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GovFest for Entrepreneurs

Johnson County Library
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Innovation Leader: Whitney Davison, Information Services Mgr., Central Resource Library, Johnson County Library , turleyw@jocolibrary.org

Problem Statement

Providing information services, research and support for entrepreneurs and small businesses has long been a signature service of the Johnson County Library. However, business patrons often needed and were unaware of the many free or low-cost services available to them from government and non-profit agencies. Making one-by-one referrals to these agencies was a cumbersome process for the patron, the Library, and the service agencies themselves. The Library needed an efficient, effective way to bring together government and non-profit agencies with the small businesspeople they want to serve, while forging partnerships, creating relationships, and maximizing efficiency for everyone.

Innovation

The first “GovFest for Entrepreneurs” in 2007 was coordinated by Government Documents Librarian Martha Childers and brought together a group of partners including the Small Business Development Center from the local community college; KCSourceLink, a small business services organization; and others.

Progress

Ninety participants visited with 10 exhibitors and attended classes throughout the day in the 2007 GovFest. Held at the Central Resource Library, the day was considered a success by participants, exhibitors, the Library, and the key partner group. Immediately, planning began for the next year, and the 2008 edition of GovFest featured almost 40 exhibitors with approximately 300 participants.

In 2009, the Third Annual GovFest engaged more than 400 participants with 50 exhibitors and the classes offered throughout the day. Some GovFest attendees began arriving before the library opened at 9:00 a.m., although the event did not officially begin until 10:00 a.m., and several of the early patrons were also in the final class of the day, which lasted until 8:30 p.m. One said, “In one day, I have learned everything I need to start my business! I am so excited!”

GovFest is an efficient, effective way to connect small businesspeople and entrepreneurs with the services available from government and non-profit agencies. The event continues to grow and to be an astounding success. In 2008, GovFest was a featured event of the Kauffman Foundation’s Entrepreneur Week (E-Week) activities, receiving excellent press and rave reviews from participating agencies and patrons.

GovFest won a National Association of Counties Achievement Award in early 2009 and is being replicated by KCSourceLink, one of the coordinating partners, along with the public library in Springfield, MO.