SCN Series: Telling the Stories of Entrepreneurs in Fort Worth

The Startup Champions Network (SCN) Fall Summit is happening in Fort Worth this October. Ashley Ray, the Social Media and Communications lead at SCN, has been shining a light on the University of North Texas Health Science Center team hosting this event in Fort Worth. Here are some highlights of Marco Johnson, the Associate Director of Entrepreneurship at HSC Next. 

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” – Sam Gamgee

When Kendel Rogers landed a job at HSC Next, she knew she hit the jackpot. She had her sights set on healthcare because she needed to learn more about what was happening to her father who had diabetes. What she found was so much more.   

“I came to this work indirectly because I wanted to work at a hospital. My dad had diabetes and was experiencing a lot of health problems so I needed to find a career that made a difference by hopefully finding a cure. The health science center was perfect because I was learning about biotech innovation on one side, while experiencing healthcare from the other side. I found inadvertently this world of problem solving entrepreneurship,” Kendel says. 

Kendel is the Outreach Specialist for HSC Next and Sparkyard where she wears MANY hats! One of those hats is SCN summit host planner. She’s thought through the attendee experience, handled all of the snags that come with event planning, and has been finding unique ways to showcase the ecosystem.   

Kendel started at HSC Next as a social media manager and event planner for their smaller events but her role has grown since. She manages more of the marketing for the team, is the podcast producer for the Innovate Fort Worth Podcast, project manages even more events AND volunteers as a session organizer for Global Entrepreneurship Week 

“Every day is something new and I will say I never get bored. It’s always exciting. The most rewarding part would be seeing the progress and outcomes from entrepreneurs in the community and the work we do for them,” says Kendel. 

Telling stories in the ecosystem

Kendel tells the stories of entrepreneurs in Fort Worth day in and day out on social media, the HSC Next and Sparkyard blog, and the podcast. As the Innovate Fort Worth podcast was getting off the ground, Cameron Cushman (podcast host and Summit Host committee member) brought Kendel on to write scripts and take on more of a producer role.

“We initially started with just wanting to share the stories of our innovative researchers on campus to gain more public awareness. Cameron would ask every guest at the end of the podcast ‘Who is your favorite innovator in Fort Worth?’ That became our funnel for finding new entrepreneurs and innovators. Both Cameron and I were surprised that we haven’t had a lack of innovators to cover. We have a backlog of so many people doing amazing things,” says Kendel. 

The podcast has been a great way to tell the stories of innovators in the ecosystem and help gain media attention for local entrepreneurs. It has done that and more, helping people in Fort Worth see all of the incredible talent in the ecosystem. 

The magic sauce to the podcast was really making it easy on the entrepreneur AND easy for the media to pick up.  

“Entrepreneurs are busy running their businesses. Sharing their journey isn’t at the forefront of their mind. They’re trying to get their business off the ground. The podcast allows for a bite sized format with very little time commitment from the entrepreneur in exchange for free promotion. We’re seeing this domino effect of the media picking up our stories because it’s already written for the reporters,” says Kendel. 

“It has been really cool to go from a department that was specifically helping biotech researchers to now being community focused with entrepreneurs coming in and out of our door every day,” adds Kendel.

Beyond storytelling

Kendel and the team are so passionate about promoting entrepreneurs in the ecosystem they dedicate time to nominating entrepreneurs they’ve interviewed for awards. 

“Being in a metroplex with two large cities and with multiple municipalities in Dallas/Fort Worth, a lot of the media outlets have Entrepreneur of the Year or Startup of the Year awards. They’ll put out a call for nominations and the same people win. Entrepreneurs are very humble and don’t want to brag. Last year we nominated Fort Worth entrepreneurs. So the ecosystem team spent some time and we submitted any entrepreneurs that qualified. Sometimes it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it when one of our entrepreneurs wins. It’s great exposure for the entrepreneur and also for our ecosystem. We have kind of always been the little sister of Dallas so it’s nice that Fort Worth gets a little recognition,” says Kendel. 

When ecosystem building really clicked

Kendel has worked side by side with Cameron and Marco for a few years now but ecosystem building and its importance really clicked for her when she attended her first SCN Summit.  

“It was like drinking the Koolaid; everything clicked into place. I knew what we did and I knew the vision of Fort Worth’s entrepreneurial ecosystem that our community was building towards. But I wasn’t able to put the pieces together until I visited Des Moines and got to see how it all came together. It was an eye opening moment where I was like, this is cool and unique.” 

“I learned so much from other people’s stories. The value I think for me was learning that we aren’t as alone in the ups and downs as I thought. Collectively, we are all struggling with the same things. We all celebrate each other’s wins and learn how that can be applied to our own community to help people. And so everything made sense after going to my first SCN Summit.” 

And now Kendel can say she’s planned one herself! We can’t wait to welcome you to Fort Worth!

You can check out the whole write up here or learn more about SCN here. You can also read the highlights on the other SCN hosts, Cameron Cushman in Fostering What’s Next in Fort Worth as well as Marco Johnson in Growing, Guiding and Connecting Entrepreneurs in Fort Worth.

About the Author

Ashley Ray is the Social Media/Communications lead at Startup Champions Network where she loves sharing stories and successes from their amazing ecosystem building members.

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