• Michael Lotspeich

Lotspeich-Yadao, Tolbert of Baylor University receives Knowledge Challenge grant

Michael Lotspeich-Yadao and their advisor Charles M. Tolbert, of Baylor University has received a Knowledge Challenge grant of $18,802 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to address systemic challenges that affect entrepreneurs' ability to start and grow businesses. A primary focus of this year's challenge was a research-practice collaboration, searching for insights to assist with benchmarking, establishing baselines, and identifying potential programs and policies at the local level that set the conditions for entrepreneurial activity. This funding will allow them to expand their research on how entrepreneurial ecosystems affect military veterans' entrepreneurship outcomes in rural America.

"Transitional assistance programs," according to Michael Lotspeich-Yadao, "provide veterans with the tools and resources for entrepreneurship. A limitation that we have identified is a broad focus on rural entrepreneurial ecosystems without considering spatial dynamics, as well as rural women and veterans of color. Rural ecosystems are unique in their limited access to capital and labor and distance from infrastructure. Further, past research of our team has found that the most common challenge for military veteran entrepreneurs in these ecosystems is the formation of social networks and finding adequate mentorship."

"The success of a rural SME is dependent on successful integration into a thriving ecosystem. If a veteran-owned SME is established in an area with a weak ecosystem or fails to integrate into the necessary networks, this SME will likely not persevere. Thanks to the Kauffman Foundation, we can connect a broader body of literature in rural SME development with the current literature in veteran studies to create programming, as well as benchmarks to set the conditions for home-grown entrepreneurial activity."

Sameeksha Desai, director of Knowledge Creation and Research at the Kauffman Foundation, remarks that "the grants under this Knowledge Challenge are focused on inclusion and the importance of answering questions about the relationship between entrepreneurship, economic opportunity, and mobility. We're excited to learn from the research collaborations that are investigating this nexus, as well as to a more inclusive research pipeline that will continue to push us forward. As we all struggle with the very serious effects of COVID-19, we need research that informs our way forward, not to go back to how things were, but to achieve a more resilient and inclusive economic system that serves all of us in the future."

A full list of Knowledge Challenge grantees is available below:

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit and connect with us at and

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