Bobby Burch, 28

“Curiosity makes life an adventure of discovery and it compounds as you grow older.”

In their own words

As editor of Startland News, I lead a digital news team that reports on entrepreneurs, innovative ideas and progressive action in the Kansas City area.

I’ve been fortunate to work with many talented teams, which has helped to expand my creative skills, accelerate my career and gain recognition in the process, including many first-prize Kansas Press Association awards for stories, photos and videos. In 2013, I was awarded the Burton W. Marvin Kansas News Enterprise Award for a six-week series of stories that exposed a popular sheriff’s arrest amid a secret affair and usurping of public trust.

I’ve also co-founded a news organization, Startland News, that’s gained thousands of regular readers from around the Midwest. I’m proud to be part of a team that’s sharing how the power of entrepreneurial thinking — among educators, government officials, citizens and businesspeople — can better the world. Through Startland’s success, I’ve been featured in various Kansas City media outlets as an expert on the local entrepreneurial community.

I’m also a published portrait and wildlife photographer, and have started a small business from that passion.

KC Story

I’ve lived in Kansas City for three years. I moved here thanks to a reporting opportunity with the Kansas City Business Journal, but I’ve stuck around thanks to a vibrant community that values creativity and collaboration.

The area entrepreneurial community is one with which I share values — ambition, creativity and determination — and through which I’ve learned so much. I’m thankful to be a part of it, to learn from local innovators and to share their stories.

A day in the life

I wake up, chug a pint of water, glance at a few news sites and listen to NPR on my drive to work. From there, I tweak a news budget and evaluate an array of pitches on new ventures, novel educational approaches or innovation in corporations. Then, I write and edit until volleyball or kickball.


A creative storyteller that cares deeply about his community and spurs civic engagement.


I’m the seventh consecutive Robert Burch in my family. My name — Robert Burch — spans three centuries to 1797, back to my great-great-great-great grandfather, Robert Benham Burch. Also, I play guitar and ukulele and write comedy songs often derived from people or objects around me. They’re usually quite weird.


Cultivate your curiosity. The desire to learn and be inquisitive is more than a valuable career trait. Curiosity makes life an adventure of discovery and it compounds as you grow older.

A few ways to cultivate curiosity is reading often and widely. Take on subjects that aren’t your strengths. Science was never a forte, but I recently read a book on neuroscience and I was fascinated to learn of its relevancy in my work and life.

Also, travel whenever you can. New people and cultures expand your worldview, invokes new perspective and fosters empathy.

Caitlin Waters, 28

“There’s so much this city can offer, regardless of what you’re looking for. Whether it’s the arts community or the political arena that piques your interest, go out and start asking people.”

In their own words
I am an employee benefits consultant with CBIZ, where I am fortunate to help local Kansas City businesses develop and execute quality benefit packages for their employees.

First of all, I don’t consider this bragging on myself. I like to consider it bragging on my parents, because everything I’ve ever accomplished is because of Rob and Diane O’Byrne and the way they raised me. ☺
From a very early age, I’ve always wanted to make an impact in Kansas City. I just didn’t know how. I was very fortunate to have self-driven, kind, and beyond smart parents who encouraged us to take control of our own future, and to be sure that whatever we do, we’re doing it with the intention of making the world a better place.
That constant push to always look for an opportunity to raise my hand has led me to an interesting, almost “intrepreneurial,” career. Whether it was creating a hybrid role that combined my love for digital and crisis public relations at my first job at Edelman in Chicago or building my own Public Engagement department at Meers Advertising, my mission has always been about helping others and looking at things differently in order to do so.
In 2015, I was fortunate enough to join CBIZ as an Account Manager in our employee benefits department. About a year into my tenure, the Account Executive that I worked with closely left the company. I spoke with our director and I asked for the opportunity to take on more responsibility, even though I had only been in the industry for a year. She agreed and I managed about a million dollar book of business mostly without an Account Executive, and maintained a retention percentage of over 90%. This proved to myself, and others, that I could manage a team and step up into a leadership role.
Over the next year, I worked with my leadership team to develop a business plan for new business that would expand my role into more of a sales/consultant role, while also continuing to serve as an Account Manager. Today, I have executed that business plan, fully transitioned into the sales capacity and am already making significant contributions to our sales goals.
In addition to my everyday work, I have consistently looked for ways to take advantage of internal opportunities to further my professional development, including serving on several internal committees and participating in leadership programs.  Along with our local division president, Polly Thomas, I developed a Culture Club committee to enhance our own local employee experience within our benefits department. As the chair of this committee, I am responsible for the 15-person team and managing the budget to foster a positive culture within our department. To me, developing a positive and welcoming culture is important. I try to bring that energy to wherever I go. There is so much research about how having a positive culture is imperative to growing your business. It doesn’t just make business sense; it’s also just the right thing to do.
I’m a proud member of the Central Exchange, the Kansas City Business Journal’s Women Mentoring Women program, and the recently announced Centurions, Class of 2019.
Last year, I co-founded the Young President’s Organization (YPO) Next Generation networking group (YNG), where we developed content and organized monthly events with key business leaders in our community. It’s really a unique opportunity for young professionals to meet with these leaders and ask them questions. It also provides our members an opportunity to network amongst each other.
I am also very passionate about giving back to the city that has given me so much. This is also something that my parents encouraged. I co-chaired the 2014 and 2015 Living In Vitality: LIV Conference, an all day women’s health event, encouraging our 1,200 female attendees to take control of their whole self. The co-chairs’ responsibilities included developing the content of the conference, connecting potential sponsors for the event and organizing year-long events that help lead up to the main event.  
One of my biggest achievements for the organization was planning events throughout the year targeted towards a younger audience to attract them to an event that they typically haven’t attended. Additionally, it was a great honor to be co-chair for a second year. This typically is a one-year position. But this is such a huge passion for me, ensuring that we support each other in all areas of well-being, whether it’s physical, financial, spiritual or emotional. Everyone should have access to the tools they need to ensure happiness and health.
Additionally, I currently serve on committees for Starlight Theatre’s Center Stage “After Hours At The Towers” event, the American Cancer Society’s Midwestern Cattle Baron’s Ball, and Junior League as the current Sponsorship chair.
I know this may sound lame, but after four years of being back in KC, I feel like I’m just starting to find where I can make my mark. I am so excited, not about what I’ve done, but about what I’m going to do next.

