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Entrepreneur Support Organizations

Through our grantmaking, we work to benefit entrepreneurs across the Heartland region of the United States (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) by ensuring entrepreneurs have equitable access to the resources they need to start and grow businesses.

We convene and make grants to Heartland entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) in order to develop programs, forge partnerships, and build organizational capacity to serve more entrepreneurs with high-quality support.

Programs & Initiatives

Heartland Strategy

Through the Heartland Strategy, we award grants and convene stakeholders in the Heartland region (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas). This portfolio focuses on growing and strengthening entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) in the region and working with them to address systemic challenges that affect entrepreneurs’ ability to start and grow businesses.

Kauffman Fellows

Founded in 1994 as an experiment to educate and train future leaders of high-growth companies, Kauffman Fellows is now the premier leadership organization in innovation and capital formation.

Graduates from the two-year mastery-level program lead venture capital, government, corporate, university, and startup innovation efforts. More than 500 fellows comprise a life-long network of leaders from more than 200 venture capital firms representing funds that invest billions into startups globally.

Capital Access Lab

The Capital Access Lab seeks to catalyze new financing mechanisms to serve the wide majority of entrepreneurs who can’t access venture capital or bank loans, increasing capital investment to underserved entrepreneurs who have been historically left behind, including due to their race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, and/or geographic location. The Kauffman Foundation has committed $3 million to seed this new fund. 


Read stories and news related to our Entrepreneurship Support Organization work


Catalyzing entrepreneurial ecosystems in the Heartland

The Heartland Challenge grantees will work to solve for specific challenges entrepreneurs in the region face, and will participate in facilitated, peer-learning communities of practice to share knowledge across the region.

July 10, 2020
Catalyzing entrepreneurial ecosystems in the Heartland

For the economy to restart, everyone must have the opportunity to participate

The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program only reinforced already jarring statistics. We need new, alternative funding models that are inclusive and equitable – we must rebuild better and Capital Access Lab is a start.

July 22, 2020
For the economy to restart, everyone must have the opportunity to participate

Communities of Practice

The 2020 Heartland Challenge Communities of Practice brings together entrepreneurship support organizations located in the Heartland region through a 12-month facilitated peer-learning process to share learnings about solutions to specific challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

February 20, 2020
Communities of Practice