assessment tool and dedicated grant funding from the Heartland Challenge at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the three partners aim to properly evaluate where informal entrepreneurs are being left out of financial opportunities as compared to their technology-empowered counterparts while bridging the gap between those entrepreneurs and the ample entrepreneur support ecosystem present in Kansas City. Through this Assessment, qualified participants will receive much-needed high-speed internet services, computers, digital transformation training, technology skills training, and meaningful connectivity to entrepreneur support organizations.

Selected as one of only eight Heartland Challenge Recipients, PCs for People Kansas City and its partners will work closely with the entrepreneurial support organizations and business development organizations in the Kansas City area to achieve their goal of servicing 100 entrepreneurs with the new Digital Readiness Assessment tool and digital transformation services.

As Na’im Al-Amin of SWAGG INC says, “this is truly phenomenal and most of our clients will seek this benefit and grow their program. SWAGG INC is in the Kansas City Reentry Center every Saturday and holds entrepreneur development courses. This program will engage them as they transition to society and they will be connected to an audience for their success.”

Gabe Munoz at The ToolboxKC adds, “the further behind this digital divide goes the worse it will be for emerging entrepreneurs. The metaverse and other technologies are leaving them behind. We are doing a pitch competition now with PorterhouseKC using zoom and the digital divide is really evident here. Spending a lot of time assisting people in using zoom and most have never created a PowerPoint. This effort will be useful to our clients in Kansas City, Kansas.”

Simone Curls at the Prospect Business Association states, “Prospect Business Association is pleased to partner with the Digital Equity for Emerging Entrepreneurs program. This partnership will enable businesses easier and more timely access to the technology needed, building upon existing digital literacy skills to start, scale, or sustain their business.”

Despite the wealth of resources in and around Kansas City, informal entrepreneurs often find themselves left out of valuable funding and network-building opportunities. Informal entrepreneurs have come to heightened awareness by entrepreneur support organizations during the Covid-19 pandemic because their lack of formal organization, tax status, business licensing, incomplete financial records, and related complications have made it more difficult for them to apply, qualify for, and receive financial assistance from local, state and federal economic assistance programs. Data from the US Census Bureau indicates that 11% of households in Kansas City, Mo., and 15% of households in Kansas City, Kan. do not have internet access – in many of the KC region’s economically-distressed neighborhoods, 35% to 56% of households do not have internet access.

The Digital Readiness Assessment tool aims to act as a bridge between existing entrepreneur support organizations such as the Prospect Business Association, LISC-KC, Porterhouse KC, SWAGG INC, and The Toolbox KC by connecting these viable business owners to resources, funding, and technology solutions that are otherwise out of reach.

About The Partners: PCs for People is a Kansas City-based 501c3 led by Tom Esselman providing affordable computers and internet to low-income individuals and nonprofits, as well as secure e-waste recycling services to businesses and is a member of the KC Coalition for Digital Inclusion.

The Usher Garage is headed by Rick Usher, former Assistant City Manager of Kansas City. He brings his 36 + years of experience in entrepreneurship, digital equity, and inclusion to the partnership and is a member of the KC Coalition for Digital Inclusion.

No-Where Consultants is the technical development and strategic marketing team behind GotDevKC, the technical marketplace for KC tech talent. Run by Larissa Uredi and Aaron Crabb, No-Where has deep roots in the KC startup scene and brings over 15 years of technical expertise to the table.