I love discovering things.

by francine Hardaway on June 18, 2003

I love discovering things. One recent morning I was listening to NPR and I finally *heard* something that had probably been broadcasted to me for years. �This program is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, encouraging entrepreneurship across America.� As someone who works with entrepreneurs every day, I was totally unaware of the Foundation and what it did. But I thought I should know.

So I went to the web site. This Foundation does a lot! It hosts a web site called www.entreworld.org, which is full of resources, including an Entrepreneur�s search engine, articles by entrepreneurs, pieces about creativity, and even a Women�s channel. One of the coolest tools on the site is the Kauffman Business EKG, a free financial benchmarking service provided by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Business EKG provides a comprehensive assessment of a company�s financial vital signs. If you use the tool, the Foundation says you will discover insights about your company�s financial well being and how you compare to the �best of the class� in your industry. The assessment requires only a few minutes and also gives ideas and strategies for improving a company�s long-term financial health. Who knew?

There is also a Kauffman Fellows Program, which is an educational program designed to educate and train future venture capitalists and future leaders of high-growth companies. Ultimately, the Fellowship aims to increase wealth and job creation in the United States by supporting the development of high-potential start-up and early stage companies. Finalists in this program go on to be mentored by VC firms throughout the world.

For kids, The entrepreneurship experts at the Kauffman Foundation and the creative team of Disney Online have joined forces on Hot Shot Business � a fun, fast-paced Internet simulation that allows kids to experience the adventure of starting and running their own businesses. The entertaining and educational game launched May 7 on Disney.com’s Kids Island site.

The Foundation also conducts a research program called �The Entrepreneur Next Door,� a national, multi-year study that tracks a group of emerging entrepreneurs as they progress through the entrepreneurial process, revealing that attempts at new business formation are more widespread than previously disclosed and involve all racial and ethnic groups.

Among the resources available to entrepreneurs on the Foundation�s site is a report on the growth of angel investing in the United States that you can download (I have it) as a .pdf.

But most interesting to me was something called FastTrac, a practical, hands-on business development program designed to help entrepreneurs hone the skills needed to create, manage and grow a successful business. FastTrac participants don’t just learn about business, they live it. They work on their own business ideas or ventures throughout the course – moving their ventures to reality or new levels of growth.

In a state like Arizona, brimming with entrepreneurship and short of resources, I couldn�t believe we didn�t need a resource like this.

Only one person in Arizona that I know of has been through FastTrac, and Arizona doesn�t even have a state administrator or facilitator. Jim Packard, the owner of Scottsdale-based MouseBungee Corporation (www.mousebungee.com) told me the FastTrac program was the best kept secret in the world, and that he had been through it and would be willing to help me offer the course.

So, guess what? I called the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. They were thrilled to hear from someone out west, and told me �after they read my resume � that I could be trained to be the Arizona-New Mexico administrator of the program. I�m going to Kansas City for three days of training in mid-July. Then I will come home and make available to entrepreneurs in Arizona and the surrounding areas what I�ve learned. I�m really excited about the opportunity to participate in the Foundation�s work, because it has such a great reputation. And I�m more excited to try to bring another resource to our local entrepreneurs.

I bet you want to know who Ewing Marion Kauffman was. Well, he founded Marion Labs, a pharmaceutical company that was nearly a billion dollar company when it was sold to Merrell Dow. He chose his middle name for the company so no one would think it was a one-man show. And he bought the Kansas City Royals in 1968, bringing major league baseball back to Kansas City. He established his foundation to promote economic self-sufficiency and education, and the foundation became fully funded in 1993 upon his death. Next time you hear about it on NPR, you�ll know.

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