Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce selects top 10 small businesses of the year

The Mr. K Award sat covered on a table during the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Small Business Celebration luncheon at the Westin Crown Center on in 2017.
The Mr. K Award sat covered on a table during the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Small Business Celebration luncheon at the Westin Crown Center on in 2017. The Kansas City Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has named its Top 10 Small Businesses for 2018.

The winners were announced at a private reception at Plexpod in Westport Wednesday evening. Now the 10 companies will compete for the title of Small Business of the Year and the prestigious Mr. K Award.

The chamber said an independent panel of judges selected the 10 companies from a field of 75 applicants. Judging is based on criteria exemplified by the philosophy of Kansas City entrepreneur Ewing Kauffman, including growth in business, strong employee relations, and outstanding service to the community.

The 2018 Top 10 Small Businesses with descriptions provided by the chamber:

Blue Nile Contractors: Blue Nile is a wet utility contractor, specializing in open cut and trenchless sewer and water construction. It was founded in 2005 and is minority-owned. It started as a wet utility open cut construction company working with the city of Kansas City and expanded to include all metro area municipalities. When the city signed its consent degree with the EPA in 2010, Blue Nile expanded again, adding its trenchless division.

Charlie Hustle: The company launched its website in 2012 with only 16 shirt designs. Their products are all American-made, using the highest quality fabrics.

International Express Trucking: The company was founded in 1993 and is one of the largest woman-owned transportation businesses in the six-state Midwest region. The founder invested all of her personal retirement savings to start her business, and now has 85 trucks servicing the Midwest. International Express Trucking focuses its transportation expertise in five areas: international rail freight, brokerage services, leasing, permit services and Drive Away/Tow Away/Logistics.

Lead Bank: A Kansas City-focused community bank, Lead Bank provides full banking services for businesses, families, and nonprofit organizations. The bank is committed to entrepreneurship, promising in 2013 to invest $1 million in Kansas City start-ups. It was founded in 1928 with one location and purchased by its current family owners in 2008. It’s been on a growth curve ever since, with three locations and $200 million in assets.

Orbis: Founded in 2007 to provide pharmaceutical companies a tech solution to manufacturing challenges and a platform to innovate pharmaceutical products. It was established based on technology invented by one of the co-founders while working on his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.

Pro Athlete Inc: Pro Athlete is an eCommerce company that provides baseball and softball bats and gloves, with a focus on providing an unforgettable customer experience. The co-founders were originally looking at opening a Jiffy Lube but instead decided to open a sporting goods store, frustrated by trying to purchase award patches for their son’s high school letter jacket. The company has an in-house chef, lap pool, sauna, hot tub and more for employees.

Royal Services : A national, integrated facility project management company, family-owned, operating with family values. Hallmark Cards was Royal Services’ first client, and the greeting card company has stayed with Royal Service for 25 years.

SwimZip: A diagnosis of skin cancer at the age of 26 — due to sun exposure as a child — prompted the founder of this company to help young children avoid her fate. She developed a line of UPF 50+ protective swimwear for all ages, with a special focus on protecting children’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays. She and her company were featured — and won funding — on the television show “Shark Tank.”

Veracity: Veracity is a tech consulting group that fuses people, process and technology to deliver customized solutions for its customers. Founded in 2006, Veracity is minority-owned, women-owned, and LGBT-owned. The economic downturn of 2008 was a turning point for the company, providing the opportunity to increase the breadth of the company’s capabilities. Since 2014, Veracity has seen a 200 percent plus increase in income growth.

Wellington: This Top 10 Small Business was founded in 1994 and is women-owned. Wellington is a strategic events and marketing communications agency that specializes in designing and creating events that are hyper-focused on brand curation. They work with everyone from Fortune 500 brands to nonprofit organizations. One of their first projects was the grand opening of the then-newly expanded Bartle Hall.

The KC Chamber’s Top 10 will be honored at two upcoming events:

Top 10 Think Tank: Small Business Best Practices Breakfast: From 7:30 to 9 a.m. May 3 a the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.

Small Business Celebration Awards Luncheon 2018: From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24, Kansas City Downtown Marriott. The Small Business of the Year/Mr. K Award winner will be announced, as well as the Diverse Small Business Award, the Legacy of KC Award, the Entrepreneur Award, and the International Award.