The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce named its Top 10 Small Businesses for 2017 on Thursday — a diverse group that includes an online sporting goods retailer, an energy and construction company, and a rare disease specialty and home infusion pharmacy.
One of the 10 will be named the Small Business of the Year and Mr. K Award winner at a May luncheon.
The businesses were selected by an independent panel of judges; criteria are based on the business principles and philosophy of late entrepreneur Ewing Kauffman (Mr. K) and include growth or sustainability in business, excellent employee relations, and an outstanding record of community service.
The chamber had 1,600 nominations for the award, and 110 nominees went through the application process. Then a group of judges narrowed the list to the 10 that best demonstrated strong growth and sustainability in business, a passion for community service and outstanding employee relations — the three principles of doing business championed by famed Kansas City entrepreneur Ewing Kauffman.
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The top 10 were announced at a private reception Thursday night at Faultless Event Space in the West Bottoms. This is the 31st year for the chamber’s annual Small Business Celebration.
The chamber’s 2017 Top 10 Small Businesses and with descriptions provided by the chamber and interviews with the award winners:
▪ Alpha Energy and Electric Inc., Ike Nwabuonwu, chairman and CEO: An energy and electrical construction company that started in a small, two-room office in 2005, and today resides in a 10,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in the urban core.
▪ Andrews McMeel Universal, Andy Sareyan, president and CEO: A global, independent media company specializing in inspirational content, comics and illustrated humor (think Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, and Doonesbury) with global syndication, book, calendar and greeting card publishing, digital consumer platforms and entertainment licensing.
▪ BHC Rhodes, Overland Park, Kevin Honomichl, president: Celebrating their 25th anniversary, BHC Rhodes provides customers with value-added engineering design and surveying services, working with public works, development, utilities and surveying customers.
▪ Bob Hamilton Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Rooter, Overland Park, Bob Hamilton, president: The founder started his business in 1983 with a truck and the tools of the trade he’d learned from his father. Today, the company has 130 employees providing residential plumbing, heating, air conditioning and rooter services.
▪ Code Koalas, Ryan Wyse, owner and CEO: Code Koalas is a digital agency specializing in innovative custom software development. The founder started the company as a side business to earn a little extra money. Five years later, Code Koalas has outgrown its first two locations.
▪ Heritage Biologics, Lee’s Summit, Thomas O’Neill, owner and CEO: A leading rare disease specialty and home infusion pharmacy, the company was started when a rare disease patient asked a question: “How do we improve care for patients like me?” A 2016 employee survey showed that the No. 1 reason their employees like working there is for “the opportunity to do meaningful work.”
▪ KC Restoration, Olathe, Bill and LeAnn Luemmen, founders: KC Restoration restores and maintains the beauty of aged or damaged metal, stone and wood. Alongside escalator cleaning and power-washing services, they apply finishes and coatings to metal fabrications and have become one of the few patina specialists nationwide.
▪ Paleterias Tropicana, Kansas City, Kan., Jose Luis Valdez, owner: The company began in the summer 2004 serving homemade, authentic Mexican ice cream to a growing Hispanic market. From that initial start, Paleterias has grown to four retail locations, with a fifth scheduled to open this summer. It now serves Latin-themed food, ice cream and beverages.
▪ Pro Athlete Inc., Scott Hedrick, CEO and president: Wes and Judi Hedrick were considering opening up a Jiffy Lube, but their frustration at trying to purchase award patches for their son’s high school letter jacket helped convince them that sporting goods was the way to go — and would be more fun than oil changes. Today Pro Athlete is a full-time online retailer, and Scott Hedrick is president.
▪ Weave Gotcha Covered, Kelly Wilson, owner and co-founder: Founded in 2005, this company provides custom window coverings, bedding and upholstery. Wilson’s employees are women from marginalized communities. Wilson moved her business from north of the river to midtown to accommodate the transportation needs of her workforce. In January, she opened a vocational center in the urban core.
The Top 10 CEO Panel Breakfast will feature CEOs from each of the top 10 companies sharing their stories, challenges, successes and best practices. It will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. May 4 at the Kansas City Downtown Marriott, 200 W. 12th St.
The final event in the annual celebration is the Small Business Celebration Awards Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. May 16 at the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center hotel, 1 Pershing Road.
The top 10 will be honored and the Mr. K Award winner announced.