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VOL. 25 // ISSUE 12 // DECEMBER 2016

GOODBYE, ACA? The future of the Affordable Care Act.


Could computational medicine be KC’s next big opportunity?


Niall’s Michael Wilson brings American innovation to luxury watches.



Grow your small business and your world. Get what you need to take your business to the next level. Commerce Bank will work with you to find smart options to help you reach your goals and maintain financial stability. We’ll provide customized solutions to make your life easier by helping you finance equipment, conserve capital or manage cash flow.

Let’s talk business.

816.234.1985 |


©2016 Commerce Bancshares, Inc.

Think Bigger. Take Flight.

1 6 t h

a n n ua l

2 5

u n d e r

2 5® a w a r d s

“A mile of highway will take you a mile. A mile of runway will take you anywhere.” -Unknown

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D E CE M B ER 2016 VOL. 25 // ISSUE 12


07 08 09 10 14 14 16 49 50

The Bigger Picture Biz Bits Legislative Briefs Calendar 25 Under 25® Updates BIG | deals At A Glance BIG | shots BIG | talk



KC MADE IT Boozy Botanicals

Classier cocktails at home.


KC FUTURES Techstars Kansas City

Why the accelerator is sticking with KC.


BUILDING KC We Engineer Here

Celebrating KC’s engineering strengths. S M A R T S T R AT E G I E S


BIGGER | growth Baby Steps for Big Ideas

Why it pays to start small.


26 WATCH THIS SPACE The Country Club Plaza is home to Niall’s recently opened retail space, the company’s first. It includes an assembly station where shoppers can see watches being made.

BIGGER | finance Find the Right Factor


Six questions to ask.


BIGGER | law Get Your Patent

How one KC entrepreneur did it.


BIGGER | tech Accessible Websites

How the ADA applies online.


BIGGER | health Affordable Care Act

What’s ahead?


BIGGER | banking Top 25 SBA Lenders

Meet the banks who excel at SBA-backed loans. 4



Niall’s Style The luxury watchmaker brings innovation— and a little swagger—to a time-tested industry.




19 To Serve and Detect

22 Big Data, Better Health

44 Thirsty for Growth

Ansera Analytics uncovers pathogens, explosives and other threats.

KC’s opportunity in computational medicine.

Business lessons from Luke Einsel of Thirsty Coconut. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



D E CE M B ER 2016


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Aspire for More Chris Steinlage The Danger of Overcorrecting

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of this publication. The intent of this publication is to provide business professionals with informative and interesting articles and news. These articles, and any opinions expressed in them, are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or business. Appropriate legal, accounting, financial or medical advice or other expert assistance should always be sought from a competent professional. We are not responsible for the content of any paid advertisements. Reproduction or use, without permission, of editorial or graphic content, in any manner is prohibited. Thinking Bigger Business(ISSN 1068-2422) is published 12 times a year by Thinking Bigger Business Media, Inc. Subscriptions are $24.99 per year. This amount includes varying sales taxes, which are contingent upon the location in which the publication is sold. Standard Mail Postage Paid at Shawnee Mission, KS.




Which Way Do You Roll?


nd does it really matter?

don’t notice or don’t care about? Sure, it’s important to sweat the small stuff—when

I’m talking about toilet paper,

it matters. You want to take a hard look at

and the proverbial debate about

issues that impact quality and safety, for

whether the proper way to hang a roll is with

example. But when it comes to things like

the paper under or over. A survey about it popped

hanging toilet paper—things that are simply a

up again in my Facebook feed a few days ago, and it astounds me that this issue not only continues to be a

matter of preference or ego or some other factor that

topic of discussion, but that it actually causes arguments

isn’t mission critical and achieves the same result no

and is an ongoing problem in some relationships.

matter which way you do it—why sweat it? All it does is

So, I ask again, does it really matter? Under? Over? Who

take your focus away from larger, more important, issues. As you plan for 2017 and the changes you need to make

cares? It gets the job done either way. You may actually be laughing at how absurd the whole matter is, but stop and think about your business for a minute. How many toilet paper roll issues do you have in your company?

to streamline processes, to improve productivity and to “think bigger” about your business, a good place to start is to identify areas where you’re spending time and money on things that simply don’t matter and reallocate those resources to areas of the company where they will

How many time- and energy-sapping discussions do you

make a difference.

have over trivial things that employees and customers

Ke lly S can lon

// Publisher //




Pinsight, Digital Sandbox Announce Partnership Pinsight Media is teaming up with Digital Sandbox KC to provide local startups help with proof-ofconcept funding and app development. Sandbox will refer companies that need additional product funding, beyond what Sandbox provides, to Pinsight’s Rollout program. Through Rollout, Pinsight will build out the startup’s app in exchange for the ability to sell advertising through it. Pinsight reaps all advertising revenue until the app’s cost of development is covered. Then the startup and Pinsight share revenue.

Bonding Help Available to KCMO Contractors

The For Change Initiative—a program that helps small contractors do business with the City of Kansas City, Missouri—will begin to offer assistance with bonding. Under For Change, if a woman- or minorityowned company wins a contract with the city, it can access a streamlined lending program at Lead Bank. Now Cornerstone Companies will help those companies qualify for surety or performance bonds.

Kansas Introduces Grant Program for Young Companies The Kansas Commerce Department has created a new program, JumpStart Kansas Entrepreneur, that awarded $60,000 each

Business growth expert Verne Harnish is launching ScaleUpU, a program to help high-potential middle-market companies achieve 3x and 10x growth. Companies selected for ScaleUpU will pay $5,000 per month for 25 months. They will receive training for the entire firm, one-on-one coaching, access to online resources and admission to an annual three-day learning session. For more information, visit

Nominations are open through Jan. 27 for the Kansas Exporter of the Year Award, which will be presented in June. The award is presented to a Kansas-based company that has increased its international sales, developed innovations in global marketing and shown a commitment to its local community. Details are available at www.


+ Low cost + Easy + Quick + No Government License needed + Referral discounts available + Did we mention low cost?

Kauffman Invests in Midwestern Fund Managers To help attract more venture capital to the Midwest, the Kauffman Foundation plans to award $960,000 in scholarships for Kauffman Fellows over the next three years. Kauffman Fellows is a two-year, Silicon Valley-based program that nurtures the next generation of leaders in venture capital and innovation. Four scholarships will be awarded per year: two from the Kansas City metro; one from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa or Nebraska; and one from the “midcontinent region”—anywhere from the Rockies to the Appalachians.

Call us and ask for Jeff in Rental.

816.753.2166 Untitled-1 1 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // December 2016

Growth Program ScaleUpU Launches in Kansas City

Could You Be Kansas’ Exporter of the Year?



to a string of institutions, including K-State’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute and the Bioscience and Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas. Those centers can now make grants (probably in the range of $10,000 to $15,000) to startups that need help with prototyping, moving into a space or other needs.

11/18/16 4:52 PM


FEDERAL How Could Tax Rules Change Under President Trump? The election of President-elect Donald Trump could mean big changes to federal tax rules for small businesses, according to Sarah Schiltz, CPA, a manager at accounting firm MarksNelson. Among the possible developments: » Trump wants to lower the corporate income tax rate to 15 percent. This might even apply to S corporations, partnerships and other pass-through entities, too. Individuals would be charged a rate of 15 percent on pass-through income generated by the business (although a potential additional tax on cash distributed from the business could be imposed). » Trump has recommended reducing the number of tax brackets for individuals to three: 15, 25 and 33 percent.

4 million employees, but many small employers argued that it would cause major harm to their businesses. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant of Sherman, Texas, issued a nationwide injunction against the rule. Though the Labor Department could appeal, it’s entirely possible the incoming Trump administration will drop the issue.

MISSOURI The Future of Right to Work

With the election of Eric Greitens as governor, it’s more likely that Missouri will pass right-to-work legislation in the coming year. Outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon had helped block previous attempts. Right-to-work legislation would prevent workers from being forced to pay dues to labor unions.

KANSAS Budget Shortfall Could Hit $350 Million by June Kansas officials are predicting a $350 million budget shortfall for the rest of this fiscal year. Legislative researchers forecast the shortfall for next fiscal year could be $582.6 million. Next month, Gov. Sam Brownback will present legislators with a proposal for budget cuts, his budget director told The Wichita Eagle.

Staffing Kansas City wishes you Happy Holidays and a Prosperous NEW YEAR!

» The Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals and businesses could be eliminated. So could the estate tax, though it might mean the end of the step-up basis for inherited assets. » Section 179 expensing for small businesses might see its annual cap expand from $500,000 to $1 million. » To afford the proposed tax cuts, some existing incentives could be ended. (One that’s probably safe: the Research & Experimentation Tax Credit.) There also might be a cap on itemized deductions.

Injunction Stops New Overtime Rule A federal judge in Texas has blocked an overtime rule that was supposed to take effect on Dec. 1. The rule would have extended mandatory overtime to another

For Year End or New Year projects, vacations or new hires, give us a call!

Call Roses, Shelley, Marie, Michelle or Ashley for ALL your Staffing Needs!






Smart Companies to Watch Party

KC Small Business Networking Event Sign up for one of the city’s longest-running networking sessions, and introduce your small business to federal procurement officers, local corporations and other potential clients. The Greater KC Chamber Boardroom, Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo. 7:15-9 a.m. $18 in advance, $20 at the door. or (816) 374-5433 or

Thinking Bigger Business Media invites you to meet and mingle with some of the metro’s most innovative, growth-oriented companies at the eighth annual Smart Companies to Watch Party. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be served. Downtown Marriott, Muehlebach Tower, 12th and Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo. 5:30–7:30 p.m. $45. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 432-6690 or


GAME: Customer Relationship Management Bret Rhodus of CCP Strategies will talk about using a CRM solution to boost your sales process and forecast your company’s performance. Part of JCCC’s Growth through Action, Measurement and Engagement (GAME) series. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 7:30–10 a.m. $50. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 469-3878 or

06 + 08 QuickBooks Fundamentals In this two-day class, you’ll find out how to use the popular accounting software in your small business. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 12:30–4:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 and 8. $189. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 469-3878 or

Small Business Internet Marketing Basics

07 Competing for Government Contracts: Basic Training The Kansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center will walk you through the first steps to winning federal, state and local contracts. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 9:30 a.m.–Noon. Free. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 469-3878 or

Overland Park Chamber Annual Meeting Urbanist Joel Kotkin, author of “The Human City,” will give the keynote talk. Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd. Noon–1:30 p.m. Tickets start at $65 for members, $80 for nonmembers. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 491-3600 or

Trademark and Copyright Basics for the Small Business Owner A local attorney will talk about copyrights and patents and how they can help you protect your intellectual property. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 3–5 p.m. $30.

Learn more about search engine optimization, keyword analysis, content creation and other tools to promote your company online. This is a two-day course and includes hands-on time in a computer lab. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 2:30–5 p.m. on Dec. 6 and 8. $50.

Enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres and music. Crowne Plaza Kansas City—Overland Park, 12601 W. 95th St., Lenexa. 5 – 10 p.m. $10.



(913) 469-3878 or




(913) 469-3878 or

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Holiday Party

(816) 472-6767 or

08 Olathe Chamber Coffee Bring your business cards for a morning networking session at Feeney’s Hallmark Shop, 16150 W. 135th St., Olathe. 9–11 a.m. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

Asian American Chamber Holiday Party Enjoy food, drinks and the chamber’s karaoke contest. Proceeds will benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital. Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa, 777 N.W. Argosy Casino Parkway, Riverside. 5:45–8 p.m. Free for members before Dec. 5. $20 for nonmembers. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 338-0774 or

Starting a Business: Success Right From the Start Are you an aspiring business owner? This workshop will help you evaluate your idea, research your target market and tackle other important tasks. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 6–9:30 p.m. $35. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 469-3878 or

10 Simple Steps to Starting Your Business: Startup Basics Interested in becoming a business owner, but aren’t sure where to start? This workshop will walk you through the most important questions you need to answer. This is the first of a three-part series. SCORE, 4747 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 10 a.m.–Noon. (Check-in starts at 9:45 a.m.) Free. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

The Basics of Writing a Business Plan

13 The First Steps to Starting a Business Want to start your own company? This workshop will cover the strengths and weaknesses of business ownership, how to plan and more. UMKC SBTDC, 4747 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 9 a.m.–Noon. $75, scholarships available. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to build one of the most powerful guides for growing a small company: the mighty business plan! UMKC SBTDC, 4747 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 1–4 p.m. $75, scholarships available. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION » or (816) 235-6063

Liberty Chamber Business After Hours White Hydrangea, 34 S. Main St., Liberty. 5– 6:30 p.m. or (816) 235-6063

Leawood Chamber Annual Meeting and 20th Anniversary Celebration


Ed O’Malley, president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center, will deliver the keynote address. Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd., Overland Park. 11:15 a.m.–1:15 p.m. $60 for members, $70 for nonmembers. Registration deadline is Dec. 7. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 498-1514 x4 or or

(816) 781-5200 or or


BIG Breakfast Nourish your body and your business at this quarterly event featuring local entrepreneurs from the cover of Thinking Bigger Business magazine. Guests will include Bruce Ianni of ShotTracker, Rick Nash of Spotlight AR and Michael Wilson of Niall. Grand Street Café, 4740 Grand, Kansas City, Mo. 7:30-9 a.m. $25. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 432-6690 or

14 Overland Park Chamber Wednesday Wake-Up Make new contacts and enjoy a light breakfast during this networking session at Village at

Mission Farms, 4080 Indian Creek Parkway, Overland Park. 8–9 a.m. Free for members, $10 for nonmembers. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 491-3600 or 913.599.4787




1 Million Cups Every Wednesday, two startups present their ideas to an audience of entrepreneurs and community members. Kauffman Foundation, 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, Mo. 9 a.m. Free.

owners. Sam’s Club, 12200 W. 95th St., Lenexa. 8–9 a.m. Free, but nonmembers are asked to call to register. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION » (913) 888-1414 or or

Speaking and Presenting for Business Meetings


Banish the butterflies! This daylong workshop will give you tools to give cool, confident presentations for your small business. Kansas Small Business Development Center, JCCC, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. $195.

Independence Chamber Membership Luncheon Ophelia’s, 201 N. Main St., Independence. 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. $23. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION » or

15 Lenexa Chamber A.M. Live


sign here

Make plans to spend the morning networking with the Lenexa Chamber and other business

(913) 469-3878 or

Doing Business in the Cloud This workshop will provide an overview of cloudbased services and how they can help your

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VOL. 25



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6 // JUNE



The com ing boom in Continuing a local legacy. commercial drones.




AH Why manufacturing How to build EAD a business endures in KC. you can sell.

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VOL. 25 // ISSUE 7 // JULY 2016

» iThink



TRUE WIL SBREW UCCEL TO ED KC Bier Co. makes GermanWil l Shie ldsright style beer makhere. es the football jump legend from to entr epreneu r.

company. You’ll also learn about the potential security issues involved with cloud services. Mid-Continent Public Library-Riverside Branch, 2700 N.W. Vivion Road. 6:30–8 p.m. Free, but registration required. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

20 NEJC Chamber We’re Talkin’ Tuesday Join the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce for a networking session at Mainstreet Credit Union, 6025 Lamar Ave., Mission. 8– 9:35 a.m. Free. INFORMATION/REGISTRATION »

(913) 262-2141 or

Commercial . Industrial Data/Comm Design Build Utility . Prime MO: 909 Troost, KCMO 64106 KS: 3236 N. 7th St, KCKS 66115






Freedom Companies Inc.

Piping Concepts LLC |

Alpha Energy and Electric Inc. DBA Alpha General Contracting |

Freedom is a workspace interiors provider that works with developers, commercial customers, government agencies, design and architectural firms and construction companies on projects ranging from single-chair orders to multimillion-dollar projects. Owner Carol Espinosa applied to the program to develop a strategic vision for growth and the ability to compete for large-scale projects successfully. The program gave Espinosa an in-depth understanding of how general contractors work and their expectations of subcontractors. An activity she found valuable was to work in teams to submit a sample bid response, on a tight deadline. Espinosa recommends that those considering the program develop a plan for growth so they have an end goal in mind from the start, and be willing to immediately start implementing new knowledge gained during the program.

Piping Concepts installs piping systems that carry water, steam, air and other liquids or gases required for sanitation, industrial production, heating and air conditioning and other uses. Owner Michael Henderson said he joined the program because he wanted to improve his knowledge about doing business within the construction industry, and specifically how to do business with general contractors like JE Dunn. He notes that participating in the program has strengthened Piping Concepts’ business opportunities. His advice to others considering the program is to just go ahead and apply. No matter the size of your company, it will provide benefits, as long as you do the work, he said. He noted that in addition to providing educational value, the program is fun and leads to new relationships and contacts.

I N T E R ES T E D I N M O R E I N FO R M AT I O N ? The Minority Contractor Business Development (MCBD) Program was launched in 2005 in Kansas City and is currently being implemented at a number of JE Dunn locations across the country. This program is comprised of MBE and WBE contractor companies that are selected through an application and interview process. Selection criteria include industry experience, size of company and current conditions.

Alpha Energy and Electric is an engineering, procurement and construction company with more than a half century of experience. The company strives to provide value for clients through innovative design build approaches. Owner Ike Nwabuonwu Sr. entered the program to learn from an industry leader like JE Dunn and to discover how he could lead his company to be the best it could be. Nwabuonwu is quick to note that processes Alpha Energy and Electric uses today originated from the program. He credits the success of many of their major projects, such as serving as the prime electrical contractor on the Kansas City Police Department’s East Patrol Campus/Crime Lab Project, to the knowledge and skills acquired through the JE Dunn program. Nwabuonwu advises those selected for the program to make every effort to follow and implement what they learn.

The program’s purpose is to build business development skills so that M/WBE contractors can compete with non-minority contractors in the construction industry. During the 2-year program, participants attend monthly classes facilitated by JE Dunn, with a curriculum of topics ranging from estimating to policies and procedures. Another program goal is to provide participating companies with the tools to participate on JE Dunn projects. Participants are also paired with an experienced mentor. The MCBD Program is free of charge.

For more information: Marvin Carolina, Vice President of Diversity | 816.292.8602 |

BIG | deals

C L A S S U P D A T E S //

20 13

Say Hello to People People

TREKK Expands, Plans to Add Staff Civil engineering firm TREKK Design Group has moved into a larger headquarters and plans to hire another 16 people. If it meets hiring goals, the firm has been approved for more than $106,000 in state incentives through the Missouri Works program.

People People is the new name for hr-haven. The company has just

launched a rebranding effort that includes a new website, 20 09

Tickets for Less Expands in Oak Park Mall Tickets for Less has opened its first-ever full retail

store at Oak Park Mall. In addition to buying tickets, customers can now shop for game jerseys, Charlie Hustle T-shirts and other memorabilia. 20 12

NIH Selects InnovaPrep for Accelerator InnovaPrep has been chosen to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s Commercialization Accelerator Program. The accelerator helps SBIR and STTR awardees to bring their products to market.

20 07

Design Ranch Earns Design Award Design Ranch’s work for the Black & Veatch Centennial recently won the U360 Design Competition sponsored by the Appleton Coated paper company.

20 14

$2.9 Million for TreVia TreVia Digital Health of Overland

Local firm el dorado recently won four AIA Kansas Design Excellence Awards and two AIA Central States Design Excellence Awards. 5 New Clients for EAG EAG Advertising & Marketing has just added a string of

new companies to its roster of clients: Rally House, SplashTacular, Likarda, Munson Angus Farm and AA/ Northland Stor-All.


$250K for Sock 101 As a result of its appearance on “Project Runway: Fashion Startup,” Sock 101 has secured a $250,000 investment from fashion financier Gary Wassner and designer Rebecca Minkoff.

Alight Analytics has introduced its newest offering,

AIA Salutes El Dorado

20 07


New Tool from Alight Analytics

the ChannelMix Control Center, which should make it easier for clients to access, visualize and control their marketing data. It builds on the company’s flagship ChannelMix product. 20 07

AWARDS/RECOGNITION MarksNelson’s Radetic Named Outstanding Visionary Mark Radetic, managing partner at accounting firm MarksNelson, has won the Outstanding Visionary Award from the Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants.


Park, which develops technology solutions for diabetes-related eyecare, has raised $2.9 million. Farmobile Raises $2 Million Farmobile has raised another $2 million in follow-on funding. The money comes from Anterra Capital and other existing investors. M&A New Owner for ProPharma Group Overland Park’s ProPharma Group has been acquired by Linden Capital Partners, a private equity firm located in Chicago. ProPharma’s current management will keep a “significant” minority ownership stake in the business.

NEW BUSINESS Game-Themed Café Debuts Pawn and Pint, 221 Southwest Blvd. in Kansas City, Missouri, is a board game-themed café. It’s in the process of seeking a liquor license. New Ramen Eatery to Launch in Waldo Bōru Ramen Bar will

open this month at 500 W. 75th St. in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood. The restaurant is the latest concept from Andy Lock and Domhnall Molloy, the team behind Summit Gril–Waldo and Third Street Social. Doughnuts Like You Want Them Donutology, which serves madeto-order doughnuts, is located at 1009 Westport Road in Kansas City, Missouri. ON THE MOVE Etch Opens Shop on Liberty Square Etch, a local Christian lifestyle brand, has opened its own store at 5 E. Kansas St. above the La Costa Mexican Restaurant in Liberty. Several national retailers carry Etch products. KC Taco Co. Sets Up Shop in River Market Kansas City Taco Co. is relocating from Westport to 520 Walnut in River Market. New Home for Summit Grill-Waldo Summit Grill & Bar-Waldo

has moved into the former

Think big. Act big. Be big. EAG14-041 TBBM Ad v2.indd 1

75th Street Brewery space at 520 W. 75th St. in Kansas City, Missouri. McLain’s Adds OP Location The team behind McLain’s Bakery in Waldo has opened a second location, McLain’s Market at 10695 Roe in Overland Park. OTHER NEWS Privitera Biondo to Help Lead KCADC Rosana Privitera Biondo, president of Mark One Electric, and Chuck Caisley, vice president of KCP&L’s marketing and public affairs,

Branding Design Digital

25 Under 25® Class of 2007 12/17/14 10:15 AM

will serve as co-chairs of the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) board of directors for 2016-17. New Taproom for Crane Brewing Crane Brewing Co.

is opening a full taproom at its facility at 6515 Railroad St. in Raytown. Bickel Serves With Jackson Co. CASA Zach Bickel of The Robertson Law Group was elected secretary of the board of directors for Jackson County CASA.

