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VOL. 26 // ISSUE 5 // MAY 2017

SHIFT IN FOCUS PAYS OFF Kevin Staley, owner of Integrated Health Systems, changed his company— and paved the way for major growth.



On the eve of the streetcar’s first anniversary, business leaders weigh in on its impact.


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MAY 2017 VOL. 26 // ISSUE 5


07 The Bigger Picture 08 Biz Bits 10 BIG | deals 12 25 Under 25® Updates 13 At A Glance 50 BIG | shots




Bloch Venture Hub tenants shape future generations



Kansas City’s legal community mirrors national trends



ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY Marisa Wiruhayarn of Tasty Thai and Big Bowl Pho

Fresh start in America took an unexpected turn


BIGGER | growth Crisis-Led Growth

Learn to respond instead of react


BIGGER | sales Clarity Closes

32 K C E N T R E P R E N E U R

Eliminating wishy-washy phrases


BIGGER | tech Your Business Voice

How to leverage advances in speaker technology


BIGGER | hr Hiring Right

Keys to creating a job interview system


BIGGER | marketing Retail Resolve

How brick-and-mortar retailers can co-exist with the online giants 4




CHANGE Integrated Health Systems emerged as a national leader in IT for senior care after Kevin Staley decided to realign his company’s market focus.




15 OYO Fitness

16 Happy Habitat

44 Musical Entrepreneurs

Solving a problem for NASA leads to business launch.

Karrie Dean’s blankets and throws are works of cozy art.

Roy Scott and Reggie Gray of H3 Enterprises are in the business of learning. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



MAY 2017


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Growth? No Growth? It’s Up to You


here’s no growth in the Comfort

necessary research. Look at numbers and data.

Zone and no comfort in the

And be really brutal about whether you, as the

Growth Zone.”

owner, are willing to do what’s necessary to see things through.

I was reminded of that oft-repeated bit

Commit yourself to a growth plan. Yes, I said

of business wisdom recently when Marvin Carolina, Jr., the founder of Team Carolina and the

the dirty word. Plan. Make a plan—and write it down.

former vice president of diversity and inclusion for

Don’t just keep it in your head, and don’t just talk about

JE Dunn, tossed it out as a guest on my podcast.

it at a staff meeting here and there. Define a path for

Business owners often talk about growing their com-

achieving growth that includes a commitment to people

panies. Talk is one thing, especially when you’re talking

and financial resources. If you aren’t willing to allocate

from the familiarity of the Comfort Zone. But simply

resources to growth, then you’re just setting yourself

talking and staying comfortable doesn’t create growth.

up for failure. Or you aren’t serious about growing in the

As we approach the halfway mark of 2017, put these ABCs into action if you still want to see growth by year-end. Ask yourself what growth means for your company. What does it look like? Define it specifically. What will it take to get there? How far are you willing to go to achieve that growth?

first place. Be sure to incorporate milestones and how you’ll measure the growth too. Two of the entrepreneurs we’ve featured in this issue— Marisa Wiruhayarn of M-Power Enterprises (p. 24) and Kevin Staley of Integrated Health Systems (p. 33)— actively committed to growth. It transformed them as business owners and it transformed their companies too.

Be honest with yourself as you answer the questions above. Don’t just crystal ball your responses. Do the

Ke lly S can lon

Do you really want to grow your company? Ask yourself how uncomfortable you want to get.

// Publisher //




Small Businesses Optimistic but Cautious Small business optimism continued to be favorable in March, sustaining a trend that has been playing out since November. The numbers come from the Small Business Economic Trends Report issued by the National Association of Independent Business Owners (NFIB). The NFIB said the Index slipped 0.6 points in March to 104.7, which was still a strong reading. Actual earnings, capital expenditure plans and job-creation plans posted gains in March. Sales expectations, however, had been high for months but dropped by eight points, a sign that the Optimism Index could be moderating after the strong run.

ScaleUP! KC Looking for Applicants ScaleUP! KC is now accepting applications for Cohort 6. Business owners who are selected will spend four months in courses and connecting with a network of peers, resources and mentors. Business owners are eligible to apply if they meet the following criteria: » Lead a company that has been in business for at least 2 years » Generate annual sales between $150K and $750K » Have a strong market that can generate more than $1 million in sales » Strive to drive your business to greater heights The program is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offered at no cost. To be considered for the program, apply by May 4 at The program will begin on June 1.

Lee’s Summit Main Street Honored Again America’s Most Trusted: The Military and Small Business Gallup got some interesting answers in its 2016 Confidence in Institutions poll. Small business ranked second only to the military as the institution respondents had most confidence in. Most people wouldn’t be shocked that the lowest institutions rated were newspapers, television news and the U.S. Congress. The military earned its top spot with a 73 percent trust number, including 41 percent who responded with “a great deal” of confidence and 32 percent with “quite a lot.” Small business landed in second place with an overall 68 percent rating. Thirty percent of respondents said they had a “great deal” of confidence in small business while 38 percent said they had a lot. 8


Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street program again has been named an accredited Main Street Community. The recognition comes from the National Main Street Center and the Missouri Main Street Connection. It is the highest award given for such revitalization. Lee’s Summit local programs need to meet 10 performance standards to retain the status. The standards are the benchmarks for measuring an individual Main Street program’s application of the requirements for commercial district revitalization. The evaluation determines if communities are fostering strong public-private partnerships, tracking economic progress and preserving historic buildings.

Lee’s Summit is one of six Missouri communities to be reaffirmed as an accredited Main Street community.

Digital Sandbox KC Finds Co-Working Space in Olathe Digital Sandbox KC and K-State’s Olathe campus have teamed up to offer co-working space to Olathe startups participating in the Sandbox program. The new co-working space is at 22201 W. Innovation Drive. Identifying co-working space has been an ongoing effort of the City of Olathe and the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.

More Coworking Space Coming to Kansas City Kansas City’s reputation as a haven for small business and entrepreneurs is getting attention from companies offering coworking office space. Level Office of Chicago is the latest to join the parade.

April Showers Bring May Flowers & Our College Students! Level Office has purchased an eight-story, 44,860-square-foot building at 1301 Oak St. and will renovate it for use as modern and affordable workspace. Other companies have been alert to Kansas City’s small business activity. Plexpod Westport Commons, iWerx and Edison Spaces just opened locally, and global WeWork is preparing a Crossroads facility for a summer opening. The Level Office building will include private offices and communal lounge areas. It will also feature an expresso bar, direct fiber internet, local beer on tap and on-site administrative support. The company intends to offer high-caliber amenities at budget-friendly prices, according to Bennett.

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2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists EY has announced the 2017 Central Midwest finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. This year’s 22 Central Midwest finalists generated nearly $2 billion in revenue and employed more than 8,000 people in 2016. Twelve of the companies are from the Kansas City area, including: » Matt Hertig and Michelle Jacobs, Alight Analytics, Kansas City, Mo. » Richard Wetzel and Steven Swanson, Centric Projects, Kansas City, Mo. » Peter Mallouk, Creative Planning, Leawood, Kan. » Jay Kim, DataLocker Inc., Overland Park, Kan. » Brock Stechman and Brody Dorland, DivvyHQ, Kansas City, Mo. » Jeanette Prenger, ECCO Select Corporation, Kansas City, Mo. » Bren Brown and Michael Brown, Frontier Justice, Lee’s Summit, Mo. » Sonia Garapaty, FSC, Inc., Overland Park, Kan. » Erica Brune, Lever1, Kansas City, Mo. » Martin Bicknell, Mariner Holdings, LLC, Leawood, Kan. » John Goodbrake, Master’s Transportation, Inc., Belton, Mo. » David Johnson, Maxus Properties, Inc., North Kansas City, Mo.

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BIG | deals

AWARDS/RECOGNITION Kansas City Chamber Names Top 10 Small Businesses The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has named its 2017 Class of Top 10 small businesses. One of the 10 will be selected as the Small Business of the Year and Mr. K Award winner at a luncheon on May 16. The Chamber’s 2017 Top 10 Small Businesses are: » » » » » » » » » »

Alpha Energy & Electric Andrews McMeel Universal BHC Rhodes Bob Hamilton Plumbing Code Koalas Heritage Biologics KC Restoration Paleterias Tropicana Pro Athlete Inc. Weave Gotcha Covered

Coaching Recognition Debra Kunz, the founder for the Center for Deliberate Growth, was recognized with the 2017 Excellence in Practice Award for Coaching and Mentoring from the Association for Talent Development, Kansas City. NEW BUSINESSES Harrisonville Gets Chemical Facility Startup A new chemical manufacturing startup in Harrisonville, Mo., will provide at least 14 new jobs as part of business expansions under the Missouri Works program. 10

ACCI Specialty Materials is a startup that manufactures chemical products for the aerospace, personal care and automotive industries. The company is preparing a new facility to manufacture specialty chemicals for thermoset resins, including epoxy resins, curing agents, imidazoles and dihydrazides. It is the first off-site facility by the parent company, which is based in Linden, N.J.


EXPANSION Amigoni Urban Winery Expands Michael and Kerry Amigoni, owners of Amigoni Urban Winery at 1505 Genessee St., have acquired the former Bill Brady Gallery space, located to the north of the Amigoni tasting room in the Livestock District of the West Bottoms. The Amigonis have consolidated their off-site production to make wine and age it in barrels in this newly converted space. They will also offer tours and open a room for wine education and private tastings. FUNDING

Corvino Supper Club Makes Crossroads Debut Former The American Restaurant chef Michael Corvino and his wife Christina Corvino have launched Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room. Located on the ground floor of the new Corrigan Station building at 1828 Walnut, the restaurant is a restaurant within a restaurant that features a 74-seat dining room and bar, plus a “jewel box” tasting room for private dinners that offers a view of the open kitchen. The supper club is designed to offer shared plates of signature and seasonal dishes at a range of price points. The Tasting Room will offer a more structured tasting menu-style of dining. The Corvinos worked with design-build firm Hufft Projects for the project.

Pepper IoT Closes $8.5 Million in Series B Funding Pepper IoT, a Kansas City-based Internet of Things platform and service provider startup, has announced a Series B investment round of $8.5 million. It also debuted its Pepper IoT operating system—and indicated more is to come.

The funds came from Leawood Ventures, the KCRise Fund and Royal Street Ventures, who joined Pepper IoT’s current investors OpenAir Equity Partners and Comporium Communications. The Series B financing will support the launch of several consumer IoT products, including the Pepper OS, and hire several more employees. ON THE MOVE Health Facilities Group Moves to New Office Health Facilities Group has moved to new space at 1300 E. 104th St., Ste. 225, in Kansas City, Mo. Founded in 1994, HFG is a medical planning, architectural design and interior design firm focused exclusively on healthcare.


DivvyHQ Snags Legend for Board of Directors DivvyHQ, a content planning and collaboration platform, has added Robert Rose, one of the luminaries in the content marketing industry, to its board of directors. Rose is chief strategist for the Content Marketing Institute and helps develop content and customer experience strategies for several large enterprises.

Local Businesses Partner to Increase Private Aviation Options MemberJets has partnered with Olathe’s KCAC Aviation. MemberJets recognized an opportunity for expanding private aviation through increased services and travel solutions. One way they are doing that is by offering single seats on private aircraft for the first time.



2 5 U N D E R 2 5 ® U P DAT E S

10 years, EAG Advertising & Marketing (Class of 2007) has closed on the purchase of 6,300 square feet of first-floor commercial office space at Freight House Loft Condominiums at 2029 Wyandotte.

