Ten area small businesses have been selected from a pool of 75 applicants as the cream of the crop in Kansas City.
The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce announced its 2018 Top 10 Small Businesses on April 11. The 10 finalists will participate in a panel discussion and are in the running for some of the chamber’s top awards: Small Business of the Year, known as the Mr. K Award; Diverse Small Business Award; Legacy of KC Award; Entrepreneur Award; and International Small Business Award.
These are the 2018 Top 10 Small Businesses:
Blue Nile is a wet utility contractor, specializing in open cut and trenchless sewer and water construction. It was founded in 2005 and is minority-owned. It started as a wet utility open cut construction company working with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and expanded to include all metro area municipalities. When Kansas City, Mo., signed its consent degree with the EPA in 2010, Blue Nile expanded again, adding its trenchless division.
Founded in 2012, Charlie Hustle reflects the owner’s graphic design capabilities and his affection for old, vintage T-shirts. The company launched its website in 2012 with only 16 shirt designs. Its products are all American-made. A highlight for the founder and his wife: seeing actor Paul Rudd wearing one of his shirts on television during the Royals’ run to the World Series.
The company was founded in 1993 and is one of the largest woman-owned transportation businesses in the six-state Midwest region. The founder invested all of her personal retirement savings to start her business and now has 85 trucks servicing the Midwest. International Express Trucking focuses its transportation expertise in five areas: international rail freight, brokerage services, leasing, permit services and drive away/tow away/logistics.
A Kansas City-focused community bank, Lead Bank provides full banking services for businesses, families and nonprofit organizations. The bank is committed to entrepreneurship, promising in 2013 to invest $1 million in Kansas City startups. It was founded in 1928 with one location and purchased by its current family owners in 2008. It’s been on a growth curve ever since, with three locations and $200 million in assets.
This Top 10 Small Business was founded in 2007 to provide pharmaceutical companies a tech solution to manufacturing challenges and a platform to innovate pharmaceutical products. It was established based on technology invented by one of the co-founders while working on his PhD at the University of Illinois. In 2008, Orbis received $500,000 in angel investment, followed by over $9-million in Small Business Innovation Research grants.
Pro Athlete is an e-commerce company that provides baseball and softball bats and gloves, with a focus on providing an unforgettable customer experience. The co-founders originally looked into opening a Jiffy Lube but instead decided to open a sporting goods store, frustrated by trying to purchase award patches for their son’s high school letter jacket. Employees are treated exceptionally well – with an in-house chef, lap pool, sauna, hot tub and more.
Royal Services is a national, integrated facility project management company, which is family-owned. Hallmark Cards was Royal Services’ first client, and the greeting card company has stayed with Royal Service for 25 years. Royal Service describes its business as “chaotic,” dealing with everything from broken water pipes to hurricanes and looting.
A diagnosis of skin cancer at the age of 26 – due to sun exposure as a child – prompted the founder of this company to help young children avoid her fate. She developed a line of UPF 50+ protective swimwear for all ages, with a special focus on protecting children’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays. She and her company were featured – and won funding – on the television show “Shark Tank.”
Veracity is a tech consulting group that fuses people, process and technology to deliver customized solutions for its customers. Founded in 2006, Veracity is minority-owned, women-owned and LGBT-owned. The economic downturn of 2008 was a turning point for the company, providing the opportunity to increase the breadth of the company’s capabilities. Since 2014, Veracity has seen a 200 percent increase in income growth.
This Top 10 Small Business was founded in 1994 and is women-owned. Wellington is a strategic events and marketing communications agency that specializes in designing and creating events that are hyper-focused on brand curation. They work with organizations from Fortune 500 brands to nonprofits. One of Wellington’s first projects was the grand opening of the then-newly expanded Bartle Hall.
The Top 10 Small Businesses will participate in a panel discussion, Top 10 Think Tank: Small Business Best Practices Breakfast, from 7:30-9 a.m. May 3 at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.
The Small Business Celebration Awards, where the Mr. K Award will be presented, will be from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. May 24 at the Kansas City Downtown Marriott. Get more details from the KC chamber.