Intouch Adds Decision Science Group Intouch Solutions has created a new Decision Science unit that will specialize in advanced analytics research. The company has added five specialists as part of the expansion. KC Startups Picked for National Pitch Contest Mobility Designed, ConsultUS Technologies, PopBookings and Play-it Health were chosen as semifinalists for the first-ever Fueling the Growth pitch competition, which helped spotlight women-led startups.









of those surveyed made money taking on jobs via the Internet

have sold something online in the past year



» 5% // Data entry, online surveys

» 14% // Used or second-hand goods

and other jobs

» 2% // Handmade items

» 2% // Ride hailing via Uber,

» 2% // Consumer goods

Lyft and other services

» 1% // Shopping or delivery » 1% // Cleaning and laundry » 2% // Other tasks



The State of KC’s Main Street

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers



» Main Street’s

survival rate is up—47.42 percent of small companies survive the first five years.



Kansas City’s rank in the new Kauffman Index of Main Street Entrepreneurship. The report looks at the nation’s 40 largest metro areas. KC’s rank was unchanged from last year.

» Main Street density is down—these businesses make up a smaller share of the KC economy.


» There’s a slightly

higher percentage of business owners out there— 6.18% now vs. 6.08% in 2015.


In his latest book, Tim Ferriss, the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” shares success tips from Jamie Foxx, biochemists, Arnold Schwarzenegger, pro athletes, billionaires and other high-performers, culled from his popular podcast.



SportFans’ Delightful Idea

‘What a Real Toy Store Looks Like’

This glowing windsock turns heads.

The secret of Brookside Toy & Science’s endurance.

STARTUP // Nemo Ventures

December is the most wonderfully busy time of the year for


Jim and Mary Jo Ward of Brookside Toy & Science. The Wards

SportFans is the first product from Nemo Ventures, a subsidiary of local marketing company C3.

have owned the shop since 1995. They took over from Jim’s mother, Donna, who bought the store in 1964.

It’s a type of windsock that attaches to your vehicle. As soon as the car hits 10 to 15 mph, the wind powers a tiny generator, which turns on a light inside the windsock.

Jim got his start in the business at age 11. He

And that makes the windsock glow. “We get a lot of head turns driving down the street with them,” said Bob Cutler, founder of C3 and Nemo Ventures.

Mary Jo joined the


and manager,

Paul Skelton, director of product development, was building a wind-powered USB charger for cellphones when he got the idea for SportFans. He put together a prototype using $3 flashlight parts from Micro Center. WHO’S IT FOR?

Nemo sells to individual consumers. But it’s also pursuing restaurants as clients. (Not too surprising, considering C3 produces kids’ toys for Sonic, Chick-Fil-A and other major companies.) As an eatery’s delivery staff drives down the street, their cars could be illuminated with a branded SportFan. WHERE CAN YOU GET YOURS?

SportFans are sold in a few local stores, such as the Made In KC shop at the Corinth Square shopping center and the Hy-Vee at 76th and State Line Road. You can also buy online at

would sell toys and models and help in the science department. shop in the late 70s as a buyer after they married. “She’s absolutely essential,” Jim said. In a day when independent toy stores are the exception, what’s allowed Brookside Toy & Science to endure? “I think it all revolves around providing a unique experience to our clientele,” Jim said. “We have quite an eclectic selection of merchandise.” Customer service is key, too. The staff is knowledgeable about their products, and gift wrapping is complimentary. “Customers can feel confident their gifts will be home runs,” Jim said. This time of year, former Kansas Citians who are visiting make a point of bringing their own children and grandchildren to the shop. “They want to show their kids what a real toy store looks like.”






Westport Café and Bar 419 Westport Road Kansas City, MO 64111 (816) 931-4740

Lunch or Dinner

Westport Café and Bar brings modern French cuisine to the Paris of the Plains. Be sure to check out its innovative menu of craft cocktails, too. GET IT STARTED

Try the cold cucumber soup with goat cheese and mint. Or the torchon of foie gras, made with bell pepper, chorizo, raisin and thai chili. THE MAIN EVENT

Less Feedback Leads to Unhappier Workers



of small business employees receive no feedback from their managers

of workers at big companies (5,000-plus workers) get no feedback



of those who get feedback say their job is fulfilling

of those who get no feedback say their job is unfulfilling SOURCE // CLUTCH HR EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK SURVEY



Visiting during the dinner hour? You’ve got a range of options, including the steak frites, duck breast or grilled snapper. Westport Café and Bar also has a popular brunch menu—you might enjoy the Croque Madame, made with ham, grainy mustard, béchamel and melted gruyere. TRY THIS

If you’re in the market for a cocktail, how could you resist the Charlie Sour— Earl Grey-infused Four Roses Bourbon, St. Germain, orange oleo-saccharum and lemon?



Finding Success by Looking for Threats Ansera Analytics makes its mark in the testing marketplace.



Ansera Analytics 10900 S. Clay Blair Blvd. Olathe, KS 66061 (913) 258-2290 TYPE OF BUSINESS

Testing systems for biodefense, food safety and other fields. YEAR FOUNDED



t’s the stuff that makes TV crime shows interesting. A suspected criminal releases a dangerous chemical somewhere in the city. Experts are sent in with special testing technology, and they uncover the hazardous agent with state-of-the-art technology just in time to save the public from annihilation. While it makes for great drama, this kind of diagnostic technology really does exist—and an Olathe company is one of the successful startups producing such products. Ansera Analytics LLC is a biotech research and development firm that produces testing and detection systems for clients in biodefense, food safety, plant pathology and animal health. “We are focused on development of new and emerging technology for bio and agro food safety and national security,” said Patrick Williams, one of the company’s founders. Ansera Analytics sells its own molecular diagnostic systems that can find pathogens and detect explosives and narcotics. Williams has a wellspring of experience in the field. He spent six years working at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the medical examiner’s officer. “I was in charge of the Army’s DNA technology development program,” Williams said. “In the early 1990s, I was charged with creating the

tools to study human DNA markers, working with the FBI and the Department of Defense.” He added, chuckling: “It was like NCIS, but none of us was that good-looking or got to arrest anybody.” Williams and his co-founders were able to start Ansera without venture capital or other outside funding. “That’s fairly unique … and we are still operating with very little debt,” Williams said. Ansera Analytics’ customers are primarily public organizations, including the federal departments of Defense and Agriculture, universities and first responders’ groups. Currently, Ansera Analytics’ plant pathology kits are being used at numerous universities such as Kansas State and the University of Minnesota and at such companies as Monsanto. Ansera recently was awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the Defense Department to continue work on the next generation of the Army’s Reconnaissance Sampling Kit for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats. Williams is hopeful the kits will be ready within 18 months. Landing the SBIR grant and other projects has put Ansera Analytics on a path of continuous growth. From 2015 to 2016 to date, the young company has more than tripled its revenues. And Ansera plans to keep it going by regularly introducing new products. Its next, a sampling device for infectious agents, should debut in the second quarter of 2017. Ruth Baum Bigus is a freelance writer based in Kansas City. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



( by James Hart )


A Stirring Idea for a Business combines water, sugar and the dry ingredients—rose petals, for example—and heats the mixture up so infusion occurs, then strains out the (now not quite as) dry ingredients. She works out of a local commercial kitchen, which assists with the process, but she’s still an active part of production. “This is my product,” Bisbee said. “I want to make sure it’s delicious every time.” The sugar used to make the syrups is organic, and whenever possible, Bisbee buys from local sources. For example, she produces a lavender-Earl Grey syrup that incorporates tea from Hugo Tea Co. in North Kansas City. As she has developed Boozy Botanicals, Bisbee has avoided fruit flavors and pursued less conventional tastes instead. She got the idea for her rosemary-mint syrup, one of her most popular flavors, from her own garden. The River Market Rose was inspired by roses on sale at City Market. “I think people’s tastes and what they’re wanting are getting a little more elevated, a little more sophisticated,” especially among Millennials, Bisbee said. WHAT’S NEXT?

doesn’t love a fancy cocktail? W ho There’s nothing better than walking into your favorite watering hole and ordering a sophisticated drink with a complex mix of ingredients. Recreating that experience at your house, though, can feel impossible unless you’ve got half a day and a home bar that looks like a chemistry lab. That’s why Cheryl Bisbee started Boozy Botanicals, a lineup of organic syrups that laypeople can use to make their own stylish drinks. She sells six different flavors— including a rosemary-mint and a spicy pepper blend—at about a dozen local shops and boutiques. “I’m trying to bring something that’s not easily attainable to the home bar,” said Bisbee, a lawyer by training who most recently served as in-house counsel for H&R Block. 20 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // December 2016

Bisbee sold her first bottle of Boozy Botanicals in September 2015, but she’s been working on the project about two years. She felt the pull to own her own business for a while. She originally thought she would end up buying an existing company, but as a longtime foodie who loves to experiment in the kitchen, she began making infused cocktails at get-togethers for friends. That was the start of Boozy Botanicals. “I just started playing around with it,” Bisbee said. “People just started liking it, and I was enjoying it, coming up with (the syrups).” WHAT GOES INTO BOOZY BOTANICALS

It takes about four to five hours to make a batch of Boozy Botanicals syrup. Bisbee

People who aren’t big cocktail drinkers can still enjoy Bisbee’s products. Some customers like to pour the syrup over ice cream, include it in their baking or mix it with club soda. While the home market is important, Bisbee is mulling over a second line that could serve restaurants, hotels and other business clients. She also believes her product could win a national following in higher-end retail chains and liquor stores. “I really want to ramp up my distribution,” Bisbee said. Until then, it’s still a thrill for her to see her bottles on local store shelves. “Every time I get a new retailer,” she said, “I do a little dance.”


( by James Hart )


Techstars to Launch New KC Program ere’s one reason to look forward to 2017: Techstars, the international network of startup accelerators, plans to launch a new program in Kansas City next year. Applications will open in January. Ten startups will be selected for three months of intense training and mentoring beginning in July. Participants also will receive access to Techstars’ global network of peers, mentors, investors and customers. Techstars isn’t a stranger to Kansas City. For the past three years, it was contracted to run the Sprint Accelerator’s program for startups. (The Sprint Accelerator still plans to operate its own programs in collaboration with corporate partners like the Dairy Farmers of America.)