Dobies Healthcare Lobs Apples for Wellness Merger Forms Large Wealth Advisory Firm Four local financial services firms, including a 25 Under 25 alumnus, have consolidated to create Infinitas, a wealth counsel company with a client base that covers 41 states and the District of Columbia. The company was formed when Gateway Financial, Pegasus Capital Management (Class of 2005), Summit Wealth Advisors and Trinity Planning Group formally merged.

Alight Analytics Launches New Division

Skyline E3 Moves to New Space

Alight Analytics (Class of 2014), a company

a 53,000-square-foot building at 9511 Legler Rd. in Lenexa, Kan. The company provides solutions for exhibits and events, including trade show booths, conferences, product launches and corporate lobbies. The new space houses the company’s offices and showroom.

that specializes in marketing analytics for advertising agencies and brands, has formed Insight Group, a new division dedicated to helping companies overcome the problem of searching for analytics “unicorns.” The Insight Group will offer a portfolio of analytics solutions and make the Marketing Analytics Academy available to the public.

J. Rieger & Co. Hits the Trail in Texas J. Rieger & Co. (Class of 2017) just added

Texas as a distribution base, making it the 17th state where they have a presence. Victory Wine Group will be J. Rieger & Co.’s exclusive representative in the state.

EAG Advertising & Marketing Purchases Crossroads Space CRN201812-207387



Healthcare marketing firm Dobies Healthcare Group (Class of 2016) has partnered with Natural Grocers to launch an “Apple a Day” program to inspire healthy eating choices and to tackle childhood obesity. The program allows corporate sponsors to choose a school and provides fresh, organic apples; offers nutrition education with a nutritional health coach and provide healthy eating guides students can share with their families.

After occupying three different locations in the Crossroads District during the past

Skyline E3 (Class of 2009) has moved to

Tickets For Less Hires New CFO Adam Tyhurst has joined Tickets for Less (Class of 2009) as the firm’s new chief financial officer. Tyhurst was previously the director of finance for the Kansas City Royals. Tickets for Less is a national ticket broker for major events.

Wrenn Adds Business Development Manager Christina Erickson-Hoffman has joined Wrenn Co. Finance, an Affinity Enterprise Group company, as vice president of business development. Wrenn Insurance Company is a Class of 2005 alumnus.



Changing the World One Brand at a Time Ad agency execs: Purpose and profit can go hand in hand. The marketing executives who own Will & Grail want to make a difference. Dan Salva, Mark O’Renick and Brad Lang created Will & Grail, merging the two firms they already operated—Salva O’Renick and Lang’s Salient. Will & Grail is a brand innovation company focused on social responsibility, helping companies drive purpose along with profits. Will & Grail’s benchmark is whether people believe a brand has a profound, positive impact on lives, communities and the world.

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Will & Grail’s founders don’t stop with their clients. They’re looking for even greater awareness. That’s why they also launched a separate organization, called Conquer for Good, that is a series of events featuring talks by leaders who want to build a community of purpose-driven companies. The events give these leaders a platform to promote their ideas and their models of collaboration so that other companies can become more informed and, hopefully, follow suit. For example, at the inaugural event on March 2, Gary White, the co-founder of was a keynote speaker. How does building purpose-driven brands influence people and change the world? Change doesn’t happen overnight, O’Renick said. “We say ‘iterate don’t hesitate.’ That is a great mindset to move an organization forward toward an ideal state.” SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®




Valet Trash Service Catches On Entrepreneurs see opportunity in waste.

Company Name // LIXO Sanitation Entrepreneur // Haywood Jackson,

Richa Jackson, Sherik Leonard and Rudiana Leonard HOW IT WORKS // LIXO provides valet trash and recycling

doorstep collection service to multi-family/loft communities. LIXO works with the residence community’s management to provide the amenity to all residents, but also offers services to individual residents. LIXO picks up a resident’s trash at the door five days a week and recycling two days a week. Their collectors place the trash and recycling in the property’s trash or recycling bin, saving residents numerous trips to dispose of it.

The Inspiration // Haywood and Richa Jackson had such

a service when they lived in a multi-family community in another city. “Once you have this amenity, you can’t live without it,” Haywood Jackson said. When they moved back to Kansas City, they found that valet trash and recycling doorstep collection isn’t widely known and wasn’t available at their complex. After moving in and shuttling trash to the complex’s bin for three days, they decided enough was enough. With the help of Sherik and Rudiana Leonard, they started their own valet trash and recycling company. They have been concentrating on multi-family properties where residents have to take their own trash to the facility’s bin. WHERE YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE //; (816) 866-5496;


Thriving After 93 Years

Henry Wertheim founded the store in 1924, selling farm and garden seed. Donna and Leonard Slaughter brought the store in 1980.

Service, product and knowledge anchor the nostalgic general store.

The Slaughters had no retail experience when they bought the store, but they had great business sense. They kept the excellent management team. George Myer stayed on to run the store, followed by his son, Geoff. Donna Slaughter credits the team management for success.

Planters Seed and Spice Co. has a customer relationship many companies only dream about. Their employees will carry your purchases to your car, they will tell you how to plant your garden products and how to use spices. Their customers bring samples they have grown back to staff at the nostalgic general store in the Historic City Market. One man in his 90s buys peanuts and always returns with brittle samples. That service-oriented philosophy has driven Planters for 93 years. It has only had two proprietors. German immigrant 14


Planters moved to 513 Walnut in 1928 and peddles an enticing general store stock. Slaughter said she once heard a man tell another, “If it isn’t here, you don’t need it.”



OYO Fitness: A Portable Gym That’s Out of This World rchitect Paul Francis trained his keen mind in the 1990s on a problem that NASA astronauts faced while orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station: the need to exercise. Eventually, his breakthrough solution would not only help NASA but also lead to the launch of OYO Fitness.



Paul Francis C O M PA N Y I N F O R M AT I O N

310 W. 47th St., Ste. 201 Kansas City, MO 64112 816-944-3394


Astronauts need to exercise to counter the effects of weightlessness on muscles and bone. Using gym weights in space was pointless in a microgravity environment. In 2001, Francis came up with a SpiraFlex technology that used resistance instead of weight to exercise the body. “In 2006, I licensed the technology to Nautilus,” said Francis. “They used it to develop the Bowflex Revolution home gym.” MINIATURIZATION AND COMMERCIALIZATION

Francis earned sizable royalties as product sales reached $200 million. That capital enabled Francis to further develop SpiraFlex. He determined how to miniaturize the components into disks that provide 5, 10 and 15 pounds of resistance and develop a portable fitness unit. The ability to miniaturize the components allowed Francis to launch OYO Fitness. The company’s first product, DoubleFlex Portable

Gym, is a silver-colored portable bow-shaped unit that weighs less than two pounds. Nick Bolton, OYO fitness director, introduced DoubleFlex on QVC in March 2016. OYO Fitness sells the product on its own website and through other online retailers. Francis expanded OYO’s sales channel by joining with retailer Brookstone in January 2017 to sell DoubleFlex through its 175 stores and catalogs. DoubleFlex Black, a follow-up product with increased resistance and range of motion, was launched via Kickstarter. More than 4,200 people supported the campaign in its first six weeks. It raised $659,175 and far surpassed the original $30,000 goal. According to Francis, it is the second most successful fitness product in the history of the crowdfunding site. Units will ship in June 2017. Francis said 4,200 people have pre-ordered DoubleFlex Black on Kickstarter. “My goal for OYO Fitness is to reach $100 million in sales in three years, Francis said.” Pete Dulin is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. He is also the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, Last Bite: 100 Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks, and Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries in Central Kansas and Missouri. // SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®




“Do the hard stuff, the stuff that takes a long time, the stuff that takes a lot of brain power, the stuff that

Happy Habitat Creates Color, Comfort and Style THEIR BLANKETS ARE A BIG PIECE OF COZY ART.


arrie Dean always felt she was a designer, so she decided to fashion her own job after she was laid off from an advertising company. She designed a position for her own new business creating beautiful products that make a lot of people happy. Any regrets after her layoff lingered only briefly as she got busy with Happy Habitat, designing comfortable and beautiful throws and pillow covers with vibrant patterns, a pleasant dose of comfort and a thrifty versatility. LAUNCHING AND LEARNING

Not everything came together overnight, but she did get the business launched in August 2011. Although Dean is not a formally-trained designer, she was determined to learn. After reading voraciously and watching videos on YouTube about designing and materials, and after making numerous sketches, she decided she was good with patterns and needed to decide how to use them. She wanted environmental-friendly materials, so she chose recycled cotton as the main ingredient for her throws. “It is good for the earth,” she said about the recycled cotton, which comes from pre-consumer fibers and clippings collected after the cut 16


and sew process. The product is used again rather than being discarded. Dean said an entrepreneur must learn that he or she may not be able to do each task. After deciding patterns were her gift, Dean realized she needed some artisans for the production. She found two brothers on the East Coast who do her knitting and who have become an integral part of the team. ARTISTIC THROWS

Happy Habitat features eco-throws, ecopillow covers and eco-minis, all emphasizing the environment. The full-sized throws are 50 by 60 inches and are described on her website as “big enough for one blanket hog, two adults who really like each other or a mom and two kiddos who truly have no sense of personal space.” The minis are designed for children, or as a lap blanket, and are 30 by 40 inches. Dean said throws became her obsession because they are the perfect canvas and have an almost universal audience. They are a piece of happy art that provides window panes of color on a bed or even folded on a shelf, she said. No matter where you use them, they make a difference. They can be used for blankets, for decorations on sofas and chairs, floor decorations, for wall decorations, for poncho sweaters and

seems menial. Those are the important things that you learn from and that stand out in the end.” Karrie Dean // Happy Habitat founder

even for ground cover for picnics. “They are a big piece of art that is cozy,” she said. Toss a colorful throw into a whitedecorated room, she said. “That one thing just changed your habitat,” said Dean. “And that’s why I design these blankets. Simple, immediate happy.” THROWS FAR AND WIDE

Happy Habitat’s market is international as well as domestic. The company ships to Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Happy Habitat has rock stars for customers, but Dean just loves to see her work sprawled across a sofa, on a wall or being used for a decoration with other people’s furniture creations. It is particularly rewarding for Dean to see some of her favorite designers use the throws. “I love Orlando Soria’s work. He recently took some pics with my throw on his sofa,” she said. Her advice to other entrepreneurs is to produce a quality product that you would want to buy. “Be yourself, be authentic,” she said. “Do the hard stuff, the stuff that takes a long time, the stuff that takes a lot of brain power, the stuff that seems menial. Those are the important things that you learn from and that stand out in the end.” Success often leads to an entrepreneur wondering how much farther they can go with a business. Although Dean has big ideas for the future, she doesn’t want to the focus to become commercial production to the detriment of the art. “I want to be big while still being small,” she said. “I am still building what I started.”

(Photo courtesy of Heather Marrow)

Terry Wooten is content development manager for Thinking Bigger Business Media. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



( by Terry Wooten )


Bloch Venture Hub: Helping Entrepreneurs Create Waves he recently launched Bloch Venture Hub is designed to help entrepreneurs succeed. For Kansas City, that success could mean more than the individual jobs each business creates or the taxes it pays as it grows. The entrepreneurs the Venture Hub is attracting could create waves that touch many parts of the community if the businesses are successful.