KC story

I don’t just love Kansas City, I am a passionate advocate for the city. Sure, it is my home. It’s where my grandfather started a small business in the 1960’s. It’s where my parents met and fell in love. It’s where I was born, grew up and met my high school sweetheart (now, husband!). And while I went away for college (Mizzou) and then onto the big city (Chicago) post-school for a few years, eventually I returned home.

Kansas City is not just my home in a past sense; it is also my future. I know how great this city is today and our endless possibilities to make it even better tomorrow. I am constantly talking to my friends who live in other cities how fantastic Kansas City is. I have a whole “Tour De KC” planned when they visit, highlighting all the city has to offer. I work with companies across the country and constantly look for opportunities on why it’s smart to do business in KC. My Kansas City story is really just beginning and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

A day in the life

That’s the fun part of my day. No two days look alike! My day revolves around my clients’ needs. So whatever they need me to do or wherever they need me to be, I’m there.

Most days, I am meeting with clients or prospective clients to strategize how to maximize their employee engagement, while mitigating costs and risks to the company. While some days I feel like I spend 80% of my day in a “meeting” setting, I really see this as part of my continued education. I spend a lot of time working and brainstorming with my CBIZ colleagues, who are some of the smartest people in the industry and they are always teaching me something new. I love attending events around the community, whether the topic is professional development or for a charitable cause.

On a personal note, a healthy lifestyle has always been important to me. So I like to start my day with some sort of physical activity. Then after work, I may have a committee meeting, networking event or class at Rockhurst University, where I am finishing up my M.B.A. My husband likes to joke that I have something going on every night…. which could actually be true. But I truly feel like Kansas City has so much going on, it’s impossible not to fill your time.

However, when we do have a free night, I love trying a new restaurant, bars or watching a Chiefs/Royals/Sporting KC/Mizzou game with my husband or friends. I also love to travel, whether it’s far away like Iceland or Egypt or just down to lake for a quick weekend to relax and recharge!


Being a kind person who worked hard to help others.


I’m completely deaf in my left ear! When I was about 5 years old, my parents noticed that I wasn’t speaking properly and that sometimes my attention was hard to get. They took me to an ENT and we discovered that I was deaf in my left ear. My doctor explained to my parents that while I should be able to live a nice life, I may be limited with what I could or couldn’t do. Well, my parents were determined to not let that be the case. They never treated me different than my siblings and pushed me to be the best person I could be. They taught me to never use my lack of hearing as an excuse. So while I may consistently decide to sit on the left side of a room during a presentation or a movie (it helps, trust me!), I’ve always been determined to not let this “limitation” limit me.