Since 2006, more than 800 companies have participated in a Techstars accelerator. Collectively, they’ve raised more than $2.3 billion in investment.

The continuing presence of Techstars— one of the best-known organizations of its kind—is good news for Kansas City. It could help the region recruit more highpotential ventures and encourage homegrown startups to stay here. THE RISE OF THE REST

With its new Kansas City program, Techstars is betting on a trend that former AOL founder Steve Case calls “the rise of the rest.” It’s the idea that fastgrowing, innovative companies don’t necessarily have to come from Silicon Valley, Boston or a handful of established startup cities. With time, effort and the right kinds of support, “entrepreneurial ecosystems” can bloom practically anywhere. “It’s not only about having venture capital in your backyard,” said Lesa Mitchell, who will serve as the managing director of Techstars Kansas City. “It’s about utilizing all the expertise in your backyard.” This has been a longtime interest for Mitchell, who served as the vice

president of innovation and networks at the Kauffman Foundation from 2003 to 2013. Kauffman funded research and programs focused on catalyzing and scaling entrepreneurship networks, and one of Mitchell’s longtime partners was Brad Feld, a Techstars co-founder. Feld and his partners launched the first Techstars accelerator in Boulder, Colorado, a place that, at that time, wasn’t known as a hot spot for startups. A few years ago, a Kauffman report found that Boulder had more tech startups per capita than any other U.S. city. (Feld ended up writing a book about his experiences, “Startup Communities,” and it’s essentially a handbook for creating a community like Boulder’s.) “Now this is our opportunity to build a Techstars program not unlike the one he founded in Boulder,” Mitchell said. ‘THEY’RE GROWING AMAZING ENTREPRENEURS’

In the past few years, Mitchell has served as an adviser to a series of startups in Silicon Valley and New York. She’s also had the opportunity to build entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa and India. “They’re growing amazing entrepreneurs,” Mitchell said. “The trick is, can you surround the entrepreneurs with the education, with the talent that they need to grow their company, and with the mentors and opportunities to do pilots with other companies?” Mitchell said she’ll be contacting local C-suite executives and asking them to serve as mentors and advisers to the companies participating in Techstars Kansas City. She also wants to build ties with the local universities. Several of the other Techstars programs focus on a particular industry, such as health care, retail or the Internet of Things. It’s not clear yet if Kansas City’s will. Mitchell said she’ll be looking for companies that not only have a solid concept that could serve a huge market, but are led by a strong team of founders. “The founding team makes a lot more difference than many people realize,” Mitchell said. “I’m looking for entrepreneurs and founding teams that really, really understand the problem they’re trying to solve and the problem is a problem worth solving.” SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



CURES KC’s next big opportunity might be computational medicine— applying Big Data to medical research and health care.

( by James Hart )

A growing number of researchers, doctors and, yes, entrepreneurs are finding new ways to use Big Data to develop drugs, diagnose illnesses and improve the health care experience. It’s a relatively young field called computational medicine. Software can be used to analyze enormous sets of data—not just health records and genetic profiles from one patient, but thousands or millions—and quickly find patterns that human researchers might otherwise miss. Ultimately, it could help make precision or personalized medicine a possibility for most Americans. Oncologists, for example, would be able to prescribe the type of treatment that’s proven to be most effective for patients with similar genetics and whose cancer cells share similar mutations.



Thanks to computational medicine, a California startup named Carmenta developed a blood test that finds the proteins associated with preeclampsia during pregnancy—providing a level of diagnostic accuracy that hasn’t been available before. And the company did this in about two years. Closer to home, Cerner has launched a pilot project to analyze the DNA of some employees (who volunteered) to help them predict and prevent health problems. “There are all sorts of ways this data can be utilized,” said Dr. Wayne Carter, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI). Computational medicine has the potential to be a sweet spot for the Kansas City area because it combines two of the region’s strengths: life sciences research and computer science.

Dr. “It’s difficult to think of another city that would have If Kansas City can do that, the financial rewards could Wayne Carter the commercial and academic strengths that we have be sizable. According to a report from IndustryARC, the here in Kansas City,” said Mark Hoffman, chief research U.S. market for computational medicine and drug discovery information officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital. software could hit $6.78 billion by 2020. The region is home to Cerner and Netsmart, leaders in electronic Curious what computational medicine looks like in practice? There are health records, as well as a string of startups involved in computaalready a few smaller Kansas City companies that are active in the field. tional medicine. A FASTER PATH TO NEW MEDICINES Children’s Mercy, Saint Luke’s, the University of Kansas, Truman Local startup Zorilla Research has created a software solution that Medical Centers, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, K-State, helps pharmaceutical companies predict if any of their in-development Mizzou—all of them have an interest in this type of research. drugs might have unexpected consequences or “off-target effects.” Groups like KCALSI have been working to connect local comThat way, drug developers can investigate problems early on (or panies and institutions, with an eye toward making Kansas City a even abandon a hopeless project) before wasting a great deal of time nationally known hub for this type of work, in the same way the KC and money. Animal Health Corridor has earned a global reputation.



And because humans and animals share many genes in common, Zorilla can point out when a drug designed with people in mind might be useful to other species, and vice versa. Zorilla was founded by Gerald Wyckoff, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The startup grew out of his research as an evolutionary biologist. He was trying to answer, in his words, a pretty esoteric question. Humans, gorillas and other primates share common ancestors and have genomes that look similar, but function differently. Wyckoff wanted to figure out what their common ancestors’ genes would have looked like. In the process of solving that problem, he and his team built, essentially, a search engine that can show how particular molecules—the kind that might be part of new drugs—will affect different types of proteins. Wyckoff decided to start a company that would license this research and bring it to market. “I thought there was potential here, and the university did as well,” he said. Since it started in 2013, Zorilla has raised an undisclosed amount of investment and secured support from the Missouri Technology Corporation and Digital Sandbox KC. The startup also has received a lot of interest from KC-area companies because it overlaps human and animal health. Recently, Wyckoff said, he was talking to a professional contact on the coast about Zorilla Research. That person had no idea that some drugs work on both humans and animals. “I wouldn’t have started this business if I wasn’t in Kansas City,” Wyckoff said, “because nobody would know what I did.” MORE EFFECTIVE DELIVERY OF HEALTH CARE

Local companies are also developing solutions that help hospital and health care providers operate more effectively. TeraCrunch, a Leawood startup, has developed an “advanced analytics app store” for clients in health care. These apps are used by payers, providers and health care services organizations for clinical optimization, revenue cycle management and marketing optimization. TeraCrunch’s marketing analytics apps can be customized for other industries, such as law, telecom, media or consumer goods, but at least


50 percent of its growth right now is in health care, founder Tapan Bhatt said. Eventually, that number will probably climb to 75 percent. Health care is a ripe market for companies like his because there’s so much inefficiency. Also, many health care providers don’t have the capability or interest to develop an enterprise-level analytics solution in-house. That opens the door for providers like TeraCrunch. “Therefore, it’s a bigger opportunity for us,” Bhatt said. Clients like working with TeraCrunch because its applications produce relatively speedy results. Typically, the startup generates a return on investment within six weeks. “We know we can help them take a problem and scope it in a much better, more meaningful way and deploy efficiently,” Bhatt said. It’s easy to get excited about computational medicine’s potential for developing new therapeutics. But applying Big Data to the clinical practice—how health care is delivered—could be just as important, said Hoffman of Children’s Mercy. “That cycle is much shorter than the cycle of discovering a new therapeutic and can have a very tangible impact on the patient experience,” Hoffman said. Right now, several local groups—including Truman Med and UMKC—are examining data to support quality improvement. For example, they could compare blood draws taken by nurses to those done by phlebotomists, to see which group has fewer repeat collections. ‘GIVE US A VOICE’

Amado Guloy is the founder of Rex Animal Health, the developer of a solution for managing the health of large groups of livestock. Its platform can track and predict the spread of illness in herds, while highlighting the hardiest animals, which might be the best candidates for breeding. The data that Rex Animal Health collects could also be used by animal health companies looking to develop more effective pharmaceuticals. Guloy praised KCALSI, which included him in a committee on computational medicine. Guloy has been able to speak at local conferences and made sales connections as a result.

“KCALSI has been absolutely amazing and incredibly generous to us,” Guloy said. “That has definitely helped us along the way.” His advice for Kansas City: Make sure that smaller companies have a voice in joint research efforts and other projects. Sure, the region has large companies with expertise in health technology—it would be very easy to just let them dominate. But local startups have often built solutions that, because they’re specialized, may be more advanced. “Just because we don’t have billions of dollars in funding doesn’t mean we can’t make an impact,” Guloy said. This fall, Rex Animal Health was selected for the FAST Advisory Program, an accelerator operated by the California Life Sciences Institute. Startups are coached by advisers from companies like Genentech and Palantir. It’s a level of corporate interest and support that Guloy didn’t always get in Kansas City. Plus, with FAST, startups don’t have to give up any equity. “Something like that in Kansas City, especially with the strengths that it has, would be transformative for any young company in the life sciences area,” Guloy said. Entrepreneurs will play a critical role in developing Kansas City’s computational medicine sector, KCALSI’s Carter said. They’re the ones who will help translate the research into real-world applications. “Oftentimes, technologies, if they don’t get commercialized, they won’t be widely used or accepted,” he said. To help foster collaboration between entrepreneurs, researchers and others, KCALSI hosts events like its Collaborate2Cure events, where stakeholders can share insights on immunotherapy and other areas of research. Carter is optimistic about Kansas City’s chances of making its mark in computational medicine. It’ll take a lot of cooperation between a range of partners and institutions, but that’s something that Kansas City traditionally likes to do. “Really,” he said, “what we’re trying to do is develop an entire ecosystem.”

Join Us! Introducing Brew :30, a quarterly Happy Hour event where you can meet new business owners, make valuable connections and discover some of Kansas City’s local wineries, breweries and distilleries! Details Thurs., January 19, 2016 // 5:30-7:30 p.m. $25, includes two drink tickets, heavy hors d’oeuvres Lifted Spirits, Kansas City, Mo.

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FUTURE FORWARD Niall recently opened a retail space on the Country Club Plaza. And it just introduced its new Color Ways collection, which includes its first watch for women.



Local watchmaker Niall unites American innovation and Swiss craftsmanship.