Two well-known Kansas City entrepreneurs are associated with the Bloch Venture Hub: Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, and the late Byron Thompson, past chairman of Country Club Bank. Located in a three-story building at 4328 Madison Ave. that formerly housed Country Club Bank’s commercial and SBA lending operations, the Bloch Venture Hub is a collaboration of the bank and the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management. It publicly opened on March 24. Entrepreneurs at various stages of development can find a number of resources within the Venture Hub, including affordable work space, mentorship and training, and 18


opportunities to build relationships with other entrepreneurs and exchange ideas. SUCCESS THAT RIPPLES FORWARD

These days, some of the most impactful entrepreneurs are leaving their mark beyond job creation and other immediate economic indicators. The social mission of some of the Bloch Venture Hub tenants will impact Kansas City and even the nation, for years to come. Consider Quest Taylor, for example. Already a well-known entrepreneur in Kansas City, Quest helps minority-owned businesses with software and operational problems. His company, Project United Knowledge, is an “incubator within the incubator” at the Hub. Project United Knowledge administers an 18-month program that teaches entrepreneurs the necessary business and technological basics to start a company. Quest says most startups can create revenue, but making a profit is the real accomplishment and signals a real business. That was advice he got personally from Henry W. Bloch and that he likes to share. “I wish to build a business like that, not just for myself, but for others,” Quest said. His vision is to help the businesses he works with generate a profit so they in turn can help others with scant resources. The result of that success? According to Quest, access to financing, reopening of closed schools, fostering vocational training and building better communities. Catina Taylor, another Venture Hub participant, developed a program that could have a far-reaching effect on Kansas City education and beyond. She founded Dreams KC, a new

school that started as a pilot in Kansas City in April. The school started with kindergarten and will add one grade level each year until the students reach high school. The school’s whole-child approach embraces a curriculum that develops the civic, personal, professional and entrepreneurial competencies of children. It uses project-based learning, adaptive technologies, flexible learning spaces, culturally relevant teaching, authentic parent engagement and wrap-around services for the entire family. Catina refers to the approach, designed to re-engage students in learning, as “innovative and transformative education for the 21st century.” “This incubator meets my needs by allowing me space to meet with potential funders, board members and my instructional team and strategically plan how we will transform the lives of a generation of children,” Taylor said. “If I succeed, I want to pay it forward by returning someday as a mentor to help.” Rebecca Dove also focuses on education. She developed Pennez, which means “to think.” Pennez wants to reduce illiteracy by developing educational material that appeals to diverse elementary and middle school students. She notes that a book that represents the student’s situation holds more appeal for that student and encourages reading. Andrew Heise, assistant director of the Regnier Institute, said the goal is for the entrepreneurs at the Venture Hub is to build sustainable companies. “At Regnier, it’s all about helping move it along,” he said. And if the Venture Hub participants have their way, they’ll not only be moving their own companies along to success but also their communities and the next generation of children and entrepreneurs. Terry Wooten is content development manager for Thinking Bigger Business Media.





and other barbecue specialties on a recent weekday at Plowboys Barbeque, a new landmark along the streetcar line in downtown Kansas City. Plowboys opened at Main Street and Petticoat Lane in January 2014 and moved into a larger space at 12th and Main in October of last year, about five months after the streetcar made its first run. The owners say they made the move because they wanted room to grow and greater visibility to streetcar riders. “The streetcar was a primary driver for us coming downtown, and also a major factor in our moving to our current location,” Todd Johns, Plowboys president and chief pit master, said at a City Council business session on Feb. 16. “From year to date Jan. 1 to Monday of this week, we have seen 159 percent growth. We know the streetcar has an impact on us.” Plowboys’ success is emblematic of a widespread boost attributed to the streetcar, which in May is celebrating its first anniversary. A recent survey of small businesses along the 2.2-mile route, which runs from the River Market area to Union Station, showed that nearly all respondents credited the streetcar with bringing more customers to their restaurants, shops, bars and coffee houses. “When you talk to the merchants, they’ll tell you they’re receiving more customer walk-ins, more 1

sales,” said Mayor Sylvester “Sly” James. “It is seen as a tremendous boom.” According to the Downtown Council, $1.2 billion worth of development has been completed or is under construction within the Kansas City Downtown Streetcar Transportation Development District, and another $955 million worth is on the drawing board. “The streetcar has really been a game changer for downtown,” said Mike Hurd, the Downtown Council’s director of marketing. “It has proven to be an amazing catalyst for economic growth, for moving visitors, locals, downtown workers throughout the downtown corridor. We’ve seen sales increase, we’ve seen sales taxes increase. We’re seeing it create new jobs.” The streetcar still draws criticism, including from business operators along the route who say it has caused parking shortages. But streetcar advocates are pushing for a southward expansion of the line to the University of MissouriKansas City, in hopes of widening the impact that has occurred downtown. A “TORTUOUS” HISTORY

Kansas City for many years boasted one of North America’s most extensive streetcar networks. After World War II, streetcars around the country fell victim SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


to the popularity of cars. Kansas City’s streetcars went off track in 1957. Streetcars eventually started coming back in some cities, but Kansas City arrived late to the party. A light rail plan to connect downtown with the Country Club Plaza ground to a halt in 1997. But the drive to upgrade mass transit here would not die. In July 2012 a majority of eligible voters approved creating a special taxing district known as a transportation development district—to help pay for a downtown streetcar. In December of that year, voters approved a sales tax and property assessments within the district to provide funding for the $100 million project. In September 2013, the federal government awarded Kansas City a $20 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant to help pay for the streetcar. Support for the streetcar was not unanimous, however, and the effort generated considerable opposition. Much of the criticism came because only those voters who lived

within the transportation development district were allowed to vote in streetcar elections. Those who owned property in the district but did not live in the district could not vote. In March 2013, a Jackson County judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by two downtown property owners who had challenged the new sales and property taxes for the streetcar system. “It was a tortuous process,” James said. “It took a lot of convincing. We fought through the tough times, we fought through the naysayers.” The construction of the streetcar line caused access and parking problems which seemed like a tortuous process to some businesses. “It’s no secret that the construction was very disruptive to a lot of small businesses along the line,” said John Pajor, manager of the city’s Business Customer Service Center/KC BizCare office. “I was part of a team of people who went out and listened to the business owners. We worked on a number of initiatives with the streetcar constructors to put the word out that the businesses were open.”


The streetcar marked its one millionth ride on Oct. 7, and the Streetcar Authority in February reported a total ridership of 1,589,809 to date. The survey of small businesses along the streetcar route was taken during the fall of 2016 and covers data from May through September 2016. The survey was conducted by the KC BizCare office, the Downtown Council and the KC Streetcar Authority. More than 80 businesses were contacted and 41 responded. Ninety-seven percent of respondents credited the streetcar with having a positive impact on their business, and 80 percent said they had seen an uptick in revenue. Johns, with Plowboys, said moving next to the streetcar stop at 12th and Main has revved up his cash register. “We can see that the car just stopped, and everybody better get ready because there are going to be a dozen or 20 people coming in right now,” he said. Not all business owners along the route report such a positive impact from the streetcar.




1. May 2016 opening ceremonies: closeup of streetcar. 2 . Grand opening of streetcar near 19th and Main streets. 3. A past exhibit at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, at the Crossroads—one block West of Main St. 4. First Friday at 20th and Baltimore, one block West of Main St. and the streetcar line. (Photos courtesy of the KC Streetcar Authority, VisitKC and the Crossroads Community Association.) 22




credit the streetcar with having a positive impact on their business

“It’s a big one,” Burt said. “It’s what we categorize as a citywide event.” The streetcar also is drawing downtown visitors who are not conventioneers, Burt said. “The City Market, the Power & Light District, the Crossroads and Crown Center are key destinations that were previously disconnected. You can now spend the day between Crown Center and the City Market, and you can do it without moving your vehicle.” PARKING PREDICAMENT

“Maybe the first month there was a lot of additional business,” said Erik Borger, owner of the Il Lazzarone restaurant at 412 Delaware St. “Then there was a gradual decrease.” Borger likes the streetcar and rides it once in a while, and believes that “any public transportation is good transportation.” However, he said he doesn’t think public transportation “should ever be sold as a business generator or having much to do with generating business. It has to be looked at as getting people from Point A to Point B.” Suzie Aron, president of Aron Real Estate and former president of the Crossroads Community Association, supported the streetcar early on and continues to beat the drum for it. “The impact of the streetcar has been very good from Union Station to the River Market,” Aron said. “People are excited about buying and developing properties. We have a huge number of customers who would love to have a property on the streetcar track. They’re even willing to go five blocks either side of the streetcar. We have five new hotels in the Crossroads alone that are being proposed or are under construction. All of those customers are going to be great for our restaurants.” Ronnie Burt, president and CEO of VisitKC, said the streetcar “gives us a very modern, fresh look to people looking at this destination, who may have never been here before or have not been here in 20 years. That is something that has been pretty significant.” Burt said VisitKC had produced a video about the streetcar and sent it to convention organizers. He said the streetcar helped persuade Shriners International to choose Kansas City as the site of its 2020 national convention, which is expected to draw between 15,000 and 20,000 attendees.

Despite the streetcar’s success on many fronts, complaints involving parking persist. “As we are close to a streetcar stop, our free parking is often consumed by streetcar riders, so our customers have to park elsewhere,” said Borger of Il Lazzarone. “There are a lot of people who use the parking here, which is very limited anyway, to use the streetcar to get to work, which takes a lot of our parking away,” said Dodi Stobaugh, property manager of the DE Lofts at 500 Delaware St. Aron said substituting three-hour parking for long-term parking has improved the situation in the Crossroads. “It’s an advantage for us to not have all-day parking on the street. Businesses need to be able to offer parking for customers.” Kansas City unveiled in February an online data portal that shows open parking spaces on Main Street in downtown. The data source is part of the Smart City initiative the city launched in conjunction with the streetcar. Other possible solutions include satellite parking areas. But James said he expects downtown visitors to become less car-dependent. “It’s going to change some behavior. People aren’t going to drive as much. That’s a desirable trait in the downtown area, to get people out of their cars and on to the streetcar, walking, etc.” THE OUTLOOK FOR EXPANSION

Streetcar advocates long have visualized a downtown track as a “starter line” for a comprehensive network. Getting that accomplished has proven to be more difficult than supporters hoped. In August 2014, voters defeated a proposal to expand the streetcar south to UMKC, east on Independence Avenue to Benton Boulevard and east on Linwood Boulevard to Prospect

Avenue. The plan also called for a MAX rapid bus line on Prospect south to 75th Street. Precinct tallies showed that voters west of Troost Avenue approved of the expansion, but it was voted down by a wide margin in the Old Northeast area and precincts east of Troost. Advocates now are looking southward again and pushing for an extension of the line to UMKC. From early May until July 11, voters who live within the proposed new streetcar district boundaries will cast mail-in ballots on whether to create the district. If the voters approve the new streetcar district, there would be an election in September at polling places to choose board members for the new taxing district. Then there would be another mail-in election between November and Jan. 16, 2018, to approve the taxes for the new district. In addition, the feasibility of extending the downtown streetcar line about three-quarters of a mile north to Berkley Riverfront Park also is being scrutinized.

“We fought through the tough times, we fought through the naysayers.” Sylvester James // mayor, Kansas City, MO

The downtown track “was always designed to be a starter line,” said Hurd with the Downtown Council. “In order for the streetcar to really stretch its wings and have a more significant impact, it needs to continue to grow. It’s the most logical idea in the world to expand the streetcar south toward the Plaza and UMKC.” Burt, with VisitKC, said a southward expansion would enable visitors to hop on the streetcar to explore Westport and the Plaza. “It makes a whole lot of sense. An expansion of the streetcar allows us to further connect destinations.” James thinks the southward streetcar expansion proposal has a “pretty good chance” of passing. “I think it would be something great for the city to have the ability to connect the Brookside-UMKC-Plaza area to the riverfront area,” he said. “And if there’s a possibility of taking it across the bridge to (Berkley) Riverfront Park, then all of a sudden we’ve got a system that has a whole lot of impact on development across the board.” SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®



“Marisa, Tell Your Story . . .”

