How Big Kansas City helped my bottled-up startup idea run free

As we prepare for Big Kansas City 2014, we asked 2013 attendee Lacey Ellis to share her conference experience and why she’ll be a return attendee. Ellis is the founder and CEO of LittleHoots, a fast, fun and easy way to capture all the wonderful things your children say with beautiful designer templates that bring those moments to life instantly. Prior to founding LittleHoots, Ellis was a 10-year veteran in the advertising industry.

Big KC crowd

We’re heading into year two of Big Kansas City, and looking forward to sharing your stories and those of our speakers over the next few weeks. All of this wouldn’t be possible without our content partner, Pinsight Media+. They are a pioneer in mobile media with deep entrepreneurial roots. Their team brings leadership, experience and global awareness to Kansas City’s booming startup community. To learn more or talk with our friends at Pinsight, email Serge Bushman, sbushman@pinsightmedia.com.


Lacey Ellis Headshot

Note: As we prepare for Big Kansas City 2014, we asked 2013 attendee Lacey Ellis to share her conference experience and why she’ll be a return attendee.

About the author: Lacey Ellis is the founder and CEO of LittleHoots, a fast, fun and easy way to capture all the wonderful things your children say with beautiful designer templates that bring those moments to life instantly. Prior to founding LittleHoots, Ellis was a 10-year veteran in the advertising industry.


2013 Speakers Mike Macadaan, Micah Baldwin and Adam Wilson spend their time visiting with attendees.

Big Kansas City 2013 speakers Mike Macadaan, Micah Baldwin and Adam Wilson spend their time visiting with attendees.

Up until the point that I set foot into that Big Kansas City airplane hangar last spring, LittleHoots was just a dream, a little idea running around in my head. It was something that felt so far away and so unattainable, yet I knew I had to bring it to life. It was an idea that I was passionate about and a purpose that I believed in with all my heart. What do you do with an idea like that? Where do you start? LittleHoots started at Big Kansas City.

Big KC introduced me to a community of energetic and brilliant entrepreneurs and supporters here I didn’t even know existed. I’ve worked in the professional world of advertising and design in KC for 10 years. How could I not know about such a thriving and inspirational community? I was completely blown away and tremendously inspired by all the support and energy here.

Lesson 1: Break out of your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to new people.

So all that sounds nice, but what really happened? All the speakers inspired me last year, but one in particular stood out to me. Mike Macadaan spoke about his work on MySpace and Dollar Shave Club. I could relate to him because he had a design background and he seemed like someone who could give me good feedback on my idea. So during one of the breaks I tracked him down and waited for my chance to introduce myself. I pitched the idea and he seemed to like it.

Lesson 2: People want to help. All you have to do is ask.

Before I knew it, I was being introduced to Lesa Mitchell, who at the time was a VP at the Kauffman Foundation. While we were talking, Mike walked back by us and said, “Hey Lesa, doesn’t Lacey have a great idea?” Lesa looked at me and said, “Um, Mike Macadaan likes your idea?” I said, “Um, I guess so.” Then she said, “So, he’s kind of a big deal… so tell me your idea already!” That’s when LittleHoots was born. Right there underneath that big airplane. I explained the idea of capturing kids’ quotes to Lesa, and Mike pulled out his laptop and started designing a logo for me right there on the spot. He was giving me tons of great advice about what to do next and Lesa started taking notes for me on her phone. Before I knew it, there were 10 or so people gathered around listening to us and eager to help.

Lesson 3: You can’t do it by yourself. And honestly, would
you even want to?

I left that last day of Big KC with a list of marching orders, but Lesa gave the most important task to me. She said, “Sign-up for Startup Weekend immediately.” I took her advice, and about two weeks later I had the pleasure of meeting my three beautiful co-founders.

The people of Kansas City who have helped us along the way are absolutely the reason the LittleHoots app exists today. Without the support of organizations like the Kauffman Foundation, Digital Sandbox, Silicon Prairie News and the Archer Foundation, it would still be a little idea running around in my head.

Do you have a big idea? One you feel like you were created to bring to life? Start at Big Kansas City.

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