Michael Wilson C O M PA N Y I N F O R M AT I O N

Niall 612 W. 48th St. Kansas City, MO 64112 (816) 301-7987 TYPE OF BUSINESS

Luxury goods YEAR FOUNDED

2012 E M P L OY E E S

9 K E YS T O S U C C E S S

To build a brand, know who you are and what you want to create.

left // Michael Wilson, founder and

CEO of Niall, and Dominik Maerki, chief watchmaker and head of production


s the founder of luxury watch brand Niall, Michael Wilson’s vision of American manufacturing is a far cry from assembly lines and smokestack-topped factories. From his Country Club Plaza retail boutique and workshop, Wilson leads a business that integrates Swiss horology (the art of making timepieces) with American ingenuity and craftsmanship. With each handcrafted Niall watch, Wilson is pioneering a dynamic model of small-scale custom manufacturing. “We’re starting a revolution in American manufacturing by using an aerospace mind-set to apply their technology to watchmaking,” he said. The name of Niall (pronounced “nile”) is drawn from Wilson’s direct paternal lineage to Niall Noigiallach, the legendary fourth century High King of Ireland. Yet the company’s forward-looking focus remains squarely on materials, service, products and brand-building that surpass the contemporary

standards of competitors. Niall marries Space Age potential with timeless Midwestern values, Swiss expertise and American know-how. “Innovation comes from the Edison approach,” Wilson said. “I have entrepreneurial grit and try lots of things with processes and materials. I look for what’s best. There are no sacred cows. We make things our way but in a time-honored profession. We maintain an open mind-set.” For example, Niall |partnered with Corning to devise a means of using Gorilla Glass in watchmaking. This chemicallyenhanced super-glass provides more than double the break resistance of sapphire. Niall’s timepieces incorporate this highly durable super-glass to protect its inner workings. Since summer 2016, Niall timepieces have used carbon fiber dials. Made with carbon fiber-reinforced polymers, the dials are precisely engineered and possess unparalleled durability as a beautiful, integral component.

by Pete Dulin // photography by Dan Videtich SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



Niall was founded in 2012, but the company’s roots really stretch back to when Wilson was growing up, and watching and learning from his entrepreneurial dad. “My father was a self-made man in the food equipment industry,” Wilson said. He manufactured equipment that helped produce some of the most recognized shelf-stable food. And when the younger Wilson graduated from Shawnee Mission South in 2003, he received an important gift from his father: a Tag Heuer Professional watch. It sparked an enduring love of quality timepieces and later inspired Michael to start Niall. Niall, however, was not Wilson’s first company. That was Wavelength Media, a website development agency that was acquired in 2013. After the sale, Wilson had to look for his next big adventure. This time, he wanted to pursue an opportunity with no ceiling on its potential for growth. “Why spend time and energy on something with limits on capacity?” Wilson said. “I wanted to chase something complicated.” He decided to create a company that produced Americanmade watches. Wilson spent four years on research and development. He contacted watchmakers, manufacturers, laser cutters, engineers, Swiss watchmakers and experts across the United States and around the world. That was another lesson from his dad: To succeed, you need to know as much as you possibly can about your field of expertise. As the owner of his company, Rob Wilson did his best to know more than anyone else in the room. “If my father could be a recognized expert on particle physics and microwave technology in the food processing industry,”

Michael Wilson said, “why couldn’t I do the same in watchmaking?” MADE IN AMERICA, MOSTLY

When he was launching Niall, Wilson was adamant about developing both his brand and his watches in America. Niall’s watches are 90 percent American-made, including the cases, dials, hands, crowns, glass, gaskets, bezels, screws, straps


and buckles. The cases and bezels for Niall’s One Series and GMT watches are individually manufactured from a solid block of the highest grade, corrosion-resistant stainless steel. Each timepiece is hand-assembled, tested for quality assurance and polished in Kansas City. Half of Niall’s watches are customized. Niall’s inner watch mechanisms, known as a movement

or caliber, are manufactured by leading Swiss movement maker Eterna. Through a key connection and fortuitous timing, Niall forged a relationship with Eterna as the Swiss firm’s first customer outside of Europe. Eterna was seeking a watch company that could introduce its new Caliber 39 movement line to the U.S. market. Niall needed direct access to a Swiss movement maker before that country’s governing regulations restricted third-party access in coming years.

them,” said Wilson. “Our success began with him. He elevated us.” LUXURY DEFINED

With Niall, Wilson has made a deliberate choice to pursue the luxury end of the watch business. When he was doing his initial market research, he found that 23 out of 25 brands sold watches for $5,000 or more. “Why not chase that market?” he said. To win over luxury buyers, Niall’s brand is a “full reflection of exceeding standards beyond what is called for.” “It is an experience you cannot find elsewhere,” Wilson said. “I’m proud of the experience that we deliver to Kansas City and our customers.” Between its two lines, GMT and One, Niall’s prices start at $3,750.

Even as Niall gains momentum as a luxury watch brand, Wilson already envisions the company exploring other product lines and possibilities. “Niall has the capacity to create beyond technology that is wearable,” he said. “There’s endless capacity to what we can become if we do the right things.” BELIEF BEGINS WITHIN

To become an enduring brand, Wilson advised “building a company that you believe in.” “Know why you exist. Every customer, investor and employee should believe in the brand,” he said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. I wanted to give up twice. I slept on

“It’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t know who you are and what you want to create, then it’s hard to create a brand.” Michael Wilson // owner, Niall

Through a key contact in Chicago, Wilson arranged a meeting with Eterna’s CEO and struck a deal. “It is a lucky partnership and match made in heaven at the right place and time,” said Wilson. “We needed each other.” Dominik Maerki, Niall’s chief watchmaker and head of production, was another essential figure in the company’s launch. Maerki apprenticed at Eterna and became one of the youngest production managers at Omega

SA, a Swiss watchmaker. His career eventually led him to Swatch Group’s presence in Miami, Florida. He fell in love, married and moved to his wife’s home state of Arkansas. But most of his work there involved watch repair, and Maerki wanted more. So when he learned about Niall, he lobbied for a job with the startup. It was a critical hire, Wilson said. “Dominik single-handedly brought us from trying to learn how to make watches to making

Panda, a best-selling GMT model, presents a white face with two smaller black displays for hours, minutes, seconds and Greenwich Mean Time, plus a power reserve of 65 hours and other features. The heavier One line has a sculpted, bulkier look with clean, elegant design. Several KC celebrities wear Niall watches, including Royals manager Ned Yost, University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self and actor Paul Rudd. Matching service with its high-tech materials and quality standards, Niall offers a fouryear warranty plus lifetime service. Its service time of 10 to 15 days on average far exceeds the industry average of 60 to 90 days. Niall’s on-site workshop at the Country Club Plaza location is a strategic advantage.

it, woke up and realized I have too much fortitude to give up. If you don’t know who you are and what you want to create, then it’s hard to create a brand.” Possessing a guiding philosophy and morals is vital to the brand. “Niall is something I’m proud of,” said Wilson. “It was ideated, built and birthed in Kansas City. I’m in this to build an industry here so it’s more than one company, and is a viable option for the next generation of watchmakers to be in Kansas City. I hope we can provide value, impact, coolness and swagger to bring Kansas City to the next level.”

Pete Dulin is a freelance writer based in Kansas City. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


BIGGER | growth S M A R T

( by Rebecca Gubbels )


Baby Steps to Big Opportunities The case for starting small with big ideas.


ou think you have a million-dollar idea, or at least one that will be a compelling business. You feel it in your bones. As tempting as it is to pour every ounce of energy and every last cent you have into launching this new idea—whether it’s a new product, a new service or even an entire company—hold back. Start slowly, and let the marketplace determine how quickly or slowly you grow. Let its clamoring for your products or service support your growth. After all, business expansion must be financially feasible to be sustainable. You don’t want to end up with equipment or payroll that you can’t afford. Starting with baby steps is a smarter way to work toward building a bigger small business. This isn’t always the most exciting story, but it’s also one that describes how many successful business owners started out. And even better? It can be your success story, too.

Get Feedback, Minimize Risk A while back, I had a client who came to me wanting advice on opening a familyfriendly Mexican restaurant. I had to ask him: How good are his recipes? His family likes his food, he said. Well, I like my aunt’s cooking, but it doesn’t mean she should open a restaurant. Back out he went and returned with recommendations from family and friends this time. Alas, he needed the opinions of those who couldn’t give a guacamole about his feelings. It’s critical to test your market before investing a lot of time and money into a business. Gather a focus group of real people, not just friends and family, and see what they think about your idea. 30 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // December 2016

Ask what they think the cost should be; that’ll help you determine your pricing and profit margin. Metaphorically, are you selling a $2 or a $10 taco? If it’s a $2 taco, will you be able to make enough profit to sustain business in the long run? Whether you’re selling tacos or software, getting objective opinions helps minimize risk. Keep Slicing Your Idea in Half Before investing a huge amount of time and money, try to build the smallest possible version of your vision. Meaning your restaurant idea becomes a food truck. Your food truck then becomes a booth at your local farmer’s market or a catering operation. The idea is to start out as small as possible so you can test your products or services along the way. Then, once you know how, and if, the marketplace will respond, you can work your way up from there.

Two Things to Focus On When starting any new venture, focus on selling the products and services that, A, you know the best and, B, that solve a problem. “What problem does your business idea solve?” is the first thing I ask clients. It’s all the better if you are truly enthusiastic about what you do. Nothing sells a small business at launch like your expertise and your brilliant solution to a real problem. If, and only if, you’re profitably solving a problem for the masses will investors’ money change from their hands to yours. Of course, enthusiasm isn’t enough to get a business off the ground. It must be tempered with the ability to accept reality and adjust accordingly when a plan doesn’t quite pan out as expected. Taking baby steps toward building your small business lets you be nimble and regroup when necessary with fewer emotional and financial consequences. You’ll have proof of concept on which to build. By keeping overhead to a minimum, you’re more likely to recoup your initial investment sooner and use profit to fund sustainable growth. Rebecca Gubbels is a business development officer with the UMKC Small Business and Technology Development Center. (816) 235-6075 //

BIGGER | finance S M A R T

( by Matt McCollaugh )


Six Questions You Should Ask a Factoring Company How to pick a reliable business partner for your company.


f your business has ever needed a quick boost to its cash flow, chances are that you have considered factoring as a funding option. Factoring is a form of alternative financing in which a business sells its invoices to a third-party company called a “factor.” The factor advances money on the invoices—usually within a day—then collects payment from the customers. The speed of factoring makes it an effective way for companies to build up working capital. Instead of waiting 30 to 60 days on customer payments, they can receive most of the cash in less than 24 hours. Today, there are more factoring providers to choose from than ever before. Some factors are excellent business partners, while others lag in areas like customer service, technology and record-keeping. Factoring rates are extremely competitive, but are only part of the equation when selecting the right factor for your business. Here are six questions you should ask to help ensure you work with a factor that will be a reliable business partner for your company: What Are Your Fees and Terms? In addition to a flat factoring fee, which is a percentage of a total invoice value, some factors charge additional or “hidden” fees. These charges cover things like money transfers, software transactions, collateral and other costs of doing business. Obviously, these fees can quickly add up, so it is important to ask the factor up front about the fee structure and how much is charged for each transaction. The terms and lengths of factoring agreements can also vary greatly from one provider to the next. As a client, you want as much flexibility in the agreement as possible. A long-term contract with a factoring company can be desirable if it includes a price break or flexible rates. Many factoring companies will adjust their

rates based on increased factoring volume or competitive offers from other factors. The industry standard for most factoring agreements is a one-year contract. With most factors, that contract will automatically renew unless you give the company a 60- or 90-day notice.