(Photo courtesy of Jill Annie)

And Marisa Wiruhayarn has been telling it ever since.


arisa Wiruhayarn’s story is one of perseverance, of learning how to believe in herself, of realizing just how capable she is. Her entrepreneurial journey began in the early 1980s when she left Thailand full of excitement for a fresh start in the United States. Then her husband died unexpectedly, leaving her to raise two children, with a limited grasp of English and no real job skills. Today, she co-owns three successful Thai restaurants: Tasty Thai and Big Bowl Pho. And recently, she began bottling and selling Primal Cry hot sauces based on old family recipes. A Knock at the Door Marisa says her life changed in the middle of the night in October 1986 when she awoke to a knock at the door. A police officer delivered the devastating news that her husband had died. In the midst of her grief, Marisa realized she needed to take action. She still spoke little English, had no family except her mother- and father-in-law and her two children. She took a job sacking groceries for $3.50 an hour but quickly realized that a low-wage job would not be enough to support her children. Her 24 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

father-in-law asked her what she wanted to do with her life. “I told him I wanted to go to school so I could have a better life for the children. He said, ‘okay.’ The good thing was he never told me I couldn’t do it,” Marisa said. Urgency for an Education Marisa told her father-in-law when she started, “If I’m even lucky to get my degree in four years, I’ll be 31 years old. I will be so old. He asked me, ‘Do you want to be 31 years old with a degree or without a degree?’” Marisa went to the Don Bosco Center to learn English and also began working parttime there. She started Park Hill High School’s evening program and passed the GED test about four months later. But Marisa was in a hurry. Before she even finished the GED program, she applied to Maple Woods Community College. “I needed to keep going. I needed to graduate in four years. That sounded undoable at the time, but I did it,” she said. Eventually, Marisa graduated with a degree in accounting from Rockhurst University, landed a job at State Street, and later worked at the City of Kansas City as an internal auditor. She worked her way up to manager by the time she left.

Business Ownership In 2000, while she was still at the city, she started planning with her new husband to open a restaurant, working evenings and weekends doing its bookkeeping. They kept overhead low and were able to open additional locations. Then Marisa started a business of her own, M-Power Enterprises, bottling the sauces, which are sold in Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, Hen House, Green Acres and other stores. “It’s so much fun when you own your own business,” Marisa said. “You get to be very creative. I made the sauce and I think maybe I need to share this, and how do I do that?” Marisa packed up some bottles, drove to a Hy-Vee and asked for the manager. He liked her product and offered to place some in the store. A New Challenge Excited about making her first sale to Hy-Vee, Marisa said, “I almost fly from the store singing and dancing, but by the time I got to my car, I was saying to myself, “Who’s going to buy my sauce? I can put my sauce on the shelf, but who’s going to buy it?” Like so many other times throughout her journey, Marisa faced the new challenge head on. To make sure her sauce moved, she began doing a lot of demos. She began to approach other grocers too. “I learned not every store was like Hy-Vee, and I needed to go through headquarters. But I thought, I’ve come this far, what do I have to lose? Why not go a little bit further?” she said. More stores began placing her sauces, and customers continued to purchase them. She also met Morgan Perry, who is with the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Square One program. Perry introduced Marisa to 1 Million Cups and told her, “Marisa, tell your story.” Marisa said that’s when the big break came for her and her sauces. Her network began to grow. Marisa’s advice to others? “Let people know who you are, what you need and what you offer,” she said. “When you pitch them, believe in your product and believe in yourself. I used to be so afraid and shy about everything. I didn’t even know the potential I had until I put myself into it.”








( by Malcolm Richards )


Dear Readers, hat a vibrant entrepreneurial city we live in! The U.S. Small Business Administration and its resource partners—SCORE, our Small Business Development and Small Business Technical and Development Centers, and our Women’s Business Center and Veteran’s Business Center counseling—all provide a foundation of support. But we are blessed beyond just this federal assistance. We have many, many resources you will find in these pages to assist your business endeavors. When I moved to Kansas City from New York in late 2015 to begin my appointment as district director for SBA in Kansas City, I began a journey of discovering all of the quality help available inside this city and beyond. I discovered a legacy of entrepreneurship and a commitment to the future of that legacy through many kinds of events, support groups, trainings and counseling venues—many more than available in the SBA districts from which I came. I hope you will realize how lucky you are to live in such a vibrant and supportive community and find your support niche. Whether you want to start a business, fund it, grow it, get contracts or learn to export—any help you need is right here in Kansas City. To your continued success!


Malcolm Richards // SBA Kansas City District DIrector


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supported 3,809 jobs newly created and 7,088 jobs retained, for a total small business employment support of 10,897 local jobs. Using an industry multiplier of one job supported for each $91,998 in contract dollars, we find that the SBA last year supported 2,387 jobs through the SBA’s help with contracting. Taken together, the SBA’s loan and contracting programs supported 13,284 jobs in 2016. SMALL BUSINESS STARTUP SUPPORT


The SBA’s Economic Impact in the Kansas City District ith our many and varied programs offered to entrepreneurs, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Kansas City District office participates in the economic development of an 89-county economy, serving more than 325,000 small businesses. This economic development is delivered most notably through SBA’s lending, counseling and contracting programs. The impact of these programs is felt as dollars and jobs.



Total dollars supported by the SBA in the local economy from loans and contracts combined was more than $577 million in the last fiscal year. Area lenders partnered with the SBA to make 889 small business loans for more than $358 million. Most included SBA federal guarantees. Among those loans were 385

startups, 227 rural businesses, 313 womenowned businesses, 87 minority-owned businesses and 53 veteran-owned businesses. About 87 percent of our local loan recipients historically pay as agreed—a percentage that stands up nobly to other commercial lending, especially considering SBA loans go to companies with “no credit elsewhere.” The SBA also heavily promotes federal contracting assistance to small businesses, in particular through our 8(a) program for economically and socially disadvantaged persons. For fiscal year 2016, the SBA provided more than $219 million to these 8(a) firms through 73 federal contracts.

One of the greatest strengths of the American economy is the vigor of our business startup culture. It is a false commonplace belief that most startups fail. That is not true where SBA support is involved in financing. Additionally, SBA research suggests SBA’s resource partner counseling greatly improves a small business start-up’s chances for success. In the local economy, more than a third of SBA loans traditionally go to start-ups, who historically pay as agreed nearly 90 percent of the time. There are several reasons for this. Entrepreneurs do a better job of planning and using the counseling resources provided by SBA partners at SCORE, the Women’s Business Center, the Veterans Business Center and Small Business Development Centers. Furthermore, lenders professionally evaluate candidates for credit, only sending SBA those prospects in which they have confidence. Finally, the SBA’s own underwriters use their experience with applicants of all kinds to identify likely successes. Although the SBA offers several other programs of benefit to entrepreneurs, our lending, contracting and counseling programs provide clear and tangible benefits to area entrepreneurs and our economy. When taxpayers consider that SBA’s main loan programs are “revenue neutral,” meaning they pay for themselves and use no taxpayer dollars, these results can only be considered dramatic.


Lenders identify new and continuing jobs supported by each loan application they send to the SBA. This past year, SBA loans

Dennis Larkin is the deputy district director in Kansas City for the U.S. Small Business Administration. // (816) 426-4914






Kansas City District Small Business Person of the Year he U.S. Small Business Administration’s Kansas City District office is honoring Topeka-based Architect One with its 2017 Small Business of the Year award. President Scott Gales and his co-owners, Michael Wilson, Cassandra Taylor and Andrew Wiechen, were nominated ARCHITECT ONE by Karl Klein, the 906 S. Kansas Ave. regional director Ste. 200 of Washburn Topeka, KS 66612 University’s Kansas (785) 271-7010 Small Business Development Center. Michael Wilson opened Architect One 29 years ago as a singleperson architectural firm in a 220-square-foot office space. Scott Gales joined him as a partner in 1993, and Andrew Weichen in 2005. Cassandra came aboard in 2007; in 2015 she and Andrew bought their stake in the company. Today, the company occupies 5,000 square feet of office space in two Kansas communities. SBA’s On-Line Learning Center expanded Cassandra’s knowledge of accounting and successful business models as she considered buying in. Her female ownership in the male-dominated industry is rare for the region. Their small business story is like many others. In 2008 the real-estate market crashed. Architecture was one of the hardest-hit industries. The company was forced to lay off 20 percent of their employees, but kept 80 percent of them by reducing hours to 90 percent and decreasing their overhead and costs. While the downturn was hard for everyone, this response saved the company from having to retrain and rehire. Finding reasonably priced office space also helped. The firm believed in the Downtown


Kansas City SCORE

4747 Troost Ave., Suite 101 Kansas City, MO 64110 816-235-6675


Topeka Revitalization Project and was one of the first to move in 2013 when half of the buildings were for sale. By the end of 2016, there was no longer a downtown building left for sale. Architect One’s ownership team credits their downtown visibility to their upward trajectory of success. Now with 10 full-time employees, a half-time intern and more than $2 million in sales, Architect One’s rebound includes an expansion to open a second office in Manhattan, Kan. Their idea that a small firm can compete with larger firms by using technology and providing close client/consultant working relationships has proven beneficial,

as has the availability of education at their fingertips through the SBA Learning portal they continue to access. Supporting community is part of the SBA award criteria. The co-owners were honored as one of Topeka’s Top 20 under 40 small businesses in both 2012 and 2014. The award is given to young professionals for their community involvement and leadership. All owners are graduates and supporters of Kansas State University and have graduated from the Leadership Greater Topeka program. They support several local councils, boards, foundations and clubs as well.




Kansas City District Exporter of the Year wo basements and a storage shed are among their former small business sites, but 15 years later Custom Storefronts’ owners Jon and Camille Roberts house their small business in two Olathe, Kan., warehouses. From these worksites, 48 employees help the company sell locally CUSTOM and export custom STOREFRONTS INC. storefront branding 1490 W Ironwood St. materials to more Olathe, KS 66061 than 16 countries. (913) 764-5042 Custom www.customstoreStorefronts and the Roberts are being honored as the U.S. Small Business Administration Kansas City District Office’s Exporter of the Year. The couple attributes their ability to move from basement to storefront to several factors. Among them are their attention to detailed overseas shipping requirements, Kansas City shipping support and ongoing help from the SBA-funded Johnson County Community College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Custom Storefronts designs and fabricates both wood and metal storefront systems for national roll-out programs and individual projects. Employees create custom steel and aluminum entry doors, wood fitting room doors, and accent metals. They also complete millwork packages, partnering with their customers on design ideas. Examples could include retail fitting room doors or metal and glass entryways. They work with their branded clients to ensure everything has the same “look.” When you enter a chain store and note its branded “look,” it could be the creation of Custom Storefronts. This detail work, and the fact that many multi-national companies often use the same vendors globally to develop their “look,” has helped the company gain a stable customer


base and rising profit. Today, Custom Storefronts’ two large facilities are full of activity. Custom Storefronts’ work is also on display in Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Guam, Lebanon, Egypt, England and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, Panama, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The couple seeks continuing counseling help with their marketing, social media and web analysis from the JCCC SBDC. That ongoing support and the Roberts’ high regard for the shipping supply chain in the Kansas City area is expected to help

the company thrive and grow into even more space in the coming years. As you might expect, their warehouses have that branded, custom storefront “look” of a winning company.

America’s SBDC Kansas congratulates

2017 Exporter of the Year—Kansas City District Office

America’s SBDC Kansas presents

The Riddle of the Exporter Do you have a great product or service that you may be able to market internationally? Are you looking to diversify your markets to protect or expand your business? Learn how to sell to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who are outside of the United States! This day-long seminar will take you through the 8-step process of exporting: readiness, market research, market entry, legal, regulatory compliance, transportation, payments/finance and cultural issues. And, it will provide you with free and useful resources.


Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 | 8:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. To register for Riddle or inquire about individual export advising offered by America’s SBDC Kansas, visit or call 913-469-3878.

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.






Loan Programs 7 (A) LOAN PROGRAM

CAPLines // This financing option provides

The 7(a) loan program guarantees loans to small businesses that cannot obtain financing on reasonable terms through other channels. When a small business applies to a lending institution for financing, the lender reviews the application and decides if it merits a loan on its own, or if it requires additional support in the form of an SBA guaranty. In guaranteeing the loan, the SBA assures the lender that, in the event the borrower does not repay the debt, the government will reimburse the lending institution for a portion of its loss. Generally, the repayment period may not exceed 25 years for real estate and other fixed assets, and no more than 10 years for other uses. For loans of less than seven years, the rate can be up to 2.25 percent above prime. For loans of seven years or longer, up to 2.75 percent above prime is permissible. The SBA normally can guarantee as much as 85 percent on loans of up to $150,000 and 75 percent on loans of more than $150,000. In most cases, the maximum guaranty is $3.75 million and maximum loan size is $5 million.

loans to help meet short-term and cyclical working capital needs. The SBA can generally guarantee up to $3.75 million of a $5 million loan. CAPLine funds are advanced against a company’s existing or anticipated inventory and/or accounts receivable.


SBA Express // Provides loans up to

$350,000, of which the SBA guarantees up to 50 percent. SBAExpress loans under $25,000 do not require collateral unless it is the lender’s policy to do so. Veterans Advantage // The business owner

must meet eligibility requirements related to active or retired military status, or be a spouse of those military qualified applicants. This program provides a sliding scale of fee relief for borrowers. Community Advantage // This program helps

small business clients in underserved market areas, provides loans up to $350,000, of which the SBA can guarantee as much as 85 percent on loans up to $150,000 and 75 percent on loans of more than $150,000. 30 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

Export Working Capital (EWCP) // Provides

pre- and post-export working capital financing for export sales up to $5 million guaranteed loan portion of the export transaction. In this program, the SBA guarantees up to a maximum of 90 percent of the gross loan amount.

504 Loan Program // These programs provide

long-term, fixed-asset (e.g., land, building, machinery/equipment) financing through Certified Development Companies (CDC). Maximum loan amounts are determined by how funds will be used. The debentures issued to finance SBA’s part of the transaction cover 30 percent to 40 percent of the project and can be a maximum of $5 million. For each of the programs above, please visit for eligibility requirements; the application process; use of loan proceeds; loan amounts, interest rates and fees.






In addition to supporting a range of resource organizations, the SBA’s Kansas City District Office offers information about SBAguaranteed loan programs. The Kansas City office also operates the local 8(a) Business Development Program, which offers training and coaching for socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses. SCORE (816) 235-6675

SCORE is an SBA-affiliated, volunteer-run organization that offers free and confidential

business mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs who have led their own companies. In Kansas City, SCORE also hosts workshops on successfully starting a small business. WOMEN’S BUSINESS CENTER (913) 492-5922

The Women’s Business Center provides oneon-one coaching, seminars and roundtables to help women entrepreneurs launch and scale successful companies. Locally, the Women’s Business Center has played a leading role in making microloans (loans worth up to $50,000) available again to small business owners who might not qualify for financing from traditional lenders.


The small business development centers offer free, one-on-one business coaching from trained consultants. You can also sign up for workshops on business planning, accounting software and other valuable skills. Each center also hosts special programs designed to help established business owners enhance their skills. For example, UMKC’s ScaleUP! Kansas City is a 16-week course for entrepreneurs whose companies make between $150,000 and $750,000 per year. JCCC’s GAME is a five-session course for companies earning at least $250,000 per year.

WE’RE THE COMMUNITY BANK THAT’S BETTER AT SAYING YES THAN NO. We know it’s hard to turn a business idea into an actual business. That’s why we’re proud to support entrepreneurial spirit and young business leaders in the Kansas City area.





Since entering the senior care market, IHS has recorded yearover-year high revenue growth.



A HEALTHY CHANGE Kevin Staley changed his company—and opened the door to massive growth—by finding a new niche. Here’s how Integrated Health Systems became a national leader in IT for senior care.


Kevin Staley C O M PA N Y I N F O R M AT I O N

Integrated Health Systems 7520 W. 160th Overland Park, KS 66085 (866) 602-6100 TYPE OF BUSINESS

IT support and mobile technology provider for senior care providers YEAR FOUNDED

2001 E M P L OY E E S


Never stop evolving. Insist on improving. Don’t settle.

left // Kevin Staley, Chief Exec-

utive Officer; Shawna Freeman, Purchasing & Contract Specialist; Greg Block, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer; Shay Branstuder, Lead Project Specialist; Amy Srp, Director of Operations


enior care providers want to deliver excellent care for their clients, to keep them healthy and happy. But they didn’t go into business to be technology experts. That’s why so many facilities are instead turning to Kevin Staley and the team at Integrated Health Systems. The Overland Park company provides IT help-desk support and technology compliance solutions for senior living providers that serve older adults: senior living communities, nursing homes, home health agencies and more. From Hawaii to Maine, Integrated assists more than 4,000 facilities and, through them, well over 80,000 individual users. Integrated Health Systems helps the senior-living health care clients support and manage their technology and data, and comply with HIPAA rules. That way, health care providers and their caregivers can focus on what is most important: health care and caregiving. Amazing client satisfaction, lightning-fast response times—“That’s how we’ve built our reputation, which is what gets us additional opportunities,” Staley said. Entering the senior market has transformed Integrated. Since it began to focus on this niche,

the business has recorded year-over-year high revenue growth. And Integrated is positioning itself for even bigger things. Earlier this year, the company announced that it received a strategic investment from Traverse Pointe Partners, a Chicago-based investment firm. The goal is to double or triple Integrated Health Systems within the next three to five years. Considering the increasing demand for senior care—and Integrated’s track record— it’s not an impossible target. While Staley is excited about the future, he’s also clear about what is fueling Integrated Health Systems’ success. “We’re not doing anything here that other companies couldn’t do,” Staley said. “The difference is we’re highly focused on how we do it.” ROOTS IN RETAIL

Integrated Health Systems occupies a building southeast of U.S. 69 and 159th Street. Staley relocated his team there in late 2015. It was Integrated’s fourth move in 16 years and gave the company three times as much room as its previous home. There are still a few empty desks in Integrated’s offices, but not many and probably not for long.

by James Hart // photography by Travis Young SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


The team continues to expand because every week, it seems, another client signs up. Back in 2001, when Kevin went into business for himself, his first office was his basement. “We put $1,000 into the bank account and built a wooden bench in the basement, the unfinished basement, and started that way,” he said. While Kevin was the sole employee, he wasn’t completely alone. His wife, Karen, has been an active part of Integrated’s rise. Though she doesn’t have a formal title, Kevin said, she’s essentially the company’s vice president of HR and leadership development. The business was called Integrated Systems back then. The “Health” part of the company wasn’t a factor yet. The earliest clients tended to be grocery stores and other retailers. Kevin’s specialty was setting up voice and computer systems for customers. But he would tackle just about any project they presented him, even if he had to teach himself a new skill. “When Kevin was starting this, he was willing to be all,” Karen said. “He was willing to do it all for his clients. So, if that meant repairing a photocopier, that’s what he, or somebody on the team, did.” It wasn’t always easy, but the business hummed along until 2008. Westlake Hardware, Balls Foods (Price Chopper and Hen House), Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret and other major retailers all became clients. Then, like a lot of companies, Integrated was sent reeling by the economic crisis. A NEW WAY FORWARD

“In ’08, the retail market just tanked, everything tanked,” Kevin said. “And nobody was spending money.” 34 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

IHS team members plot solutions for their clients.

That forced the Staleys and their team to rethink the business. “It was obvious we weren’t going to thrive if we didn’t do something different. We would not grow from a small business to an entrepreneurial organization,” Kevin said. Integrated’s big break came in the form of a Canadian tech company, PointClickCare. The Toronto-based business had developed an electronic health records (EHR) solution for nursing homes and facilities focused on long-term care. PointClickCare’s software is cloud-based and sold via a subscription model. But its customers still need physical equipment

to use it—in many cases, a special computer kiosk. Unfortunately, most senior care facilities don’t have a deep IT bench. PointClickCare’s clients would order kiosks that could run its software, and in some situations, the facility’s maintenance crew had to install the equipment. As a result, Kevin said, “they were struggling to get their software into buildings.” Kevin went to PointClickCare and told them Integrated could help them source kiosks that were more durable and a third of the price their previous vendor charged. His team would give PointClickCare’s clients a quote within two days of receiving the

opportunity. They would install the kiosk devices, as well as the wired and wireless infrastructure and electrical, and they would provide education and training for moving to an EHR platform. PointClickCare loved it because they didn’t have to worry about hardware anymore. Its team could concentrate on what it did best: selling software. Integrated started receiving a stream of solid sales leads from PointClickCare—anywhere from five to 30 buildings per week. After 90 days working with PointClickCare, Kevin decided to commit to IT support for senior care. A year later, the company changed names,

becoming Integrated Health Systems, and started transitioning most of its existing retail clients to other vendors. A CONTINUING EVOLUTION

The pivot to the senior market was just the start of Integrated’s evolution, not the end. The team has gone on to introduce a series of new products and services, such as Pulse, ConnectaCare, MobileForever and CodeRed. The Pulse solution is a platform that allows Integrated’s team to remotely manage and support clients’ technology, no matter where that client is located. The company can also provide

emergency service on-site within two to four hours, throughout the entire country. Then ConnectaCare was developed. It’s a web-based, hosted desktop solution that is HIPAA compliant. It also performs faster and more efficiently than a Citrix environment, at a lower cost. Just recently, Integrated unveiled MobileForever, via a partnership with Sprint. Senior care facilities can obtain smartphones and tablets for their entire staff, complete with support from Integrated, in a pay-as-you-go approach, with no up-front device cost. Workers can then use those mobile devices to gather information and update records “at the point of care”—in patients’ rooms or at their bedside—instead of walking to a kiosk somewhere down the hall. And that leads to higher productivity, higher employee engagement and, because pointof-care reporting is more accurate, higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and other insurers, Staley said. MobileForever’s launch was overseen by Greg Block, Integrated’s new chief financial officer and a former Sprint executive. Block joined the company last fall, and it was a terrific hire, Kevin said. The partnership has given Staley the freedom to concentrate on growth. “My job is to rev the engine as fast as I can on the revenue side,” Kevin said. “His job is to keep the wheels from falling off.” Partnering with Traverse Pointe Partners will help with this, too. In addition to its financial support, the firm has extensive expertise and a network that will guide Integrated as it grows. The business isn’t the only thing changing. Staley is stretching

himself, too, and mastering a slightly new role. He’s still CEO, but he reports to a board now. “I’ve got bosses for the first time,” he said, chuckling. Seeking outside partners was a deliberate, strategic choice he made. “You get to a point that you outgrow your own ability, and that’s where I saw this company,” he said. “The organization was already outgrowing my abilities,

For Integrated, those things are the senior market and client satisfaction. The importance of keeping customers happy is never far from Staley’s mind. On his desk, he keeps a short stack of laminated “cheat sheets” filled with tips on “15 Ways to Make Customers Smile” and “25 Phrases to Calm Customers.” Integrated has set up a system for tracking its interactions with

“You get to a point that you outgrow your own ability, and that’s where I saw this company.” Kevin Staley // President & CEO

two and a half years ago, my ability to know what to do throughout all aspects of the organization.” The upside is, he doesn’t have to perform every single job at Integrated anymore, like he did in the early days. He doesn’t have to master each piece of the business or all the solutions that his company offers. He’s got a team to back him up. He knows his people know what they’re doing, and he trusts them implicitly. “Walking in this door and seeing this conference room full of people with a whiteboard full of stuff, drawings or diagrams, and I have no idea what they’re doing— that is cool,” he said. ‘WE STARTED THRIVING’

Looking back on the last 16 years, how did Integrated achieve everything it has? In a word, focus. “You’ve got to figure out the one thing or two things that you’re really good at, and focus in on it,” Kevin said.

clients and uses Net Promoter Scores (NPS) as a guideline. Its NPS score is regularly in the 80s, higher than those for Amazon, Apple and Netflix. If there’s ever a problem, the team quickly rallies to fix it. Integrated’s culture is “fault agnostic”—it doesn’t matter if a problem originated with another vendor, like an internet provider, a wireless service or a device manufacturer. The No. 1 goal is to get things running smoothly again for the client. If they can devote themselves to the one or two areas where their business excels, other entrepreneurs may notice their horizons expand, too. “When I quit worrying about the competition, we started thriving,” Staley said. “I mean, really thriving. Now the competition worries about us.”