There’s so much this city can offer, regardless of what you’re looking for. Whether it’s the arts community or the political arena that piques your interest, go out and start asking people. I am always surprised at how generous Kansas Citians are… if you ask for a good dinner recommendation, people don’t just give you the name of the restaurant. They’ll tell you what to order, when the best time is to go, how to meet the chef and may even call to see if they can get you a reservation. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, but always look to pay it forward in the end. That’s the Kansas City way!
The second piece of advice would be to get outside your comfort zone with the city. I love Kansas City, but I’ll be the first to admit that I only know “my” Kansas City. There is so much more to learn, so many more ways to contribute. Look for ways to open your eyes and explore a whole new Kansas City. Don’t just stick to the 10 mile radius that you live and work in. Get out there, have a drink at a hidden gem, volunteer, visit a smaller museum you’ve never heard of, or discover an independent art gallery and spend time talking to the owner. It’ll just continue to build your love and appreciation for this city.

Makayla Hancock-Harris, 22

“When you know your purpose in life, it opens doors to expand the creativity inside of you.”

In their own words
Full-time student at the University of Missouri Kansas-City & on call Group Leader for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City.

In high school I was a very active teen. From varsity cheer, dance and basketball to Student Government Association and Homecoming Queen. My involvement in school kept me focused and out of major trouble, and that opened the path for me to want to see others inspired and successful. At the age of 17, I met a young girl who was cutting herself and going through suicidal thoughts in high school. My heart was driven by this young girl which led me to start No Scars Movement, an organization whose mission is to uplift, encourage and heal the hurting hearts of young girls. I had no vision or plan for the organization, I just desperately wanted to see girls healed, restored and renewed. I had no idea that God would lead me to start a non-profit organization at the age of 17.

I had my first conference at my church Crossroad Christian Fellowship in 2013, and from there it opened doors for me to speak to girls at community centers, conferences, local clubs and travel to places in and outside of the country. Outside of my non-profit, I am active in my church with the youth department and serve my community. I was married  on August 5th to an amazing published author/teacher/motivational speaker that I met at the Black Student Government Conference we both spoke at back in February of 2016 at KU. Other places I have spoken at are Generation Rap on Hot 103 Jamz, Nuggets of Grace on KPRT, It’s All about You Girls Seminar, Boys & Girls Club Smart Girls Conference, Dominican Republic (Dr Missions) Girls Group Home and more. I love to see others inspired by my journey, a 22 year old young adult striving to make an impact, hoping others want to do the same.

KC story

Kansas City has been home for me since birth in 1995. I have lived here for 22 years of my life. I have a talented family of musicians, singers and artists who bring art to Kansas City and other places across the world. My mother and father were very active in Kansas City growing up which created an active journey for me in the community. The Kansas City Jazz District means a lot to me because it has some of my family history in it. I love to learn about the local museums and artists who have visited here. In fact, my great uncle owned the first hotel for African Americans down by 18th and Vine when they were not allowed to stay at other hotels. I love the culture that has been created in that community.

A day in the life

A typical day for me varies while being a full-time student. I always get up in the morning to read and write. Throughout the week, I am either in class on campus, studying, serving at church, updating social media accounts for my church and/or organization or working at the Boys & Girls Club. In the evenings, I try my best to list out the tasks that need to be done the next day and/or what my schedule will look like.


Three words I live by are uplift, inspire and motivate. I want to be known for helping others get to their next level in life and become a better version of themselves inside and out. My motto is to love God and love people.


Readers may be surprised to know that my first time flying on a plane to travel was May of 2016. After my parents lost close friends in a plane crash I was afraid to fly. During that year, I faced my fear and took two flights to Texas to visit family, one flight to Dominican Republic for a mission trip and one trip to Baltimore for the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.


My advice for young Kansas Citians is to find a passion that will allow you to serve other people.  When you are creating, always identify who your target market is and understand the “why”’ behind what you do. When you know your purpose in life, it opens doors to expand the creativity inside of you.

Facebook: Makayla Simone Harris
Twitter: @makaylasimoneh
Instagram: @makaylasimoneh

Catherina “Cat” Mueller, 30

“I want to create a new generation of museum goers who can critically think about our artworks and exhibitions from an intersectional viewpoint and who feel the museum is also for them.”

In their own words
I’m a compassionate individual with an overdeveloped sense of empathy (a friend once described me that way, and I now use it as a point of pride). This has helped guide my work and how I shape programs within the Nelson-Atkins’ mission. I want to highlight social justice issues in the context of museums and the art world, bringing attention to these causes and helping our audiences understand the connections. I want to welcome new audiences to the museum and expand who we think our visitors are.
I’m the lead on our Third Thursday monthly series, a free evening program for young adults and the young-at-heart where I bring in local musicians, creatives from artists to designers, businesses, other non-profits to transform the museum for a not-so-quiet night and to introduce our attendees to the museum in a new way (and to other really amazing folks in the city). Planning Third Thursday is an incredible feat and I’m so proud to have seen over 30,000 people pass through our doors in almost three years to attend this program that I put so much of myself into.
I also co-created a program called Reel to REAL: Movies and Conversation with my friend and colleague, Kreshaun McKinney, that seeks to explore tough issues surrounding culture, communication, race, sexuality, and so on (issues that are continually explored through art) by using a film as launchpad for
Discussions, some of which go 2+ hours!

