2019 Top 10 Small Businesses

From one of Kansas City’s most popular breweries to a company that streamlines the RFP process to another business that’s known for its big heart, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has announced this year’s Top 10 Small Businesses.

The Top 10 were chosen from a pool of 80 nominees, out of more than 2,000 original applicants. Instead of the traditional reception where the Chamber announced in a room full of nominees, Chamber staff surprised each of the businesses on Friday, April 5, by making a surprise visit at their workplace, complete with balloons, a banner, and even champagne. That meant a lot of cheers, smiles, and a lot of confetti on the floors.

The 2019 Top 10 Small Businesses are:

  • Agforce Transport — A Leawood-based logistics and transportation company, Agforce works to streamline freight transportation. They specialize in providing flexible logistics solutions to any complex supply chain challenge by simplifying logistics. Agforce began with just six people in 2015. In just 4 years it has exploded to 63 employees. Agforce is no stranger to professional accolades: the company was named as one of the best places to work by the Kansas City Business Journal, as they encourage professional development for their employees and also enjoy things like catered lunches, beer Fridays in the office, contests, and giveaways. Agforce values responsiveness, transparency and collaboration, agility, and accountability as part of their core values.
  • Charlie Hustle — Charlies Hustle’s ubiquitous KC heart t-shirt is everywhere it seems. But the seven-year-old apparel company is much bigger than the design that caught the attention of actor Paul Rudd. With just under 30 employees, the 7-year-old company focuses on Vintage Made Fresh. Charlie Hustle sets out to inspire regional pride not just through sports teams, but regional breweries and restaurants in their vintage-style t-shirt. The company recently hired its first COO in order to find sustainable growth as it sits on the verge of national exposure.
  • IBC, Inc. — IBC is a woman-owned heavy highway traffic control and pavement marking construction company that originally started as an interior finish carpentry company. In 2009, owner Brandy McCombs attended an educational event, and saw openings in traffic controls area. She admits she didn’t even know what traffic controls meant. But since that time, IBC has grown to be a $5 million revenue company and is still growing. IBC believes in the TEAM model (Together Everyone Achieves More), also putting a high priority on health. The company pays 100% of employee health, dental, and vision care.
  • KC Bier Co. — Whether it’s the Dunkel or the Pils or the seasonal series, Kansas City has been raising a glass to KC Bier Co. Since 2014. Owner Steve Holle’s dream was to brew authentic-tasting German-style beer. KC Bier Co has succeeded and follows the tenants of the German Purity Law of 1516 that allows only four ingredients: malt, hops, water, and yeast. The malt and hops are even imported from Germany. The authenticity isn’t just for the beer. The company stays in close contact with the local German-American community and with vendors abroad. When it comes to its employees, KC Bier Co requires each employee is trained in a 5s system: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain. Employees then evaluate how tasks are completed then discuss with their co-workers how to improve upon that. The company also reimburses employees for earning a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing in London.
  • Lever1 — Lever1 came into existence out of a challenge at Gragg Advertising that many business owners have: the high cost of employee benefits, payroll, and human resources. CEO Gregory Gragg discovered the benefits of the PEO (professional employer organization) model. When he saw what a PEO model did for Gragg, he launched Lever1 to provide the same benefits to other small businesses. With just under 30 employees, Lever1 serves more than 90 clients. In 2018, Lever1 launched executive recruitment services as well. Lever1 also wants to launch their employees’ careers as well: they offer a 12-week leadership program and promote from within as the company grows.
  • Odimo — Architectural firm Odimo started at founder Amy Slatter’s dining room table in 2015. It has since moved to its current East Brookside neighborhood, and will be moving into a third location in May 2019 with 9 full-time employees and 3 contract employees. Odimo serves clients in higher education laboratories, affordable housing, and creative office. With the current conversation of affordable housing in Kansas City, Odimo sees themselves as one of the leaders to finding a solution. Design and function aren’t the only areas of focus at Odimo. The team approaches every project with a constant focus on service. Another major project is the redevelopment of Barney Allis Plaza, as Odimo works with the City of Kansas City to study the options.
  • RFP360 — RFP360 streamlines the RFP process through software for both issues and responders. With 26 employees, RFP360 started when the two founders were tired of tracking RFPs through emails, paper, excel spreadsheets, and other time-consuming processes. They became one of the first tenants of Startup Village in 2012. Now in 2019, RFP360 serves clients such as Charles Schwab, Lockton, AMC Theaters, and National Geographic Cengage. As the company grows, the goal is to maintain funding in Kansas City and be governed by a local board of directors. RFP360 pays for 100% of employees’ health insurance.
  • Ripple Glass — Ripple Glass is a Kansas City-based glass recycler. It started in 2009 as a solution to helping Boulevard Brewery become a zero-waste facility. The nearest place for Boulevard to recycle their glass bottles was more than 4 hours from Kansas City. Boulevard created Ripple to not only recycle bottles, but also turn that recycled glass into fiberglass insulation for Owens Corning in KCK. Ripple started out with 65 free drop-off locations in KC area, and now has more than 100 throughout the Midwest. More than 400,000 Kansas Citians use Ripple each year, and the company produces a $5 million annual revenue. Ripple also prioritizes employees, with a minimum wage of $15 per hour, a matching 401k, and early closing on Fridays in summer to allow families time with their children. Ripple plans to create more convenience in 2019: they will start curbside glass pilot programs working with local HOAs and smaller municipalities. The goal is to double recycling in Kansas City by 2029.
  • TREKK Design Group — This women-owned civil engineering firm launched in 2002 in founders Kimberly and Trent Robinett’s basement. TREKK initially offered civil engineering and lighting design, but quickly expanded as their reputation grew. A chance to assist on what would become Kansas City’s Smart Sewer Program launched TREKK’s wastewater field services team, which is now the largest corporate group. That, in turn, lead to regional expansion with the company’s first office in Omaha. Inside the office, TREKK values community and personal growth among its employees. It also encourages innovation and creativity to meet clients’ needs. TREKK embraces a holistic approach to working clients by sitting down with them before beginning any project, to better understand their mission and needs. TREKK looks to grow in the next 10 years by growing out of the DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) and WBE (Women Owned Business) programs that helped them gain a foothold in the industry. The goal is to provide an incubator space to help other women business owners get their businesses started.
  • VeriShip — Nearly all businesses rely on shipping in order to be successful. VeriShip launched in 2006 as a direct result of that universal reliance. The founders experienced frustration when their sister ecommerce company was dealing with inefficiencies from shipping carriers. That lead to VeriShip, which offers parcel shipping intelligence to track, audit, and analyze shipping data. With just over 100 employees, the staff at VeriShip is referred to as “ShipMates.” There’s an emphasis on collaboration and building a long-term “parcel intelligence relationship” with clients. VeriShip’s 10 year goal is simple but powerful: to be the global leader in providing Parcel Intelligence Technology to shippers.

One of these small businesses will now be chosen to win the highly competitive Small Business of the Year, receiving the coveted Mr. K Award at the May 23 Small Business Luncheon. The award is presented to a company that not only shows growth and sustainability and strong employee relations, but also has a record of giving back to the community.

Last year’s winner was Lead Bank. The Small Business Celebration has been a part of Kansas City for more than 30 years.