James Hart is a freelance writer based in Kansas City. SMART COMPANIES THINKING BIGGER®


BIGGER | growth S M A R T

( by Kelly Tyler Byrnes )


Using Crisis to Grow Companies must be able to respond to changes instead of reacting to them.


lients are executing faster, expanding their knowledge faster and communicating faster. So are your competitors. The extraordinary access, communication and execution mean the companies that are able to respond to changes better, or be more resilient, will grow faster and outlast their competitors. Resilience usually applies to two areas: operational and strategic. 36 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

Usually when leaders think about resilience, they think about operational resilience, which is situational. It aids a company responding to an incident, change, or crisis. A major client changes direction and no longer needs your services, a new payroll system is implemented or an accident occurs on a job site. Brody Dorland, co-founder of DivvyHQ likens the operational resilience of a company to the personal resilience of the company’s owner. Dorland has experienced the emotional ups and downs of launching and operating a tech startup. He says: “Resiliency is just a psychological force that tells you to get back on your feet, time after time, when life punches you in the

gut. Get punched, get up. Get punched again, get up. Over a lifetime, you either build up a tolerance, or you don’t. Those who don’t get back up find something comfortable to do and never leave that comfort zone.” You and your company can build up the tolerance and ability to get back up, while your competitors settle for comfort zones. Some of the following steps will help your company be more resilient, and actually grow, when change or crisis occurs. Situation Analysis // Be aware of internal and

external performance drivers and trends. Tools you can use include SWOT, PESTLE, Porter’s 5 Forces and a Talent Management Review.

Preparation // Awareness will help you identify

possible changes and challenges that could obstruct your goals. List the five to seven changes or challenges that are most likely to happen. Then, prepare a brief Response & Communication Plan for each. The time to consider what is the best plan for your company is before turbulence hits, not in the midst of it. Prevention // Use your plans to help prevent

the threats from occurring. This can include training of staff and managers, new HR policies, IT policies and training, and updating of equipment. Do what you can to prevent the undesirable from happening. Response // Even with awareness, preparation

and prevention, you cannot control every possibility. Work with your team to absorb the stressor, resist damage and recover quickly. You may want to use resources such as an objective decision-making model, a public

relations expert and an internal communications expert.

will be better positioned to maneuver through changes than its competitors who hope gut and grit will be enough to make it. Restoration // Once the change or crisis subDorland advises, “We shouldn’t be afraid of sides, focus on restoration so your company failure. I think failure is the best teacher for can move forward. Give people time to absorb learning how to prepare and the circumstances and develop a strategy for anydemonstrate hope for the Get back on your feet, thing in business. Get back future. Unfortunately, many on your feet, dust yourself dust yourself off and leaders neglect this step. Not off and learn from it. Do that taking this action often leads learn from it. enough throughout your to repetition of the crisis career and you (and your and desperate grasping for company) will be a force to salvation later. Tools to use be reckoned with.” include an After Action Review, inspirational Commit two hours within the next month messaging and process improvement. to outline an operational resilience plan for Many large companies dedicate resources to your business. The returns will be valuable. this exercise, but small businesses can do the Kelly Tyler Byrnes leads the team at Voyage Consulting job even better. A small business can be more Group, a management consulting firm specializing in stratenimble than a large one, which may be burgic change management and organization development for dened by red tape. A small business that sees ambitious companies intent on leading their industries. operational resilience as a worthwhile process 816-744-0701 //

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BIGGER | sales S M A R T

( by Mike Montague )


timeline, it is your job to help the prospect define it. Make sure you have a clear date and time for your conversations. Then make sure you clearly identify the length of time available and the timeline for the ultimate decision.

In Sales, Say What You Mean Don’t use wishy-washy words when communicating with buyers.


s a salesperson—and you are if you’re a business owner—you’re familiar with hearing wishy-washy words from your prospects. Responses such as “I believe there’s a good chance,” “Things look pretty good,” or even, “We’re inclined to place the order this quarter” may sound positive on the surface. Upon closer inspection, they reveal no actual commitment. Learning how to clarify smoke-screen statements is an important part of being a successful salesperson. Using wishy-washy words yourself is a mistake you should never make. For some salespeople, the trouble starts with setting the initial meeting. Some salespeople are afraid to be seen as salespeople, so their pitch for meetings is vague and doesn’t convey a value to prospects. This fear carries through to the presentation, where they fail to establish clear links between prospects’ needs and the solution they can offer. The clearer and easier you make it for prospects to establish that connection, the more likely you are to make the sale.


Many salespeople still avoid clarity, however, in hopes that muddying the water will benefit them in the sales process. Unfortunately, it usually just creates confusion, with no commitment from the prospect. Here are some key ways to getting and making commitments that stick. Define the Agenda Be sure to define the agenda of every meeting or conversation up front. A lot of salespeople use hope as a strategy for setting up calls. Their goal is to set any appointment and see what happens. They hope it will magically turn into a sale. Effective sales professionals know why they are having the conversation, and they make sure the prospect knows too. Make it clear that you are selling solutions to problems. To have an effective meeting, you need a prospect with a problem you can solve. So, make sure you are setting appointments with qualified prospects. Clarify the Timeline Time is one of the most frustrating and mystifying elements of human existence. If you don’t clarify it, things can go sideways quickly. “Someday,” “soon,” “plenty of time” and “later” are all meaningless phrases that you must have prospects define. If a prospect provides a vague

Define Outcomes You should define decisions or the outcomes of every conversation. Professional sales trainer David Sandler would say: “If you tell people they have to make a decision at the end of the meeting, then they pay attention.” Amateur salespeople put too much pressure on themselves and the prospect by waiting until the last five minutes of the conversation to bring up the decision. Instead, at the start of every conversation, identify the outcome or decision to be made at the end. The decision doesn’t have to be a yes or no. The decision may be to set another appointment, get more people involved or refer you to another prospect. With the agenda and decision clearly defined up front, both parties can work toward the appropriate outcome. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each conversation to identify the decision to be made in the time allotted. Clarity and transparency are key. Read: No wishy-washy words from either side. Transparency and authenticity from you as the salesperson will help build trust, acquire lifelong clients and get more referrals. Transparency by the prospect will help you qualify the opportunity, solve the real issues and save a ton of wasted time. You also must decide whether you are comfortable hearing the word “no.” Being clear, direct and open in your communication and asking your prospect to do the same means that you must be okay with getting a lot of no’s. If you don’t have the guts to go for a quick no, then you will most likely end up in a long, frustrating game of cat and mouse. Many salespeople would rather play this game than have to end the current opportunity and prospect for a new one. The choice is yours, but remember prospecting can lead to more real opportunities. Mike Montague is a certified corporate trainer at Sandler Training, where he provides training and coaching on interpersonal communication skills needed to be more successful in management, sales and customer service. He is also author of the upcoming book, “Social Selling the Sandler Way.”

BIGGER | tech S M A R T

( by George Brooks )


What Should My Business Do With Voice? You can no longer ignore that voice is how customers will search and interact with your business in the digital space.


elcome to 2017—where driverless cars are real. Artificial Intelligence is being brought to life. You’re connected to nearly every other person on the globe instantly. Now, you can talk to your phone, house, car and refrigerator without looking insane, because likely, it’ll talk back. The last two years have seen a shift as Apple, Amazon and Google have released voice experiences. Google released Google Home, which extends its mobile Google Assistant to an in-home device. Apple continued to refine Siri. Amazon Echo hardware introduced Alexa. The Alexa ecosystem is being embedded in everything from kitchen appliances to cars. Each of these platforms takes advantage of increases in speaker technology, internet connectivity, natural language processing and early artificial intelligence to facilitate a voice interaction. A great voice experience is understanding natural language. It answers questions, instead of searching for keywords or commands. It looks for the context of the question and provides a natural response with a valuable reply. By using voice, we are less likely to feed the addiction to our screens, but still perform connected tasks. Ask yourself the following two questions to consider how your business can interact with potential and existing customers using voice. How should I think about my content and the future of voice SEO? First, get an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Start asking it questions that you think your customers would ask. Once you hear the replies, begin creating content that uses words associated with those answers. Write in short,


natural language as if you were speaking the response. Start with who, what, how, where in your headline. Finally, ensure that your retail listings on Google, yelp, and other online platforms include good descriptions to support how someone might ask for your business. We asked Google Home, “What does it cost to build a mobile app?” That’s one question we know a client might ask Crema. Google replied, “ says that apps built by the largest app companies, the big boys, likely will cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000.” Savvy Apps posted a blog, “How Much Does an App Cost: A Massive Review of Pricing and other Budget Considerations.” The post ranks well for SEO, but because my question was almost identical to the language in the title, Google found this post to be the likely answer to our question. It then found a natural, short response from the content in the article.

answers, the services collect the details needed to facilitate the transaction and place an order back to their cloud app.  The internet connected our businesses to the world. The iPhone made our businesses mobile. Now, voice is making the interaction between the real world and the digital world seem a little more natural. How will your business talk about voice? George Brooks is the founder and CEO of Crema, a creative agency that designs, builds and launches new technology platforms for scalable businesses. (913) 220-2141 //


Why should my business app offer a voice experience? Thinking of building a mobile app? Customer adoption is becoming more and more difficult because the app stores are crowded, and downloads are dropping. Consider how your business can serve your customer through a voice experience. Some examples of existing apps using voice include Domino’s and Uber. Ask Domino’s to order a pizza, tell it the size and toppings, and confirm. The transaction will use your Domino’s account and card on file to place the order. Ask Uber to bring a ride to your location and it will use your Uber account to send a driver your way. Each of these experiences integrate into the company’s existing web applications. As you progress through a series of questions and

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




( by Brian Kearns )


Build an Interview System A disciplined interview system removes bias and relies on consistent questions and evaluation. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Michael Gerber, the author of “The E-Myth Revisited.” Michael preached, “’build a franchise prototype’ or ‘the way we do it here.’” The proprietary operating systems that result for such thinking ensures that tasks are always performed consistently. That is precisely what I recommend you do with your interview system— establish a “way we do it here.” It should be a repeatable process that you can measure and improve.