Beyond those two programs which I’m especially proud of, I am an advocate for diversity and equality within the museum itself, and I create free programming for adults tied to our exhibitions and permanent collection. I actively look to make a difference in the Kansas City community by showing support and volunteering for numerous local causes and groups as well as hoping to join local boards.

I am a biracial woman, half Chinese and half German by ethnicity, who was born in Malaysia and grew up in California while traveling back and forth visiting family every year. Thus, while Chinese, I am much more familiar with Chinese-Malaysian culture than that of mainland China. I grew up mainly in California but would spend summers with family in Malaysia, and spent time in primary schools in Malaysia, Barbados and Colombia. As a third culture kid, this mix of experiences have a tremendous influence on how I see the world and its nuances.

KC Story

I moved here in December 2013, so I’ll have called Kansas City “home” for almost four years now. As a native Californian, I never thought I’d be living in the Midwest and loving it. I was hired by the Nelson-Atkins originally as the Coordinator of Public Programs, which is what brought me here. My work at the museum, the friends I’ve made,  the colleagues I have and the vibrancy of the city are what keep me here (cost of living doesn’t hurt either).

A day in the life

My days always start off with cuddles with my American Bulldog, Rifkin. It doesn’t start off right without loving on him a bit. If I can’t make breakfast, I’ll usually pick up something from t. Loft on the Plaza to eat at my desk before I get started on work.

I spend a healthy amount of time sitting at my desk, coordinating with departments across the museum as well as people around the city in planning programs like Third Thursday, Reel to REAL, exhibition-related programs like talks and films, and one-off special programs and events. I’m always researching the wonderful things that people are doing, creating, and organizing in Kansas City and reaching out for collaborations or to be featured at a Third Thursday in our Community Spotlight.
However, I run enough programs during evenings and Saturdays that some weeks, half my time is spent moving around the museum like a madwoman. I log a lot of steps between escorting speakers and performers in; connecting with our AV tech, volunteers, maintenance, security; and setting up activities. I love being able to spend time with our visitors.
After work, you can probably find me at Westport Ice Cream Bakery, Julep, or The Foundry before heading home to watch Netflix, scroll through Instagram for home and travel inspiration or read up on museums making headway in the social justice arena. (I’m quite the multitasker – just ask my colleagues about the number of Google Chrome tabs I have open at any given moment.) I’m an INFP so I value my
quiet recharging time greatly. It’s much needed after spending time out at First Fridays, checking out the amazing and varied food scene in KC, heading to shows and events around town to see who would be a good fit for a museum program and how I can connect the museum to the greater KC culture.


I want to be known as an intelligent, strong, empathetic woman who uses her voice to speak up for gender and racial equality, justice, and issues of equity. I’d like to be known for helping to push museums into critically thinking about diversity and acting on it, for creating programs that speak to both traditional museum audiences interested in the aesthetic value and history of art to newer audiences who perhaps previously didn’t think museums were for them. I want to
create a new generation of museum goers who can critically think about our artworks and exhibitions from an intersectional viewpoint and who feel the museum is also for them.


I freaking love a good harmonica solo (if you’ve seen ZZ Ward or classic rock gods, you’d know why). I really want to learn how to play and can squeak out an almost recognizable Amazing Grace. I’d love to play proficiently by my 31st birthday next June so if you have any tips, let me know!


Explore. Be aware of the world. That exploration not only makes you more aware of yourself, your place in humanity, and your purpose, but creates an understanding and empathy for others that is, quite honestly, sorely needed in today’s climate.

Skylar Cook, 28

“Nobody can tell you who to become, that is a choice you make yourself.”

In their own words

Personally, I am proudest that I am the first person in my family to have attended and graduated college. I was raised by a single mother who I watched struggle my whole life. I was surrounded by addiction and the challenges that come with a low socioeconomic upbringing. By choosing education and choosing to break the cycle, I set the example for my future children that life does not have to be a constant struggle and success and happiness are direct results of the choices you make in life. Thanks to education, perseverance and determination I am where I am today. I chose a different path and decided I was more going to be more than a statistic. Professionally, I am most proud that I was among the first (and the youngest) employees hired full time in KC by a world-renowned company such as Google. Since my start here 5 years ago, I have helped launch a service that has changed the competitive landscape in this industry and directly helped bring abundant connectivity to families across the country through my work in real estate partnerships. One of my favorite parts of my job is seeing the direct impact our company has on this incredibly deserving community.

