What I have learned about Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building.

Cecilia Wessinger
15 min readNov 23, 2020

A personal journey into an emerging field.

In 2017, I was invited to a conference in Kansas City by a foundation I only had a passing acquaintance with, I was told I had been nominated to attend.

We need you and people like you to empower the makers, the doers, the dreamers of our society. We believe that everyone has the fundamental human right to turn their idea into an entrepreneurial reality, regardless of who they are or where they’re from, with zero barriers in the way.

The ESHIP Summit is the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural gathering of ecosystem builders and leaders fighting to make that happen at scale in their communities across the US.

Over two-and-a-half days, we will engage in deep conversations on how we pioneer a new model of economic development where entrepreneurs are celebrated and accelerated. You will emerge from the Summit with new connections to problem-solvers from around the world and new ideas, approaches and best practices to apply locally.

Takeaway: Intentional and bold invitations matter.

I had little understanding of what all that meant and no idea it would change the trajectory of my life. I was a bootstrapping entrepreneur who just had my dream (lovingly) squished by my mentor. It may not seem the case, but there is great kindness when someone recognizes that the path you are going down is not your best work and tells you. It is easier to be nice; supporting and advocating someone because you do not want to hurt their feelings or tell them they are wrong. My kind friend saved me from a future fraught with missteps, stress and struggle. She told me though my concept was good, I was not the best person, in that moment, to execute my long sought goal.

Takeaway: Being supportive requires honest, caring input. This is best when relationships have been intentionally built with trust and not simply transactional self interest.

So, without a firm plan in place for the rest of my life, I attended the Summit and met some of my soon to be friends and colleagues. It was a very different kind of convening, with more talk coming from the attendees than the speakers on stage. I interacted with people I had never met, but felt like I knew for years. There were only a few times in my life when I felt this way, but it was a familiar and comfortable sensation…I found my people.

Cecilia Wessinger

Community & Ecosystem Builder, Collaborator, Catalyst, Speaker/ Facilitator. Lover of words, ideas and people.