Consistency Is Key to Job Interview System The right approach can get the right employee.


esearch suggests that prospective employee interviews are a poor predictor of job performance, but most companies still conduct them. The interviews often lack consistency and usually produce poor results. Such an approach not only creates a competitive disadvantage for the company, it also diminishes the likelihood of the right candidate getting the job. Want to hire the right person with less hassle? Consider creating your own interview system. A consistent approach can get the right person in the right position, help predict future job performance and give the new employee the greatest opportunity to flourish. 40 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

Remove the Bias from Your Job (and Job Posting) Job postings often contain bias with phrases like, “company seeking to grow manpower” or “looking for a ninja to take us to the next level.” These terms (i.e., manpower, ninja, rock star) are symptoms of unconscious bias. They may start at the job listing, but they often intrude on the interview. For example, an interview often is over the minute the interviewee steps in the room because the person doesn’t fit the mold of a “bulldog.” Remove the bias from your job, and leave biased words out of your listing. Stop the Idle Chitchat Even before the meeting starts, the interviewer sometimes will begin with some simple chitchat (also known as rapport building) in order to “break the ice” and put the candidate at ease. People tend to form impressions quickly, however, subconsciously making judgments within a few minutes of the conversation. This can lead to the interviewer predicting the outcome of an interview and deciding to cut it short, anticipating the result as a waste of time. Instead of idle chitchat, the rapport building process should consist of the interviewer providing information to the candidate. This can be by sharing the agenda of the interview outline and informing the candidate that the Q & A will take place toward the end of the interview. This minimizes the opportunity for the candidate to receive leading information.

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» Limit probing questions. Don’t ask such questions or decide on certain times when you will always ask them. This ensures one interviewee doesn’t get an unfair advantage over another.

Make Your Evaluations Consistent You will need an evaluation system that allows you to measure accurately and fairly all discussion and to compare and to contrast different candidates. Google, for example, uses a custom evaluation rubric with clear standards for determining the quality of a candidate’s answers. The interviewer scores the answers against the rubric for general cognitive ability. Everybody wins when you create and implement an interview system. You are more likely to identify the right talent and your new hire is set up for success from the beginning.

Brian Kearns is the CEO of HipHire, a Kansas City start-up that matches part-time job seekers with employers looking for quality candidates. (816) 920-0298 //

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BIGGER | marketing S M A R T

( by Ritchie Sayner )


Sharing the Pie with Online Retailers Develop a strategy to stay competitive.


he largest shopping center in the world exists online—just inches away from your customer’s fingertips. Despite that fact, the upside potential for brick-and-mortar shopping is bright as long as you keep in mind what you’re dealing with. Although online purchases account for a growing percentage of retail sales, “about 80 percent of consumers still want to browse and shop in-store,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. While the number of consumers who have never purchased anything online has dwindled during the past five years, Kantar Retail ShopperScape reports that “roughly 22 million households didn’t use (Amazon) in 2016.” Research has also found that online purchases have a return rate of nearly triple the in-store purchase return rate. Remember the old adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” That advice couldn’t be truer than when dealing with online retail. There are a number of strategies smaller retailers can do to compete effectively with online sellers. In-Store Experience The days are gone when the store owner simply put goods on display, unlocked the front door and rang up annual sales increases. If this is your current merchandising and marketing strategy, you are undoubtedly going to have a difficult time thriving in today’s fast-paced retail world. Customers today demand an experience. This can be anything from tastings for a wine shop, trunk shows for an apparel or shoe retailer, to product demonstrations and clinics for an outdoor or sporting goods operation. 42 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

Authors speak at book stores, and artisans next level is how you feel sitting in the driver’s might discuss their work at gift stores. seat. Finally, there is the test drive, coupled Whatever you are selling, it is imperative with the salesperson’s appeal that “you deserve to create excitement for your product and a this car” or “this baby could be sitting in your connection with your customers through the garage tonight.” Once you have succumbed in-store shopping experience. Remember, to the power of this sensory and emotional the “sizzle” is just as important as the steak— maneuvering, you’re an owner. All that’s left to everyone has steak. do is the paperwork. The more sensory the experiAbout 80 percent Personal Interaction ence, the more spontaneous Personal interaction with of consumers still the buying. Don’t believe me? another human doesn’t—and Walk through a Costco store want to browse can’t—happen online. That on a Saturday and see how gives you an advantage. But, many product samplings you and shop in-store remember that people buy from are offered. Even the most people they like. Keep that in disciplined shopper among mind when you are interviewus has fallen prey to this marketing tactic. ing sales associates. Do you like them? Are Some gift and home stores burn scented they friendly and outgoing? Are they effective candles in the store. This hands-on approach communicators? Do not put someone on the of seeing, touching, tasting, smelling and selling floor just to have a warm body there. even trying a product gives the brick-andIt’s simply too expensive these days. mortar retailer a huge advantage over the online competitor. Offer Expertise Car dealers are masters at promoting not Become the local expert in your industry. only through the senses, but also by using One outdoor store’s motto is “Ask Us – We’ve emotional appeals. The experience begins with Been There.” Whether the activity is camping, your visual attraction to the automobile’s sleek hiking, boating, climbing or back-packing, this lines, then goes on to the new-car smell. The

store hires local experts who relate to how the customer is going to use the product. Think about it: Would you rather buy a pair of running shoes from someone who hasn’t run a mile in his or her life, or from someone who goes for a daily run? Know the Price Points When it comes to pricing, brick-and-mortar retailers should know the online prices for what they sell. Becoming familiar with competitive pricing information includes shopping not only at other online retail sites, but also at many vendor sites. Unfortunately, these sites often sell directly to your customers. You must at least consider offering on-thespot price-matching whenever possible, and free shipping when it is economically feasible. The idea that all shoppers will justify paying more to support a local retail establishment reflects what is indeed a noble intent. It may not be sustainable over the long term. About 80 percent of adults have either a smartphone or some sort of access to the internet. Today’s shopper knows what product prices will be and probably has done some homework prior to coming in your store. When you can, post current online prices next to certain items. Why not encourage your customers to do online comparisons? They’re going to do it anyway. This is not a suggestion that you seek out and post the lowest price possible. Instead, it is a way to show your customers that your prices are reasonable and include the cost of knowledgeable and expert service, which cannot be provided online. Capitalize on Returns Traditional retailers also have another advantage over e-commerce-only merchants. It is the opportunity to make another sale when merchandise is returned. Use this opportunity to your advantage. You might even go so far as to stick a coupon in the bag to be used on the next trip to the store, just to counter any perceived inconvenience a customer experiences in making a return. Fresh and New You have one more advantage: You can give customers a “new” experience every time they visit you. Don’t forget to keep your merchandise fresh and exciting. Change the window and in-store displays weekly, and rotate current inventory on end caps. Above all else, manage your open-tobuy (OTB) and especially the inventory on-order. You always want a constant flow of merchandise landing in the store—new looks and products to excite and delight your customers. Remember: Nobody comes into your store to see what came in last year. Ritchie Sayner is vice president of business development at RMSA Retail Solutions. He is author of “Retail Revelations: Strategies for Improving Sales, Margins and Turnover.”

How Do I Properly Counsel and Discipline Employees? You might talk and complain at length to your second in command, your spouse, or even your mentor, but actually having a conversation with a failing employee is tough. You know you aren’t helping anything if you allow an employee to fail without providing feedback. Candor is always necessary, but so is tact. Knowing employment regulations and being consistent are also important. We generally suggest these steps: 1. Have a conversation with the employee. And we mean a REAL conversation. You need to be clear. Don’t sugar-coat to the point no one understands the problem. 2. Provide support. If the employee has questions after your conversation, answer them or direct the employee to someone who can. 3. Develop a written improvement plan. If you’ve tackled 1 and 2 with no improvement, then go on record stating the person’s employment is in jeopardy because improvement hasn’t been noted. Consider professional help with this if you’re unfamiliar with labor and employment laws. 4. Give the employee time to improve. Don’t just issue the improvement plan and terminate employment the next day. But you also don’t have to wait several months if nothing changes. Follow these steps and be brave enough to have the upfront conversation. You do need to be consistent. No employee can be allowed to skate by while you hold others accountable. Avoiding the problem can bring down your team, your culture and even your company.

When you have an employee issue, you need a professional answer right away. The HR Help Desk is ready 24/7 to answer your tough HR questions.

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H 3 E N T E R P R I S E S ( by Dawn Bormann )



ressed in matching sweat suits, the energetic Kansas City children’s entertainers are always ready to perform. They blend hip hop, a touch of magic and an upbeat positive message to their educationalbased program. The co-owners of H3 Enterprises—short for Healthy Hip Hop—aim to have even the most lethargic student up and dancing, laughing or moving to their original music within minutes. H3 blends high-energy entertainment shows with technology to 44 THINKING BIGGER BUSINESS // May 2017

deliver educational programs for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. They successfully energize chaotic child audiences with confidence and with an eye on their long-term strategy—a national audience. THE HOP TO EDUCATION

To get there, H3 co-owners Roy Scott, aka “Rappin’ Roy,” and Reggie Gray, aka “Reggie Regg,” recently transitioned from the entertainment market to the educational technology market.

“We are creating original content—music and video content—that’s educational based. Right now,our focus is STEM and literacy,” Gray said. The H3 owners turned to ScaleUP! Kansas City to refine their plan. ScaleUP! Kansas City is an elite program designed for growth-oriented businesses. It offers classes, peer mentoring, professional guidance and more. Offered by the UMKC Innovation Center and U.S. Small Business Administration, the program is available


classroom lecture. Their five-week “Keep It Moving” interactive program offers creative physical and mental activities with lessons on healthy food choices, exercise, teamwork and positive social interaction. Rappin’ Roy and Reggie Regg are featured in each session. They also provide programming for what they call brain breaks, which could provide meaningful pauses for children during high-stakes academic testing. Veteran teacher and H3 fan Cathy Christiansen emphasizes that it’s not easy for educators to find engaging music that sends a positive message for kids. She believes H3 is poised to connect well beyond Kansas City. “The music beats would be universally liked,” said Christiansen, who is a kindergarten teacher at Butcher Greene Elementary School in the Grandview School District. LISTENING TO THEIR CUSTOMERS

to those who have been in business for at least two years, generate at least $150,000 to $750,000 in annual revenue and are in a market capable of supporting more than $1 million in sales. Gray has been an entrepreneur since the age of 12, but he says the program has been transformative. “It’s a reminder that you never stop learning,” Gray said. “You never know as much as you think you know.” The duo usually performs 300 shows a year at schools, so the challenge was finding a way to reach more audiences. ScaleUP! helped them plan a launch this fall of a licensed online video platform and mobile app. This will allow their performances to expand to schools across the country. They’re also developing a dance learning mat that promotes kinesthetic learning. Students will dance on the mat while looking at the entertainers performing on screen. The programming is fast-paced and designed to engage students beyond a typical

Customers and fans listen to musicians, but Gray said he learned that musicians, too, must listen to their audience. “One thing we had never done prior to ScaleUP! is interview our customer base,” he said. ScaleUP! pushed Gray and Scott to take that simple step, and it helped them to think about their future differently. The entrepreneurs implemented a 30-day plan to reach out to customers to better shape their marketing plan moving forward. “We have learned the importance of thoroughly understanding our customers,” Gray said. The ScaleUP! strategy paid off ultimately because they discovered the dance mat is a critical component to standing out in the marketplace. It’s their key marketing tool. “We realized that our ‘Keep It Moving’ dance mat, which is currently under development, will not only be the main product to assist in scaling our company, but it sets us apart from our competition,” Gray said.

