Pro Athlete, Inc. Wins 2020 Small Business of the Year

It’s a home run for Pro Athlete, Inc. The eCommerce business was named the KC Chamber’s 2020 Small Business of the Year at the Chamber’s first-ever virtual Small Business Award Event. CEO Andrew Dowis was virtually presented with the Mr. K Award, named after Kansas City’s legendary entrepreneur and philanthropist, Ewing Marion Kauffman. “This is a huge honor,” said CEO Andrew Dowis accepting the award. “Push yourself to say yes to that crazy idea that doesn’t make sense for the bottom line but makes sense for the betterment of you and your team.”

Pro Athlete started in a Parkville shopping center in 1987, after founders Wes and Judi Hedrick tried multiple sporting goods stores to get award patches sewn onto their son’s jacket. Their poor customer service experience led the couple to open their own sporting goods store in the Picture Hills Shopping Center. Fast forward more than 30 years and Pro Athlete is now an eCommerce giant, and a go-to retailer for baseball bats and gloves. The business powers JustBats, the nation’s largest online bat dealer, and JustGloves, an online source for baseball and softball gloves from top brands.

Pro Athlete prides itself on its customer service, something they’ve been perfecting over the past few decades through creating new systems, moving into a larger space, hiring a business coach, developing new sales algorithms, and creating core values.

Consistently ranked among the best places to work in Kansas City, Pro Athlete boasts a workplace that feels much more like a sports fan’s paradise. With amenities like a batting cage, a swimming pool, a chef, a basketball court and more, Pro Athlete has received many local, regional, and national workplace awards. “Yes, we have all these really great benefits and perks for our employees, but we focused on the strategy behind the perks,” said Dowis. “Whether it’s a haircut or hitting the gym or something else, we want our employees to do these things during their work time so they don’t take away from family time.”

The full list of the 2020 Top 10 Small Businesses includes: Amply Media, Cherry Co., Chicken N Pickle, J. Rieger & Co., Messenger Coffee, McLain’s Bakery, Prairie Elder Care, Signal Theory, and Traders Insurance Company.

The Mr. K Award is given each year to the small business that best represents the three pillars of Ewing Kauffman’s success: sustainable growth, strong employee relations, and a commitment to giving back to the community.

The KC Chamber also honored four other small businesses for the following awards:

  • The 2020 Emerging Business Award winner is BMG Advisors. This award honors a business less than three years old. BMG Advisors is a financial services business that focuses on financial planning, investment management, and relationship management.
  • The Legacy of KC Award goes to BNIM, an architecture firm with a focus on sustainability. This award honors a company that has been in Kansas City at least 15 years, has a proven record of providing quality products and services, and shows a high level of community involvement.
  • The Diverse Small Business of the Year Award went to Cherry Co., a woman owned- and minority owned-sporting apparel company. Cherry Co. was also a Top 10 Small Business.
  • The Weida International Small Business Award winner is Ultra Tech Aerospace, a market leader in providing manufacturing and distribution services to the commercial and defense aerospace industries.

This is the 34th annual Small Business Celebration.