Business Awards

Honoring KC Companies Achieving Excellence

One of our favorite things to do at the KC Chamber is give regional businesses the public kudos, recognition and encouragement that they deserve. We do this every year for amazing small businesses, companies that serve as role models in diversity and inclusion, and businesses that are going the extra mile to create a healthy workplace.

Small Business Celebration

The KC Chamber Small Business Celebration has been a business community mainstay for more than 30 years. It’s recognized as one of the largest Chamber small business celebrations in the United States. Our Celebration is a series of events where people and companies show support for the small business community within the Kansas City region, resulting in a highly competitive selection of Top 10 Small Businesses. One of these Top 10 companies is judged to be Small Business of the Year and receives the coveted Mr. K Award, named for Ewing Kauffman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, at the Small Business Awards Luncheon. To be named Small Business of the Year signifies that a company that has shown growth or sustainability of their business with strong employee relations and a record of giving back to the community.

Awards Presented

  • The KC Chamber Mr. K Small Business of the Year
  • The KC Chamber Emerging Business Award
  • The KC Chamber Small Business Equity Award
  • The KC Chamber Weida Award for International Small Business of the Year
  • The KC Chamber Legacy of Kansas City Award

Small Business Celebration Events

 

  • Virtual Candidates’ Showcase, Presented by American Century Investments.
     
  • Top 10 CEO Reception featuring CEOs of the Top 10 Small Businesses, Presented by Bank Midwest.
     
  • Small Business Awards Luncheon, Presented by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

 

Read about the 2020 Small Business of the Year >>

Learn more about the 2020 Top 10 Small Businesses >>

2020 Small Business Award Winners

Amply Media

Chicken N Pickle

Cherry Co.

J. Rieger & Co.

Messenger Coffee Co + Ibis Bakery

McLain's Bakery

Prairie Elder Care

Pro Athlete

Signal Theory

Traders Insurance Company

2020 Small Business of the Year and Mr. K Award

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.”

Andrew Dowis of Pro Athlete Holding Mr. K Award
Pro Athlete Toast
Andrew Dowis of Pro Athlete

2020 Diverse Small Business Award: Cherry Co.

This award is geared towards certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Woman-owned Business Enterprise (WBE), Veteran-owned Business, LGBT or Service Disabled Veteran owned Small Business.

CHERRY is a woman- and minority-owned business that offers fashion-forward sports gear styles for female athletes and for women in general.

Thalia Cherry, CHERRY Co.

2020 Entrepreneur Award: BMG Advisors

This award recognizes a company that is less than three years old and demonstrates a high level of entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, perseverance, innovation and determination. 

BMG Advisors is an advisor-owned full0service financial services business specializing in helping families plan their life's story.

BMG Advisors Group Photo

2020 International Small Business Award: UltraTech Aerospace

This award will go to a small business that recognizes the importance of entering the international marketplace and succeeds in creating a global footprint for our region.

UltraTech Aerospace is a market leader providing manufacturing and distribution services to hte commercial and defense aerospace industries.

UltraTech Aerospace Portrait

2020 Legacy of Kansas City Award: BNIM

The Legacy of Kansas City Award honors longevity of 15 years or more in business within the KC region, with a proven record of providing quality products and/or services in the greater Kansas City metro. 

BNIM is a Kansas City architecture firm committed to the community and to sustainability. BNIM's instrumental development of the USGBC, LEED and the Living Building concept, combined with projects, methods and research, shaped the direction of the sustainable movement.

BNIM Portrait

Learn more about all of our 2020 award winning companies from the October, 2020 issue of GROW KC

Champion of Diversity

Each year at the POWER of Diversity Breakfast, the KC Chamber presents the Champion of Diversity Award, recognizing a regional business that has made an impactful commitment to embrace diversity in their workplace, diversity supplier partnerships, and the community. This Champion of Diversity business will be able to demonstrate their organizational practices are inclusive of all people. The 2020 Champion of Diversity is Truman Medical Centers/University Health.

Past Award Winners

Past Mr. K Award Winners

This award goes to a company that has shown growth or sustainability of their business with strong employee relations and a record of giving back to the community. 

  • Pro Athlete - 2020
  • TREKK Design Group - 2019
  • Lead Bank - 2018
  • Alpha Energy & Electric - 2017
  • k12itc - 2016
  • BNIM - 2015
  • Bishop McCann - 2014
  • Copaken Brooks - 2013
  • Boulevard Brewing Company - 2012
  • SFP - 2011
  • Athletic Rehabilitation Center (now ARC Physical Therapy⌿) - 2010
  • Kansas City Internal Medicine - 2009
  • SunlightenTM (formerly Sunlight Saunas™) - 2008
  • ViraCor - 2007
  • Hoefer Wysocki Architects - 2006
  • S&M NuTec, LLC - 2005
  • LaserCycle InkCycle, Inc. - 2004
  • Datacore Marketing - 2003
  • Strickland Construction - 2002
  • CommuniTech.Net - 2001
  • SKC Communication Products Inc. - 2000
  • Missouri Bank & Trust Company of Kansas City - 1999
  • Marketing Associates International - 1998
  • Gould Evans Affiliates - 1997
  • Worth Harley-Davidson - 1996
  • Robert D. O’Byrne & Associates Inc. (now CBIZ) - 1995
  • Phelps Tool & Die Co., Inc. - 1994
  • Bagel & Bagel Inc. (now Einstein Bros. Bagels) - 1993
  • OTR Express Inc. - 1992
  • Big Bob’s Used Carpet Shops of America Inc. (now Big Bob's Outlet) - 1991
  • PB&J Corporation - 1990
  • Kansas City Valve & Fitting Co. - 1989
  • Cerner Corporation - 1988
  • Nicholson Kovac - 1987
  • Blankinship Distributors Inc. - 1987