Can Your Funding Match My Company’s Growth? One advantage of factoring over a traditional line of credit is that the funding through factoring scales up as your volume of receivables increases. That can only happen, however, if the factor has the financial capacity to match your company’s growth. Before entering into an agreement with a factor, do some research on how long the provider has been in business and the kinds of clients it serves. What is the factoring volume of the largest client? What is a typical account size, and is there a limit to how many debtors the factoring company can take on? Finding out as much as you can about a factor’s capital structure and client base can provide assurance that the financing will meet your company’s needs.

How Do You Process Invoices? Do You Offer Both Recourse The technological capabilities of and Nonrecourse Factoring? different factoring companies can vary Recourse factoring means that you, the greatly. Some factors have online software client, are ultimately responsible for the that allows for the uploading of digital invoice value if the factor cannot collect paperwork and accurate reporting on your payment from one of your customers. With account transactions. nonrecourse factoring, Other factors require the factor assumes more Today, there are more the mailing or delivery of the credit risk when factoring providers to of original invoices and collecting on an invoice. documents. Recourse factoring choose from than ever. How a factor processes typically costs less than nonrecourse, but it is receivables goes a long ideal to work with a factor way in determining how that offers both services. It can be to your competent and effective the provider is in advantage to designate different customer collecting payment from your customers. receivables for recourse and nonrecourse Before signing a factoring agreement, make factoring, depending on a customer’s credit sure you understand and are comfortable rating and risk of nonpayment. with how the factor handles invoices, and the visibility that you will have to transacWhat Other Services tions in your account. Do You Provide? A good factoring company not only How Do You Treat funds invoices within a day, it provides Your Customers? back-office support that can save clients The quality of customer service can be a time, money and resources. When talking mixed bag in the factoring industry. Look for with a factor, ask for specifics on the a provider that will set your business up with kinds of services it provides. What is the a personal account representative who can factor’s process for customer collections answer all your questions and help with dayand how diligent is it in pursuing payto-day funding. This single point-of-contact ment? Does the factor provide other perks is especially critical during the early weeks like free credit checks on existing and new of your factoring relationship. customers? Ideally, the factor can act as an extension of your accounting departMat McCollaugh is vice president of sales for RTS Financial. ment, helping you save on overhead Based in Overland Park, RTS Financial provides factoring and allowing you to spend more time solutions that help companies of all sizes build more cash flow and grow at a faster pace. // on expanding your business. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


BIGGER | law S M A R T

( by James Hart )


What It Takes to Win a Patent The process might take years, but winning is worth it.


hen Kevin Williams opened the email from his attorney, he almost couldn’t believe the news. “Does this mean what I think it does?” he typed back. “Yes,” the lawyer responded, “you were awarded a patent.” The approval was a long-awaited victory for Williams, the owner of IT consulting firm WillCo Technologies. For the past several years, he has been developing a Smart Gridstyle system that allows individual homeowners to store power in batteries and better manage their household’s energy needs. That system, WillCo Intelligent Stored Energy (WISE), scored its first patent this May—about six years after Williams first submitted an application. As time-consuming as the process was, it ultimately paid off, he said. His patent will provide him with exclusive use of WISE’s innovation for years to come. Having that protection also has given him extra credibility with potential investors and lenders interested in funding WISE’s rollout. “Once the patent was awarded,” Williams said, “it just made it a lot easier.” Got an idea for a unique innovation of your own, but aren’t sure how to protect it? Here are some of the lessons that Williams learned from his journey to patent status.


Learn as much as possible about the process.

Williams knew a little about copyright and trademark issues, but he still devoted 10 to 15 hours of reading about how patents are granted and what he would need to produce as part of his application. Show your work. As you’re developing your

innovation, it’s critical to keep dated or time-stamped copies of any diagrams or notes. You’ll need them for your application, and those documents can help you defend yourself if anyone later accuses you of stealing their idea. An elaborate record-keeping system isn’t necessary. Williams used a simple Word file for his notes, and he kept an iPad by his bed, too. If he had a brainstorm at 2 in the morning, he would sketch out the idea, then email it to himself. “The things I had literally drawn on my computer ended up in the patent itself.” Get professional help. Hiring a law firm that’s skilled in the patent process can cost several thousand dollars. But successfully earning a patent award on their own would otherwise be impossible for most entrepreneurs, Williams said. Look for a firm that has experience with both intellectual property (IP) issues and

the U.S. Patent Office—and not the kind advertised during late-night infomercials. Ideally, you also should hire attorneys with expertise in your particular field. Williams’ team included lawyers who had earned advanced degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering. “They were able to give me a certain amount of vetting,” he said. Not all ideas are patentable. Before paperwork could be filed, Williams had to sit for an interview with his attorneys and describe WISE and its uses in his own words and with his own technical drawings. “I had to convince the attorneys first that the idea was patentable,” Williams said. A good IP firm can help you perform a professional patent search to see if anyone else has already recorded this particular innovation with the U.S. Patent Office. But the lawyers can’t fix your idea so that it’s different from an existing award. Prepare for rejection—initially, at least.

About 95 percent of all applications are turned down their first time, Williams said. But once you break through? Great things can happen. Williams, for example, is getting ready to take his WISE team from nine employees to 90. He has gone on to secure a second WISE-related patent since May, with a few more in the pipeline. Only a handful of U.S. ventures (many of them large) are engaged in WISE’s particular market, but having patents “gives me a seat at the table with these companies,” said Williams. If you’ve got a great idea, if you’re willing to do the hard work, Williams said, there’s no reason why your small business can’t win one, too. “One thing that I learned after the fact was that there are a lot of people with great ideas,” he said. “Having a patent separates you from having an idea and having a product that can go to market.”


( by James Hart )


The Struggle to Find the Right Employee Almost half of employers report recruitment challenges.


ccording to a new survey, about 46 percent of U.S. employers are having trouble finding workers. It’s a big jump from last year, when 32 percent of respondents reported problems. Globally, about 40 percent of companies are struggling to fill open positions, up 2 percent from 2015. The U.S. situation could be worse: About 86 percent of Japanese employers and 73 percent of Taiwanese companies are dealing with recruitment woes. It’s the most challenging time to hire employees since before the Great Recession, reported the ManpowerGroup, which released the Talent Shortage Survey. To help meet their personnel needs, many more companies are training existing staff to move into new roles. In 2015, about 12 percent of companies emphasized training and talent development. This year, about 48 percent do. “The best organizations know this, which is why we’ve seen a marked rise in the number of businesses focusing on training and development to fill talent gaps,” said Jonas Prising, the chairman and CEO of the ManpowerGroup. “We expect to see this number grow. That’s why we support companies and individuals to nurture learnability—the desire and ability to learn new skills to be employable for the long term.” The Toughest Jobs to Fill The ManpowerGroup contacted more than 42,000 employers in multiple countries for the Talent Shortage Survey. Skilled trades—jobs such as carpenters, masons, plumbers and electricians—were the toughest U.S. jobs to fill, for the seventh year in a row. The rest of the top 10 included … 2



Sales representatives




Restaurant and hotel staff


Accounting and finance staff









Why are these jobs so hard to fill? The top reason given by U.S. respondents was a lack of applicants (23 percent), followed by a lack of experience (18 percent), a lack of skills (16 percent) and candidates wanting to be paid more than what was offered (16 percent).

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How Employers Are Facing the Problem “Low unemployment paired with shorter skills cycles due to the speed of technological change means employers across the United States are struggling to fill positions. We see this particularly in industries like manufacturing, construction, transportation and education,” said Kip Wright, senior vice president of Manpower North America. “When the talent isn’t available, organizations need to turn to training and developing their own people—and in many cases this means first identifying the skills that will be required in increasingly digital industries, like manufacturing.” What about the companies that don’t have time or money for training? About 36 percent of respondents said they’re expanding their talent search beyond the traditional pool of employees. Others are trying alternative sourcing strategies (28 percent), offering extra benefits and perks (27 percent) and boosting pay (26 percent). About one in five surveyed companies said they’re turning to outsourcing. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


BIGGER | tech S M A R T

( by Jennifer Flood, J.D. )


Why Your Website Needs to Be Accessible, Too People with disabilities should be able to use your sites and apps.


aking buildings accessible to people with disabilities has been mandatory for many years. In fact, it’s now just a common part of doing business.


What many businesses do not know is that as they expand into the online space, their web properties also should be accessible to those with disabilities. There are two laws in particular that small businesses need to consider when it comes to accessibility in the online world. The Americans with Disabilities Act Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s

the premier law for ensuring equal opportunity for people with disabilities when it comes to seeking work, receiving government services or accessing public accommodations. That last category—public accommodations—covers a wide range of private businesses: hotels, restaurants and bars, theaters, doctor’s offices, grocery stores, retail shops, daycare centers, gyms and more. A growing number of lawsuits have argued these businesses’ websites should also be considered public accommodations and, thus, accessible to people with disabilities. The Justice Department is looking into the issue, but won’t propose formal rules

contractor, your site needs to be accessible now. Blind and low-vision users, deaf persons and those with physical disabilities should be able to access your content. Proposed Legislation and Legal Issues The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act both have sections on enforcement and private rights of action. Plaintiff’s firms are lining up to find wronged parties, or better yet, engage with a single plaintiff that “tests” the web accessibility of any entity covered by either law. If that person encounters a barrier to posted online content, whether that means videos, classes, advertisements, inquiry forms, terms and service, etc., the law firm could file suit following a long and drawnout attempt at cash settlement. So how can you make sure your website or app is compliant if the DOJ won’t issue its rules until 2018? DOJ is pointing to the Web Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, as the foundation for its proposed rules. It should be noted that these rules (WCAG 2.0) have already been wholly adopted by all of Europe in the past year. We have some catching up to do, but we also have a clear example of what compliance with these rules will look like.

A growing number of lawsuits have argued that these businesses’ websites should also be considered public accommodations, and thus, accessible to people with disabilities.

until 2018. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the DOJ from going after businesses whose websites aren’t ADA accessible—as it did a few years ago, when it reached a settlement with online grocer Peapod. The Rehabilitation Act While the ADA might be the best known law regarding people with disabilities, it’s not the only one that business owners should know.