My service to the Kansas City community includes giving back to organizations that can change the lives of Kansas City’s young people, including: mentoring for the Community Leadership Program between Google and area college students, serving as a Board Member on the 2018 March of Dimes Young Professionals Board and volunteering for the Down Syndrome Guild KC Prom since 2011.

KC Story

I am born and raised in the KC Area (Fort Osage High School grad). As a kid I always thought, “My dreams are too big for this town. I can’t wait to get out.” And then our city underwent a beautiful transformation. Suddenly, we had a tech scene, a unique culture, great restaurants, forward thinking businesses, an entrepreneurial spirit… at some point leaving became the last thing I wanted to do. I stayed in KC for college getting my BA in Communication Studies from UMKC and was lucky enough to have landed my job with Google before I walked across the graduation stage. Kansas City is my home. I am obsessed and in love with this city. Kansas City has grown into a beautiful mix of small town and big city. We have all the attractions of a major metropolitan areas (arts, food, culture, tech) while retaining a hometown, neighborly attitude. The people here are go-getters and familiar faces. I’d like to think we do this better than other mid-sized cities in the country.

A day in the life

On a typical morning, I’m woken up by French bulldog kisses, one of my favorite parts of the day.

If I’m not traveling to meet in person with one of my external partners who sit in a different city, I head to our office in downtown KC. My days are filled with internal and external interactions. I have several standing meetings with my external partners (owners, operators and developers who have or are interested in partnering with Google Fiber for their communities across our markets nationally) where we discuss business updates on each side, strategy, new opportunities to further our partnerships and address any ongoing questions or concerns they may have. It’s extremely important to keep open channels of communication to maintain strong partnerships. Also in the mix are internal meetings to discuss  process improvements, communication updates, programming development to create new ways to contribute to overall business objectives and cross functional team meetings to ensure all groups are involved where needed. (e.g. legal, product, marketing etc). Lots of podcasts (everything from politics to true crime to Game of Thrones fan recaps) and bad 90’s pop music keep me entertained during long working sessions. After my day with my Google Fiber family I head home to my actual family, my husband and 2 puppers.


Resume accolades are great but I would rather be known for the journey and obstacles I overcame to achieve those accolades. I’d like to be known for my fighting spirit. Nothing has ever been enough to keep me down or make me believe no is an answer. People that grow up in the home and environment I did typically become a statistic. They become part of a vicious cycle. I said to hell with that, clawed my way out and vowed to be an example of what can happen when you don’t use your situation as an excuse and commit to making good choices.

I work in an industry dominated by males. For a very long time I was the only female on my team and on more than one occasion my external partners were surprised that a young female walked into the office for a meeting with the CEO to discuss plans for a major construction project for their multi million dollar communities or negotiate an agreement that is fair to both sides. In order to do my job effectively I had to learn to be confident in who I am and what I was saying despite who was in the room. This confidence was gained through experience and finding and trusting great female mentors and sponsors.


I will play it cool when we first meet, talk politics, weather, current events etc., until we get to know each other, and then… BAM! I let my nerd flag fly. I am OBSESSED with Game of Thrones. My husband and I are reigning Game of Thrones trivia champs and often times stay up at night reading quiz cards from our GOT board game. Recently we hosted a massive season premiere party complete with real pig heads, giant turkey legs, GOT Jeopardy and a house sigil competition. I spend my free time reading show recaps, book to show analyses, researching fan theories and listening to GOT-centric podcasts. The obsession is out of control at this point. I’m also a Harry Potter fanatic and play on a weekly trivia team. Our trivia team has a newsletter one of us creates each week and we vote on a weekly MVP of the team. #Nerdlife.


Nobody can tell you who to become, that is a choice you make yourself. Decide who you want to be and become that person through hard work, good choices and perseverance.

Ben Jackson, 24

“If you can push through the hard times, execute and learn to fall in love with the daily grind, rejection and obstacles, good things usually happen.”

In their own words
I’m the founder of Bungii. Bungii is an app that puts a truck at your fingertips to help move, haul & deliver stuff around town. Bungii has been compared to popular ride sharing apps but instead of moving people, Bungii moves people’s stuff.

My biggest “claim to fame” is Bungii, but it hasn’t been easy. A little over seven months ago, we launched the first version of Bungii, which we had been working on for over a year. We thought once we released the app, users would come to us. However, it was the exact opposite: we launched Bungii to crickets. The first week of Bungii, we completed four trips which equated to about $49 in our account. After months of work and thousands of dollars of software development, it was devastating. We questioned if we even had a viable business.

