If JoAnna Muenks could tell her younger self one thing, it would be: “It’s okay to not have it all figured out.” She didn’t have it all figured out herself. Throughout college and her early career, she had numerous doubts and felt off-course. She started as a biology major but found her home at the Bloch School of Management. JoAnna graduated from UMKC in 2017 with a B.S. in accounting and a B.B.A. in marketing.
Upon graduation, JoAnna started her career as a CPA at Grant Thornton, a leading independent audit, tax and advisory firm in Kansas City. She worked there for three years and had a great experience engaging with businesses in various industries. However, she knew she wanted to transition into the field of entrepreneurship and start-ups. This interest was supported by her experiences at UMKC, during which she got involved with many business pitch competitions and organizations. In 2020, she landed a two-year entrepreneurship fellowship with Venture for America that connected her with her current position as a Capital Markets Professional at Five Elms Capital, a global venture capital and growth equity firm headquartered in Kansas City. Her role is centered around building relationships and cultivating deal flow through strategic partnerships with other investors, accelerators and investment banks. She described this role as one that “embodies a multitude of aspects that [she] was seeking in a career.”
When asked about the impacts of the Trustees’ Scholars Program, JoAnna greatly emphasized the networking aspect of this program. She got to connect with many Trustees’ mentors, with whom she still keeps in touch and relies on to navigate her career. It gave her the confidence to connect with Kansas City leaders and to start building her professional network. JoAnna’s advice to current Scholars stems from her years in the program. She encourages current Scholars to “take advantage of the resources and connections that come with being a student. Take people up on the offers to meet for coffee and be vocal about your interests and career goals. It’s also important to be vulnerable about the areas where you’re struggling and to seek out mentors who can help.”