The Rehabilitation Act—Section 504, to be specific—prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance, in federal employment and in the employment practices of federal contractors—many of which happen to be small businesses. So while the Justice Department won’t roll out its accessibility rules for businesses until 2018, if you’re a government

Why It Matters Accessibility isn’t simply a matter of compliance. It’s also the right thing to do. After all, people with disabilities want to be able to share the same experiences as everyone else in the world. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if you couldn’t apply for jobs, pay bills or shop online simply because a website didn’t have the right code? Business owners are an innovative and resourceful group. We can—and must— meet the challenge of offering full access to all customers. Jennifer Flood, J.D., is the president and CEO of National Compliance Group, a compliance technology company located in Kansas City. She is the national authority on regulatory compliance in various industries, providing compliance services and consulting for clients across the United States. (620) 504-2058 // // www.national // Twitter: @natcompgroup SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


BIGGER | health S M A R T

( by Scott Behrens, J.D. )


The Future of the Affordable Care Act What the election means for health care plan sponsors.


resident-elect Donald Trump campaigned on the message that if elected, he would shake things up. We expect he will do just that, with the help of a Republicancontrolled Congress. For all the reported disarray in the Republican Party, a consistent message over the last six years has been the party’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Repeal of the ACA, including the employer play-or-pay mandate,


seems inevitable now that Republicans control the presidency and both chambers of Congress. The ACA is still the law of the land. Prudent employers will want to continue to comply with the ACA, including the play-or-pay mandate and reporting requirements (Forms 1095-C are due to employees 11 days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration) until formal guidance relieves them of those compliance obligations. This guidance might come swiftly in the form of an executive order soon after the inauguration, or

be deferred until after a replacement plan is established. Repealing the ACA will be easy (well, maybe…but we’ll get to that). Replacing it will be more difficult. Mr. Trump has provided few ACA-replacement details, but we do know he and key Congressional Republicans favor the following: » Allow the sale of individual health insurance across state lines » Expand the use of health savings accounts (HSAs) » Allow taxpayers to deduct all their premium payments, if they were not already paid on a pre-tax basis through an employer’s cafeteria plan » Require price transparency in medical services » Provide Medicaid block grants to states » Allow consumer importation of prescription drugs. A full repeal of the ACA is unlikely considering the popularity of some of its provisions. Specifically, Mr. Trump and many Republicans have explained that they favor keeping the:

» Prohibition on pre-existing condition restrictions » Eligibility of employees’ adult children to age 26. The Senate Remains a Challenge While Republicans maintained control of the Senate, their majority is slim. The operating rules of the Senate are such that Democrats will maintain influence on any major legislation. In particular, 60 votes are required to defeat a filibuster. However, a procedural device called “reconciliation” allows for passage of budget-related items on a mere majority vote. The Democrats employed reconciliation to push the ACA through in 2010, and we expect the Republicans to do the same, to push the ACA out, in 2017. We don’t expect to see much action in Washington during the lame duck session of Congress, in advance of Mr. Trump’s inauguration early next year. Republicans know that the future power shift will provide them, in the very near future, with a smoother path to their desired outcomes. Beginning Jan. 20, 2017, Inauguration Day in Washington, all bets are off. While we can’t predict where all the political chips will fall, we can bet that the chips will be flying. And in Other News… Voters in Colorado soundly defeated an effort to install a single-payer health care system in the state. The initiative, a proposed Amendment 69 to the Colorado constitution, would have imposed a massive tax increase on individuals and businesses, and established a governing council to oversee implementation and administration of the health care program. The defeat of Amendment 69 follows Vermont’s rescission of a similar single-payer platform after the governor there determined the state could not pay for the promised benefits. Time will tell whether other states will flirt with the single-payer concept. Those that do will have to solve the massive cost implications of such a measure. Scott Behrens, JD, is a vice president and ERISA compliance attorney in Lockton Benefit Group. (816) 960-9000 // // // @LocktonComply

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( by Caron Beesley )


What Lenders Want to See HERE’S HOW TO WIN THEM OVER. ecuring small business financing can be challenging. Whether you are just starting out or looking to grow, banks and other lending institutions can be rigorous in their lending review practices.


For example, businesses with few assets to their name may find it hard to secure a traditional loan. Other business owners may not be able to provide the reassurance that lenders seek to alleviate their concerns that the business may fail and the loan won’t get repaid. So when you approach a

lender, it’s just as important to understand the basis on which loans are made as it is to stack up your financials and business plan. So what are lenders looking for in a potential loan applicant? Here’s what you need to know. LOAN APPLICANTS NEED TO CHECK OFF SEVERAL BOXES

Here are some basic “must-haves” that the ideal candidate might be expected to evidence: » You have sufficient assets, financial reserves and personal collateral to endure business fluctuations (and still pay off your loan). » As an existing business owner, you’ll need to show that you have solid cash flow, sufficient to repay the loan. » New businesses need to show evidence that they have a track record of profitability and success in a similar business endeavor. Let’s face it, that’s a tricky list for any prospective or existing small business. So what are your options? Proving your creditworthiness is still possible, with some planning and preparation. HOW TO PROVE YOUR CREDITWORTHINESS

Bankers need to make money, and while they may have an ideal candidate in mind, even they have to compromise. This is where your opportunity lies. The trick is to demonstrate, using other means, that you are a creditworthy business owner. For example, if you are new to this business, can you show success in managing a similar business in another field (even if you weren’t the owner)? Perhaps you’ve owned or managed a profitable business in a different industry? Lending officers might be more agreeable to your application if you can show that you supplement your own experience with that of someone who also has success in the field. Putting yourself in the lender’s shoes is a good starting point. It’s much like a job interview, where you form an understanding of the type of candidate the employer is looking for and prepare your application and anticipate questions accordingly. Ask yourself: “Why should this lender think my business can succeed where others have failed?” and have a thorough answer 38 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // December 2016

prepared, plus a detailed explanation of how the money will be used and your plan for paying it off. STEP BACK AND PREPARE

Key to this preparation is a solid business plan, good personal and business credit, and some expert help. The following SBA resources and tools can help guide you down this preparation path: Build a Business Plan Online Tool // Putting

pen to paper to write a business plan isn’t the easiest of tasks. Check out this tool from SBA ( that guides small business owners through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan—and offers pointers on essential elements like cash flow and financial projections. Clean Up Your Credit // Business credit is an asset, and lenders look for assets. The SBA blog has useful content on improving your

company’s credit. Start by reading “How to Build Business Credit for Your Startup” ( Consult an Expert // Whether you need help finding the right loan for your business or a guiding hand that can help you through the application process, don’t feel that you have to go it alone. Local Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE, a mentoring organization for small businesses, can help you through the process.


If you or your lender decides that you aren’t the right candidate for a traditional business loan, you still have

options. Consider an SBA Loan Program ( The SBA doesn’t lend businesses money. Instead, these programs take the risk away from the banks and encourage them to make loans to small business owners by guaranteeing part of the loan. Check out these additional online learning resources that can help you navigate the SBA loan process—for example, How to Prepare a Loan Package ( Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer and a marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start, grow and succeed. //


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SBA Lenders Boost Funding to KC’s Small Businesses THE AMOUNT OF THE REGION’S SBA LOANS WERE UP 16 PERCENT DURING FY 2016. hanks to SBA-backed loans, small businesses in Kansas City and Springfield were able to create more than 3,800 jobs and support another 7,000 positions during FY 2016. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the region’s lenders made more than $395.6 million in SBA-backed loans, a 16 percent increase. The SBA doesn’t actually lend money directly to small businesses in most cases. Rather, the agency promises to help pay off a loan if an approved borrower defaults. That guarantee gives lenders the confidence


to work with small companies they might not otherwise. “The lending community understands the importance of SBA loan programs as an alternative to traditional financing,” said Jon Malcolm Richards, director of the SBA’s Kansas City District. “And it is through the dedication and commitment of our lenders to the business community that SBA had a resoundingly successful year.” Based on the number of SBA loans approved, U.S. Bank had more than any lender in the region, 96, followed by Alterra Bank with 57, Simmons First National Bank

with 52, Arvest Bank with 47 and The Bank of Missouri with 38. If you look at how much those loans were worth, Alterra led with a dollar volume of $39.4 million, followed by Live Oak Bank with $30 million, U.S. Bank with $22.3 million, OakStar Bank with $21.8 million and Simmons Bank with $21.6 million. About half of the region’s SBA loans were for amounts of $150,000 or less, comparable to demand from last year. The SBA has done away with up-front borrower fees for these smaller 7(a) loans, which has helped spur demand. The SBA reported stronger demand for loans to small businesses in accommodations and food service (an increase of 15 percent); retail trade (up 14.8 percent); construction (up 10 percent); health care and social services (9 percent); and other services (up 8 percent). Interested in learning more about SBAbacked loans? Contact the agency’s Kansas City District Office at (816) 426-4900 or


Looking for an relationship with your bank? Think of us First.

CrossFirst Bank is dedicated to serving the financial needs of businesses and professionals in extraordinary ways. We’re a bank built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. In fact, some of our bankers have been business owners themselves. CrossFirst Small Business Bankers and Small Business Administration (SBA) Lenders will guide you through the financing options that best suit your needs.

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How Thirsty Coconut Prepared for Bigger Growth THIRSTY COCONUT BRINGS HEALTHY DRINKS TO SCHOOLS, NURSING HOMES—AND MAYBE THE REST OF THE NATION. hen Luke Einsel first opened Thirsty Coconut, the company focused on renting frozen-drink and margarita machines to restaurants, stadiums and party hosts. But he quickly realized that his products’ high levels of high-fructose corn syrup were a nonstarter for many customers. Einsel knew that if Thirsty Coconut was going to succeed, he needed to offer healthy drinks and products to give



nutrition-conscious consumers a choice. The result? The Thirsty Coconut has grown into untapped markets and increased sales by a whopping 300 percent for two consecutive years. That’s just the beginning. With the help of ScaleUP! Kansas City, Thirsty Coconut is on course to become a nationwide vendor for healthy beverage distribution. After graduating from the program, Einsel has confidently added

employees, expanded his facilities, strengthened his financials and set the groundwork for long-term financial success. “I want to be a nationwide company,” Einsel said. “I think we have a great product.” ScaleUP! Kansas City is designed for businesses that want to grow. The free program, which is offered by the UMKC Innovation Center and U.S. Small Business Administration, offers classes, peer mentoring,


“You can’t just run it as a dictatorship. You can’t think small,” he said. “You have to think about: Where do we want to go? How do we want to get there?” Scott Taddiken, an area attorney, is serving as an adviser and a minority owner. Einsel also designated his brother Garth to be the operations manager. It means others can make decisions without waiting for one person to sign off on every move. Thirsty Coconut, which serves a five-state region, has earned a reputation for its rapid service calls. While competitors take weeks to repair equipment, the family-run business responds within 24 to 48 hours. “I can beat the three-week service call,” Einsel said, laughing. ‘WHO DO YOU WANT TO WORK WITH?’

professional guidance and more. It’s open to businesses operating in a market capable of supporting more than $1 million in sales. LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR GROWTH

ScaleUP! advisers helped teach Einsel the importance of planning for growth. He had big goals for bringing on more customers, but ScaleUP! consultants asked him if he had the people and the facilities to do it right. It led Einsel to move into a bigger facility this year. Thirsty Coconut relocated from Olathe to a former Chris Cakes building in Louisburg. Infrastructure includes adding critical employees, too. Einsel is the first to admit that the family-run business, which he founded in 2012 and owns with brothers Darin and Garth Einsel, was having growing pains. ScaleUP! reminded him that he couldn’t go it alone anymore.