I spent the next four months with one focus: acquiring customers. It’s been a battle since day one, but I can now proudly say that we’ve seen incredible traction. Here are some highlights. We have: experienced an average of a 30% monthly growth for seven months straight, recently completed our 2000th trip, have over 50 drivers in the KC area, partnered with over 30 stores including Costco and Pottery Barn, added service to Lawrence, KS (and are expanding to a lot more cities soon), are going into a substantial $2.5M funding round, were selected as a finalist for the WeWork Creator Awards and recently won Silicon Prairie’s New Startup of the Year award.

In less than seven months of operating, Bungii has already left its fingerprint on the Kansas City community. Bungii is the vehicle that delivers fresh starts and new beginnings. We come alongside newlywed couples trying to furnish their new apartments, international college students who are in an unfamiliar country trying to move into their dorms and women moving out of domestic violence shelters, ready to give their lives a clean start. Bungii is vital for new beginnings and celebrates the first steps of change. We want to share Bungii with the world.

KC story

I’ve lived in Kansas City for a little over a year. Last May, I graduated from K-State and remember telling myself, “I’ll move anywhere except Kansas City.” As chance would have it, KC ended up being the perfect place to launch Bungii, so grudgingly I moved here. It took about two days before I fell in love with the city, and now I’m not sure that I’ll ever leave.

Kansas City’s friendly people, laid-back atmosphere, contagious sports teams and vibrant city make it an easy place to fall in love with. On top of that, a major part of Bungii’s success is directly related to all the support we’ve received from fellow Kansas Citians. It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time.

SoftBank’s $100B fund manager is right: Kansas City is a place people want to stay.

A day in the life

You know, I like to think of myself as the Chief Executive Firefighter. When it comes to starting businesses, there always seems to be fires popping up and as a leader, it’s your responsibility to put them out — and ensure they don’t flare up again.

When I don’t have a metaphorical fire extinguisher in my hand, my main responsibility is growth strategy. Essentially it comes down to one question: “How quickly and efficiently can Bungii scale nationwide?”


There are two values that I try to pursue daily: relentless persistence and intellectual curiosity. Putting in the work, day in and day out, combined with a relentless pursuit to solve problems, like the one we faced in November when no one was using the app, has not only been necessary but the lifeline that pushes Bungii forward.


I’ve been to more countries than I am old. I played a couple sports in high school and in Europe you would have to bring your passport to away games. Looking back, I chuckle to myself because here in Kansas City, you play Shawnee Mission West or Olathe South, but in Europe you compete against Germany or Italy.

Pro tip

I love Steve Jobs’ quote: “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” I believe that success, whatever that may look like for you, isn’t a matter of intelligence but rather a matter of grit. If you can push through the hard times, execute and learn to fall in love with the daily grind, rejection and obstacles, good things usually happen.

Jakob Polaco, 28

“I believe young cooks must have a knowledge and understanding of the cuisine they draw from before they can start free styling the concept. The composition first, and then jazz.”

In their own words
I’m the father of a 7 year old girl and I travel the world eating to use the inspiration to create new recipes, videos and stories from my trips. I am a restaurateur turned travel writer focused on Southeast Asian cuisine. I’ve worked in one of Asia’s top 50 restaurants in Bangkok and another in Indonesia. I have a big mean Triumph motorcycle and a very tough bulldog, Donut.

After operating my own restaurant, Aep, I learned a lot about the industry and what Kansas City wanted and needed that I could offer. I made the difficult decision to close the space and now focus all of my attention to capturing the culture and essence of the regions I love the most. I have several exciting trips lined up for the next year and plan to write travel guides, keep video logs and continue making recipes from my journeys. Maybe even a cookbook is in the works!

Life in KC
I used to work at a Thai restaurant in Joplin. In 2012, I started searching for jobs in Kansas City. I would use any day off I had to come up with a stack of résumés and try to get a foot in the door somewhere. I staged at bluestem, the American and a couple other places and landed at the American under chef Debbie Gold. Since then, I have worked for lengths with chef Patrick Ryan at Port Fonda and two years with Howard Hanna at the Rieger. My time at the Rieger was a huge impact on the  cook I am now. From whole animal butchering to ice creams, to sausage making and charcuterie, the skills I dialed in there are shown in the food I create.

I am fortunate enough to have a second family that is Thai who has mentored me long the way since a teen in cooking, culture, business, relationships and everything in between. They work relentlessly and have passed that ethic to me.

I want to be known as the Kansas City resource for all things Southeast Asian. I want to be that encyclopedia of an old man sitting outside playing cards or dominoes with another old friend, correcting bad mortar and pestle technique and tasting curries along the way.