ScaleUP! came at a critical time for the business. Gray and Scott had filmed a trial to be on Shark Tank. A producer told them it was among the most entertaining pieces they had filmed. But it never aired. “If that episode would have aired, it would have been life-changing,” Gray said. Instead it was crushing. Scott suggested they chart a different course. “Reggie, we’ve got to get in the streets. And what he meant by that was we’ve got to get in the entrepreneur community,” Gray said. Scott took a Kauffman FastTrac course. It led them to Digital Sandbox, Pipeline Entrepreneurs and ScaleUP! Kansas City. The entrepreneur resources have been essential. Meeting program director Jill Meyer at ScaleUP! was a crucial relationship. “Jill believed in us,” Gray said. Meyer helped them discover that plans are not always going to go their way. It’s not unlike the message they share with school children. “This is a place where you can come and not be judged and not be thrown under the bus,” Gray said. Dawn Bormann is a freelance writer in the Kansas City area.


Reggie Gray and Roy Scott COMPANY

H3 (Healthy Hip Hop) 816-606-6815 H3 is an educational technology business that uses hip hop, magic and an upbeat message to deliver messages about STEM,


health and wellness and more to classrooms

ScaleUP! also taught Gray how to view their financial records with a longterm approach. “What ScaleUP! has done is push us to start thinking bigger even though we’re not there yet. Start preparing for the future. The different components, the different parts we need,” he said. “Right now we’re a very lean operation.”

across the country. ARE YOU READY TO SCALE UP?

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The Trending Legal Landscape ansas City—home to several large and sharing, task management, electronic firms with national reach—has seen signatures, email, calendaring, payroll and the big players grow even larger thanks to a email marketing.” series of mergers. During the past two years, Still, smaller legal entrepreneurs need all for example, Spencer Fane has opened or the savvy and support they can find because acquired offices in Phoenix, Dallas, Oklahoma some of the changes present challenges. City and Denver. Similarly, Husch Besides keeping up with technolBlackwell merged in July 2016 ogy innovations, the field is with Wisconsin law firm coping with the impact of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek Baby Boomer retirements, to broaden its Upper cybersecurity issues and Midwest reach. Stinson self-representation, to Leonard Street LLP— name just a few. the result of a merger Steve Kyle, CEO of three years ago between Seigfreid Bingham, said, Stinson Morrison Hecker “As a 50-attorney law and Leonard, Street and firm, we consider ourselves Cr is Deinard—created a firm with a mid-size business facing s a Cook offices in 14 cities, including many of the same challenges Kansas City, with a roster of more and opportunities as our clients, than 520 attorneys. such as new technologies and a changing Small firms and solo practitioners are work force. Since the firm was established thriving too, thanks to a focus on specialty in 1974, we have embraced change as an practices and investments in game-changing opportunity to improve our business while technology as well as other trends that are staying true to the ‘can-do’ caring culture presenting opportunities for firms willing to that our firm’s founders created.” embrace them. TECHNOLOGY Chris Brown is an attorney who founded How to effectively use technology is one Venture Legal LLC to work with tech of the more inescapable trends that law entrepreneurs and b.Legal Marketing to firms must deal with. Mobile applications, build and launch websites for law firms. cloud-based software, artificial intelligence He’s seen firsthand how technology has and virtual law firms are a few ways in which aided legal entrepreneurs. technology will impact a firm’s competitive“Thanks to cloud-based technology, it ness over time. has never been easier to start your own law firm,” he said. “For just a few hundred Platforms and applications // Firms embracdollars a month, you can set up an entire ing technological innovations must not back office in the cloud, including accountonly invest in the technology, but also plan ing, payment processes, document storage for a learning curve as the technology



is implemented. Practices that devote time to learn and use tools will strengthen their competitive advantage, improve productivity and enhance customer relations. For example, Brown said that small business owners find value in their lawyer’s use of something as simple as digital signature platforms like DocuSign. Still other tools streamline or enhance practice management. MyCase, Rocket Matter, CosmoLex and PracticePanther are examples of legal case management software that assist with document management, contact management, billing, and task and event workflow. Although the new cloud-based tools can certainly offer advantages, Brown advises against automatically adopting a technology simply because it’s geared specifically for the legal field. “Honestly, law firms should just use the other vendors out there like Stripe and PayPal. They integrate with cloud-based

accounting platforms, and they make the payment process easy for the small firm lawyer and their clients. Lawyers should look for technology that is broadly adopted in other industries, not just technology created for lawyers,” he said. Virtual law // According to the 2015 ABA

Techreport, a “virtual law practice” lacks a traditional office, has minimal in-person client contact, relies more on web-based client interaction, offers unbundled legal services and provides secure client portals. While virtual law firms have not yet sprung up around Kansas City, solo and small practice firms may opt for this route as a practical, low-cost alternative. Robot lawyers // Although artificial intel-

ligence (AI) remains relatively new to the legal industry, it is making inroads—and an impact. AI-powered tools like ROSS Intelligence and Kira Systems are designed to aid legal analysis with legal research,

A world leader in intellectual property protection (IP), Hovey Williams has an 85-year track record of protecting our clients’ patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and other IP, in virtually every major technology sector. Our client-focused team of experienced attorneys, associates, patent agents and subject-matter specialists knows what your IP means to your business. So whether you’re an established company, a start-up, an inventor or a referring attorney, we provide you with a unique combination of expert guidance, cost-effective results and personal service. While this extensive level of experience obviously helps you get the best outcomes, it also enables us to operate more cost-effectively, often resulting in significant savings for you. As a result, you can rest assured that Hovey Williams, the safe choice in IP protection, is also the smart choice for your business needs.

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discovery and document review, and contract review. Such labor-saving tools can improve efficiency and reduce costs. Brown agrees. “Many lawyers have already been replaced who used to spend hours doing discovery work that is now done by computers. Some legal jobs are safer than others, such as trial lawyers who argue a case in court and transactional lawyers who are providing high-level strategic legal advice. But many ‘routine’ legal tasks are being handed to computers,” he said. CYBERSECURITY

Cybersecurity, data protection and privacy are areas of increasing concern. Attorneys must take measures to protect their firms and clients from hacking and data theft, said Brown. “More and more data hacks are occurring at law firms because bad people are learning that law firms hold a lot of highly-valuable confidential information. A case in point is that the Panama Papers story was a result of a security breach at a law firm.”

Seigfreid Bingham used the experience it gained safeguarding the firm against threats to launch a practice group. “While dealing with our own increased cyber threats to ensure that we maintain the complete confidentiality and security of our clients’ information, it created an opportunity for the firm to establish a practice to help our clients navigate laws governing data privacy and security,” Kyle said. GRAYING, EMPLOYMENT TRENDS AND SELF-REPRESENTATION

The retirement of Baby Boomer attorneys and other legal employment trends are coalescing and disrupting the market. Graying of the legal profession //

According to “The Future of the Profession Report,” issued by The Missouri Bar and


eigfreid Bingham is the go-to fullservice law firm for large and small privately held companies in Kansas City. Our 50-attorney team understands your business, your industry, and what you need from a law firm. With a proven track record through our varied and specialized practice groups, we are trusted by some of the most prominent organizations in the area. We are dedicated to helping businesses at all stages of development, from startups to mature companies, succeed in business and litigation using a blend of broad expertise and enthusiastic lawyers, coupled with attentive, responsive and strategic service. Equally important to your success, we provide our legal services at rates typically much lower than the


Supreme Court of Missouri in fall 2016, nearly one-third of the Bar’s membership is age 55 or older. The eventual departure of Baby Boomers and their knowledge base has prompted some firms to do some preemptive planning. Seigfreid Bingham’s Kyle said, “As a generation of attorneys approach retirement, we strive to create more mentoring opportunities between older and younger attorneys and introduce our clients to other lawyers in the firm, all for the betterment of our firm and to provide continuity in the delivery of legal Sh e ila Seck services to our clients.”

larger local and national firms, and with the same can do, solution-driven attitude you use to take your business to the next level. Let us help you transform your breakthrough ideas into success.

Employment trends // Data from the American Bar Association indicated that annual law school enrollment is flat. Even so, Brown notes that nearly 40,000 law students graduate each year. Because there aren’t necessarily that many new legal jobs, competition will continue to rise he said. It is more critical now than ever for law students to gain real-world experience in law school, said Brown. “Law students should join entrepreneurial clinics and tax clinics,” he advises. “They should be interning as much as possible; otherwise, they are less valuable right out of school.” Conversely, doing these things can make it easier for new lawyers to start their own firms when they graduate, if they decide to go that route he said. Self-representation // Even as fewer jobs



may be available for new lawyers, in some places legal resources may be scarce for the people who need them. The Missouri Bar report states that “sufficient legal services [are lacking] to meet the needs of citizens who either cannot afford representation or do not have access geographically to representation.” Alternatively, citizens with moderate means are increasingly choosing to self-represent by utilizing Internet-based legal services like LegalZoom, forms and information. “Technological access to legal services and information is enabling people to represent themselves, and is automating many tasks

previously performed by lawyers, especially new lawyers, further depressing a weak job market while technology is also weakening our geocentric approach to regulating the profession,” the report indicated. COMPLEX LEGAL WORK

In its 2017 Practice Outlook, BTI Consulting Group noted that banking, financial services and pharmaceuticals will drive demand for complex legal work required to “stay in compliance and chart new strategies.” The report also pegged more work in employment, securities, intellectual property and M&A over litigation as a revenue source. Small legal firms have an opportunity in these niches. For example, Overland Park-based Seck and Associates concentrates on its small to middle market clients’ business needs rather than litigation. The firm works with technology-based startups, clients that need to raise capital and navigate growth issues,

and mergers and acquisitions (M&A), said managing partner Sheila Seck. Hovey Williams, a niche full-service intellectual property (IP) firm, assists companies with IP, trademarks, patents and trade secrets. Crissa Seymour Cook, a partner and patent attorney at Hovey Williams, observed that some entrepreneurs overlook important fundamentals at the startup’s launch, such as taking prudent steps to protect the creation. “The earlier an IP attorney is brought in, the better off you’ll be. You can get ahead of yourself. Some things you can’t undo,” said Cook. “Once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back in.” Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law, another small Kansas City law firm, has found a thriving practice advocating immigration rights. Principals Rekha Sharma-Crawford and W. Michael SharmaCrawford have earned a national reputation with some of their immigration cases.

“We look at cases differently to find solutions,” said Rekha. One of those solutions is The Clinic, which the Sharma-Crawfords launched in 2012. It is a non-profit organization that provides legal representation to low-income families facing deportation. Services are provided pro bono or at a discount. Solo and small firms face important decisions to remain competitive. Among them are how to best integrate technology into a practice, how to hire well to replenish departing expertise and how to find a niche that enables the firm to stand out in the marketplace. One thing is certain: Change will remain a constant. Pete Dulin is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. He is also the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, Last Bite: 100 Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks, and Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries in Central Kansas and Missouri. //

Rekha Sharma-Crawford and W. Michael Sharma-Crawford



BIG | shots

Bloch Venture Hub A ribbon cutting on March 23 marked the opening of the Bloch Venture Hub at 4328 Madison. Back row, left to right: Matt Condon, Leo E. Morton and Nathan Kurtz. Front row, left to right: Mun Choi, Jeff Hornsby, Bob Regnier, Mary O’Connor and David Donnelly.

Amigoni Winery Kerry and Michael Amigoni, founders of Amigoni Urban Winery, have purchased the former Bill Brady Gallery space adjacent to their current tasting room (pictured here) at 1505 Genessee St. in the West Bottoms. The new space will be used for wine production and storage.

Corvino Supper Club


Micheal Corvino, the former executive chef at The American Restaurant, and his wife Christina, opened The Corvino Supper Club in late March in the Crossroads. Artist Jeremy Collins painted the signature raven motif.

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Thinking Bigger Business—May 2017  
Thinking Bigger Business—May 2017