As Thirsty Coconut built its reputation, Einsel and his family were out making cold calls on customers. Their big break came when an associate suggested they hit up a new market: “Why don’t you try a school district?” The decision single-handedly changed his business trajectory. “Schools are our biggest client by far,” he said. Einsel reached out to the Kansas City Kansas School District and offered to let them try Thirsty Coconut’s 100 percent juice slush. Teenagers loved it. The district did, too, because it’s a healthy product that meets federal school standards for calories and nutrition. “We’re replacing Coca-Cola at a school district,” he said. Thirsty Coconut leaves the machine at schools free of charge, but makes money from selling the beverage mix. Einsel keeps prices low so cash-starved schools can bring in revenue to boot. When a machine needs service, Einsel and repair technicians jump into action. As great as Thirsty Coconut’s business was going, ScaleUP! advisers showed Einsel how it might get even better, all by asking one small but pivotal question. “They said: Who do you want to work with?” It prompted Einsel to contact a national food service management company that is in charge of school nutrition programs for hundreds of districts. “I reached out to one of them, and they did a test pilot for us in 16 of their school

districts. They cover a four-state area. They’ve got about 230 school districts that they serve,” he said. “If it goes well, they’re going to blow it up and put us in all of their school districts.” Einsel has also started tapping new markets including hospitals and nursing homes. “We want to be a healthy beverage distribution company where we only focus on products that are replacing high-fructose corn syrup,” he said. ‘I WANT TO BE A NATIONWIDE COMPANY’

Thirsty Coconut’s next big challenge is finding investors to take the business beyond the five-state region it currently serves. “If we can replicate that, it’s pretty easy to see us being nationwide at some point in the near future,” Einsel said. He credits ScaleUP! for helping Thirsty Coconut continue to grow. The program consultants don’t hold your hand through the process, he points out. However, they do push you to open your mind to new markets and ideas. “They get the gears going,” he said. “You try to get in there and think about your business in a different light.” Dawn Bormann is a freelance writer based in the Kansas City area.


Luke Einsel COMPANY

Thirsty Coconut 219 N. Broadway, Louisburg, KS (913) 735-0809 ARE YOU READY TO SCALE UP?

Want to take your small business to new heights? Then check out ScaleUP! Kansas City, an elite program from the University of MissouriKansas City Innovation Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration. ScaleUP! offers training, mentoring and other help to get your revenues over the $1 million mark. For more information, visit







Engineering’s Engine of Growth f you drove on a road, drank a glass of tapwater or flushed a toilet today, remember to thank an engineer. In some ways, their work can be invisible, but it’s also absolutely essential to modern society. Engineering firms not only facilitate major construction projects, in the process they support the safety, health and welfare of the general public. Nationally, engineering services is a $206 billion industry, one that employs 1.04 million people, according to IBISWorld. It also happens to be something of a Kansas City specialty. “Kansas City has probably got some of the most world-renowned engineering firms that range in size from the mega firms down to the smaller firms,” said Kristen Leathers, a principal at Affinis Corp. “It’s just known as an engineering mecca.” Four Kansas City firms with a national reach—Burns & McDonnell, Black & Veatch, HNTB and Terracon—were among the top 40 firms on this year’s Top 500 Design Firms list from industry journal Engineering News-Record. And that’s not counting firms that are headquartered somewhere else but have a presence in Kansas City. “There are many, many others in the top 50 that have offices here in town,” said Derek Vap, an HNTB professional engineer and project manager and the president of the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers’ Western Chapter. Smaller firms have enjoyed a strong 2016, too. TREKK Design Group, for example, is more than doubling the size of its local



facilities and adding 16 staffers. Kansas City Testing & Engineering has absorbed another company and increased its head count by 30 percent.

“It’s been a great year,” said Elisabeth DeCoursey, Kansas City Testing & Engineering’s president. Part of that’s due to an increase in construction around the Kansas City metro, driven by growth in intermodal activity, DeCoursey said. The economy has been on an upward trend since 2012, with demand really kicking off in 2014. The past year has been strong, and the next two to four years also look good, she added. Across the country, engineering revenues have declined by an annualized rate of 2.1 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to IBISWorld. But it’s forecasting growth for the next five years as corporate profits

increase, allowing companies to invest in major construction projects. “In general, I would say the overall engineering sector is on the rise,” Vap said. There are some areas that are lagging, though. As oil and gas prices have tumbled, so has the need for engineers who specialize in those kinds of projects. Transportation projects, which often rely on federal and state government funding, have been slowed down, though several cities are using bond issues to move forward with infrastructure repairs and upgrades. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent “report card” on the nation’s infrastructure, about $3.6 trillion in

investment is needed for roads, rail, wastewater and other critical elements. “Taxes and utility revenues traditionally have paid for public infrastructure, and much of it is aged and needs repairs,” said Valerie McCaw, owner of VSM Engineering, which specializes in professional civil engineering. “No one has found a better way to pay for it. That can be unpopular. “But something like 70 percent of local infrastructure elections are passed—people can see the local benefit. Both presidential candidates saw infrastructure as a huge issue, and they somewhat agreed on how to address this issue. Doing nothing is not an option either.”


To keep pace with increased demand, Kansas City engineering firms are adding staff members. The local job market for engineers is very strong right now. “I would classify it as very good, just a notch below excellent,” said Dave McDowell, president of Austin Nichols Technical Search. His firm helps engineering companies recruit job candidates. Kansas City has a particularly deep talent pool, and there are a couple of reasons for that, he said. For one, Kansas City is located near several universities with accomplished engineering programs, including the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the University of Missouri, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, among others. And it helps to have several leading engineering firms based here. That density is attractive to engineers because they have multiple places where they can grow their career. “Engineering students know they can come to Kansas City and probably get a job,” DeCoursey said. Of course, Kansas City’s high concentration of firms isn’t all silver linings. Because there are so many engineering firms based here, competition for some projects can be intense. “But that just makes everybody work a little harder to do a good job,” DeCoursey said. THE ROAD AHEAD

Infrastructure might not be a particularly sexy word. But in the coming years, Kansas City engineers are going to have the opportunity to solve new kinds of problems and come up with exciting solutions, especially if the incoming president makes good on his plans to boost infrastructure spending. For example, more and more firms are thinking about how they’ll build roads, bridges and other structures that continued on page 48 »






incorporate and interact with sensors, self-driving cars and other technology, Vap said. The Midwest has also seen an increase in earthquake activity, and engineers are going to have to take that concern into greater account as they develop new projects, DeCoursey said. Leathers of Affinis sees a new focus on building roads and other systems in a more targeted, more sustainable manner. Not every suburb needs a four-lane divided roadway or standard arterial streets. By building smarter, she said, municipalities can reduce the future cost of maintenance and upkeep.

There’s also been more interest in “multimodal” infrastructure—building communities that support bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as cars, she said. The goal is to make those communities better, more enjoyable places to live. After all, engineering, for all of its technical questions, is ultimately about people. Affinis regularly helps build and rebuild streets in residential areas. “It’s always fun to see how a new street can make everybody want to paint their house or maybe do some landscaping,” Leathers said.


Two of Kansas City’s most famous engineers, McCaw notes, actually moved here from California. Clinton Burns and Robert McDonnell got their start in Palo Alto and decided to relocate to Kansas City in 1898 because there was, in a 200-mile radius, a huge number of communities that needed help building water and power infrastructure. What they and other engineers have built is a local engineering sector that continues to attract some of the nation’s finest engineering talent. “I am a civil engineer, and a civil engineer can basically pick anywhere in the world to live and work,” McCaw said. “I deliberately chose KC.” James Hart is managing editor of Thinking Bigger Business Media. (913) 432-6690 //

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Jeffrey Hayzlett

Jeffrey Hayzlett is a primetime television host of “C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett” and “Executive Perspectives” on C-Suite TV, and he’s the business radio host of “All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett” on the CBS on-demand radio network Play.It. Jeffrey is a global business celebrity, speaker, best-selling author and chairman of C-Suite Network. A well-traveled public speaker, Hayzlett is the author of three best-selling business books: “The Mirror Test,” “Running the Gauntlet” and “Think Big, Act Bigger.”

Entrepreneur, TV and radio host, speaker and best-selling author KELLY » What does it mean to think

big and act bigger? JEFFREY » I’m

originally from South Dakota, yet I’ve sold over 250 businesses in my career, with $25 billion in transactions. I’ve been a Fortune 100 CMO. And if I hadn’t thought bigger, I’d have stayed in South Dakota and done a really good business. But I finally learned, hey, I can go do this in Iowa. I can do this in Kansas. I can do this in Missouri. I can do this all over the world. So, it’s really about saying, “Why do I limit myself by any boundary?” That limits our way of thinking. More importantly, if we want to think big, it’s also about acting bigger, too, because we have to implement.

KELLY » Speaking of implementing,

on the back of your book in big glaring letters is this statement: “The most dangerous move in business is the failure to make a move.” Why? JEFFREY » All

the people in the world come up with great ideas, but they never implement them, they never act. If you don’t act, if you don’t do, you don’t risk. And you have to risk. There’s an old saying in sports, “no pain, no gain.” We need to have that same kind of mind-set in business— where we’re taking risks. For the most part, if we make a mistake, no one is going to die.

KELLY » You say it’s critical to cre-

ate a business identity that you can own. How does a business owner do that? JEFFREY »

What is your brand? When you really boil it down, your brand is your promise delivered. It’s the promise you deliver and everything else that should support it, look like it, feel like it. That’s the essence of a brand. And for the business owner, it’s really about living that. With so many businesses, when you see the owner walk in, you see the company. And when you see the company, you think of the owner.

KELLY » You’ve said that it’s a good

thing for business owners to be a little bit pigheaded. Why? JEFFREY »

Yeah, and irrational. Our job is to stretch and to push and to hold to the vision of what we do. To hold the brand elements and


say, “This is what we stand for. We’re not going to give one inch on it.” Sometimes we have to tell our employees that we’re going to go way over here to point C just to get them to B. We’ve got to stretch people. We have to push people beyond where they think they need to be. That’s why we have to be pigheaded. KELLY » You also stress the

importance of focus. Sometimes entrepreneurs are accused of chasing squirrels, of pursuing all kinds of different things and having endless ideas, to the point they lose sight of their core business. How do you continue to act bigger and implement new ideas, yet cut through the noise and achieve focus? JEFFREY » Squirrel

is a key word. In the book I talked about the movie “Up,” where the dog chases the

squirrels. That’s what dogs do. Well, that’s what happens every day in our business. We’re looking at squirrels, and we think we have to chase them. We don’t have to chase them. You’ve got to pay attention to the big things. Focus on the things that give you the great value—market penetration, profitability, new customers, whatever it might be. You have to look at your calendar every day and kill squirrels. Nope, don’t need that one. Nope, don’t need that one. Your job as an entrepreneur, your job as a leader in any business, is to kill squirrels.

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