And I want to open up a little 24/7 breakfast joint to sum up all of the truck stops my dad would take me to being a cross-country trucker. Gram Parsons plays around the clock and everything looks just like in the pictures. Yeah… the menu has pictures.

This town is booming! Explore, gain education, culture and perspective then come back and see it through. Apply yourself and chase your dreams well past the thousandth “no.”

Lauren Arthur, 29

“Women are far underrepresented in government, and sometimes young women are missing entirely. One of the reasons I decided to run was so that other women, particularly young girls, could imagine themselves in this role.”

In their own words

I’m the Missouri State Representative for District 18, party treasurer for Missouri Democrats and Regional Director for Urban Leaders Fellowship

I got elected in 2014 after contested primary and general elections. At the time, I was one of the youngest representatives—and the only 20-something elected woman—in the House.

After the 2016 elections, which did not go well for democrats in Missouri, I decided to take a leadership role with the state party. As treasurer, I help with strategy and fundraising. We are looking to connect with people in every county, rebuild the party infrastructure and improve the democratic brand.

Also, overcoming a terrible track record with plants, I have successfully grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers in my garden this summer.

KC story

I went away to college, and I expected to settle in another country upon college graduation. But, I met with a Teach for America recruiter during my senior year. He said, “I think it’s great you want to do humanitarian work across the world, but there’s a lot of need and opportunity in your hometown, too.” That stayed with me.

I returned to teach with TFA. I was surprised to see how much Kansas City changed in just a few years. I love downtown’s revitalization and that there is a renewed pride in Kansas City. For the first time in my life, we have a winning baseball team – and one that’s so dang fun to watch.

Now, it’s hard to imagine wanting to live anywhere else.

A day in the life

During session, I’ll get up when my roommates (other legislators) start to stir, around 6 a.m. I walk to the Capitol and head to my office, where I’ll immediately grab coffee (the first cup of many). I catch up on email, read the news, listen to NPR, look through my schedule, and read any bills that may come to the floor or committee. Typically, we gavel in at 10 a.m. for our morning session. Upon adjournment, I will head to committee and hear testimony on various bills and vote bills out of committee. Then, I usually meet with constituents, students, or other advocacy groups who visit their Capitol. This is, by far, the best part of the day. As session progresses, we usually return to have floor debate in the afternoon (and sometimes at night). It’s not usual to have other committee meetings in the evening. I’ll grab a late dinner, head back to the apartment, and prepare to do it all over the next day.


I would like to be known as someone who’s empathetic, thoughtful and made my part of the world a little better than I found it.


I moonlight as an amateur chef. My husband started a blog a few years ago, and he features my culinary adventures. I love playing music, pouring a glass of wine and spending the evening in the kitchen.  


Kansas City is a big small town. If you want to get involved or connect with leaders, it’s easy to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting or volunteer to help.  

Eric Jorgenson, 27

I love bringing people together to meet each other and create new ideas and opportunities.

In their own words

I write a well-read blog, but I can’t draw for my life.  I nerd out with entrepreneurs, but i am a terrible dancer.  I love cooking at home, but always mess up bread. Always. I read 40 books a year, but I can’t do a handstand. I help to grow Zaarly as a company, but am a terrible investor.  I try to stay humble, but you made me write this 😉

Or, as my girlfriend says: “You’re nerdy, but you’re not boring”

KC story

Kansas City and I have had an on-and-off thing since 2010. I first visited as part of the Global Startup Organizer’s Summit, getting together at the Kauffman Foundation. KC blew away all my expectations — I really loved the energy at Kauffman Labs and everyone I met in the community.

In 2011, I moved to Kansas City for the summer to be an intern at the Kauffman Foundation. As it turns out, I didn’t even finish filling out the paperwork — making me, quite possibly, the shortest-tenured employee ever at Kauffman. Day one on the job, I found out my boss was leaving to start his own company, which was also an experience that I was welcome to join. I said “yes” before he even finished
asking the question. I started working full-time (and then some) on launching Zaarly.

After about 6 months here, our San Francisco-based investors preferred to have a local office so I moved west. Throughout my six years in San Francisco, I’d come back to KC often for both work and fun.

In July of 2016, I moved back to Kansas City, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. As a native Michigander, I’m proud midwest roots — Kansas City feels so comfortable in some ways, and new and exciting in others.

After living in San Francisco and traveling the US extensively, I’ve developed a unique appreciation of Kansas City’s strengths — to the point where I often find myself defending Kansas City natives who have lost sight of what makes this city so great.


A day in the life

I’m an early riser, usually. I’m up at 6 and over to the Woodside gym to workout and swim. I head into work at the Zaarly office in Prairie Village, but there is no typical day at Zaarly. I have one of those “do whatever it takes” jobs that could be sending me to another city. I could be writing, meeting with realtors or owners of service businesses, hiring/training new team members or taking out the trash. I’m

Outside of work, I enjoy meeting for dinner or happy hour with interesting entrepreneurs, business owners, and investors. I enjoy learning from people in-person and asking tons of questions to try and better understand things they know well. There are a lot of brilliant people out there, and the mystery of finding them and learning from unique perspectives and experiences is fascinating. I love bringing people together to meet each other and create new ideas and opportunities.

At nights or weekends, I default to reading and writing — which are usually centered around my side project, Evergreen. Evergreen is a collection of the best learning resources in business. I’m lucky enough to have a few thousand people who contribute their suggestions on specific topics — which I read, curate, and synthesize into primers that make it easy to dig deeper and learn a complex subject quickly.



I don’t have any personal ambitions for notoriety. My focus is on making the projects that I believe in successful and well-known.



In high school, I was on a very competitive crew team (rowing club). I got up at 4 a. m. for practice every morning, and we trained year-round, with two-a-day training through Spring and Fall racing seasons. My parents were incredibly supportive, and we went all over the country for races. In my junior year, my boat won the championship in the fall, and got silver in Spring National Championship.

This (slightly insane) schedule in high school set the pace for me, and I’ve tried to keep up the intensity that I found in rowing. It taught me a lot about teamwork, training environments, and the results of putting in enormous effort over a long time.


  1. Move away, And Move Back.

It is very hard to appreciate something unless you have gone without it and have something to compare it to. Spending time in other cities will give you a much better idea of how fantastic Kansas City is. I believe it is the most underrated city in America.

Kansas City will draw you back in — especially if you have family around. Explore other places and come back when you’re ready. You will see KC with entirely new eyes, and appreciate things you previously took for granted (like the complete lack of traffic jams or long lines anywhere, for starters!)

2. Never ever stop learning.

The best ways that I have found are to read, and to ask questions of people who know more than I do. I’ll get a hint of something interesting and dive down a rabbit hole for a few weeks or months, trying to understand something to my satisfaction. This makes for a great hobby, as you start to see the world
differently, understand how it all fits together, and run across fascinating new friends along the way!

Though of course, all Simply, get to know this community and let it get to know you. There are so many people here that seem unreachable, but you cannot know until you reach out and try. advice is born of confirmation bias, so I’m just telling you to do what I did because I think it “worked” for me. But you are different, and your goals are different. No advice is so good that it deserves to be followed without some critical thought.


Bayleigh Dayton, 24

“Being the first African American Miss Missouri USA, I want to be remembered as hope for young girls that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.”

In their own words

I started modeling professionally at the age of 14. Runway is my passion, but I also enjoy print and commercial modeling and have been published on both a local and national level. I am the very first African American Miss Missouri USA and placed in the top 10 at the 2017 Miss USA pageant.

I am currently a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. I’ve traveled to 4 continents, over 16 countries and all 50 states. I advocate for women who have been sexually assaulted or abused as a survivor of abuse myself. I’m just a passionate person striving for change. I graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas in just 3 year years. I worked for the world famous football program in the administration.

KC Story

Born and raised Kansas City. I Grew up in Lee’s Summit. I’ve lived in Texas, Atlanta and New York, but there is no where in this world quite like Kansas City. The more I travel the more I appreciate and love the Kansas City culture. The barbecue, the people — there is truly no place out there better than home. When competing for Miss USA my entire city rallied behind me. I love Kansas City and all its support.


A day in the life

For me there’s no such thing as “typical”. Part of my job description is to be okay with unpredictable circumstances. If I’m not in the sky I’m most likely at a photoshoot or a speaking engagement. I try to make as much time for family and self-care as possible. I’m a yogi and do my best to incorporate yoga and exercise in my daily routine, but most of my time is spent traveling and exploring the world.



I would like to be known for my work with sexual assault and abuse as well as with anxiety and depression. Life is hard and my only real goal on this earth is to make it better/easier for those around me as well as myself. I just want to be remembered as a giver.

I also would like to be remembered for breaking barriers of color. Being the first African American Miss Missouri USA, I want to be remembered as hope for young girls that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.



I love the Adrenaline rush that comes with entertainment. The moment right before you hit the runway or right before you open your mouth to speak is what keeps me coming back. There’s always room for growth or improvement, and it reminds me that I’m still passionate about what I do.



Get out and actually explore! There are so many hidden secrets in the city, and so much culture to be found. As a teenager I couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas City and now as an adult I just can’t wait to come home. Try new things, go new places and really just embrace the space that God blessed you with.