Past Small Business Award Winners

In addition to the Small Business of the Year Award, the KC Chamber now presents four additional awards for small business excellence. These awards are announced at the conclusion of the Small Business Celebration, the KC Chamber’s Small Business Awards Luncheon, each May.

Criteria for each award:

Legacy of Kansas City Award: This award is directed towards honoring longevity, quality products and/or services, and community service in small businesses more than 15 years old in the Kansas City region.

Small Business Equity Award: This award is geared towards small businesses that are minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, service disabled veteran-owned, or LGBT-owned that have demonstrated vision, leadership, and courage by achieving business success while overcoming obstacles and maintaining a strong sense of service for the community.

Emerging Small Business of the Year Award: This award recognizes a company that is less than three years old and demonstrates a high level of entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, perseverance, innovation and determination.

Paul Weida Award for International Small Business of the Year: This award will go to a small business that recognizes the importance of entering the international marketplace and succeeds in creating a global footprint for our region. (first awarded in 2016)

2020

  • Legacy of KC Award - BNIM
  • Diverse - CHERRY Co.
  • Emerging - BMG Advisors
  • Weida International Business Award - UltraTech Aerospace

2019

  • Legacy of KC Award - The Roasterie
  • Diverse - Weave Gotcha Covered
  • Emerging - Üdo
  • Weida Internaitonal Business Award - DataLocker

2018

  • Legacy of KC Award – The Robert E. Miller Group
  • Diverse – Veracity Consulting
  • Entrepreneur – Chicken N’ Pickle
  • International – Orbis Biosciences

2017

  • Legacy of KC Award –  Andrews McMeel Universal
  • Diverse – Webb Technology Group 
  • Entrepreneur - J. Rieger Co.
  • International - Alpha Energy & Electric   

2016

  • Legacy of KC Award –  Newmark Grubb Zimmer
  • Diverse – DuBois Consultants, Inc.  
  • Entrepreneur - blooom
  • International – Doodlekit

2015

  • Legacy of KC Award – Curry Real Estate Services
  • Diverse – Whitley Construction Company
  • Entrepreneur – ClaimKit

2014

  • Legacy of KC Award – Ace Imagewear
  • Diverse – Alpha Energy and Electric
  • Entrepreneur – Snow & Co.

2013

  • Legacy of KC Award – IDD InStore Design Display
  • Diverse – Technology Group Solutions
  • Entrepreneur – Centric Projects

Business Award FAQs

What are the criteria for Small Business of the Year?

In order to be a Top 10 or Small Business Award candidate, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a for-profit business headquartered in the Greater Kansas City area
  • Employ no more than 250 full-time equivalent employees
  • Be committed to good business practices
  • Have grown or sustained employee count and/or sales
  • Have a good history of employee relations
  • Must be a member of the KC Chamber by the time of application. For membership information, contact Membership at (816) 374-5403 or krekel@kcchamber.com.

How do I apply to be Small Business of the Year?

In order to be a part of this opportunity, you will need to prepare a few items for your award application:

  • Your company history
  • Description of your corporate culture
  • Description of your company's participation in community service and employee engagement programs
  • Description of how you differentiate your company from your competitors
  • Description of where you see your company in 10 years and how you will achieve that goal

The online application is available now. To be able to start, stop, and restart the application without losing any work, you must enable cookies in your browser before beginning, and revisit the application on the same device and in the same browser where you started it. For questions regarding the Small Business Awards Application, call (816) 374-5458 or email kulikov@kcchamber.com 

Why should I apply?

The exposure your company gains from participating in the Small Business Celebration is unequaled in the KC region including a complimentary exhibit table at the Candidates' Showcase event, features in various media outlets, and visibility in KC Chamber publications and website. The Top 10 Small Businesses also participate in a CEO panel discussion to share best practices and insights on successes, obstacles, and company achievements with KC leaders. Additionally, you'll become well connected with fellow nominees and Small Business Award alumni.

Overall, the small business awards process provides your company the opportunity for brand exposure, access to key business leaders, team camaraderie, and strategic planning. Be sure to give the application a look. Even if you don’t think you’d qualify for Small Business of the Year, you may find yourself in the running for one of our additional awards. The Candidates’ Showcase networking alone and Chamber connections you’ll make through the process can be most valuable.

What are the criteria for the additional small business awards?

Legacy of Kansas City Award: This award is directed towards honoring longevity, quality products and/or services, and community service in small businesses more than 15 years old in the Kansas City region.

Emerging Business Award: This award recognizes a company that is less than three years old and demonstrates a high level of entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, perseverance, innovation and determination.

Small Business Equity Award: This award recognizes a small business who exemplifies diversity, equity and inclusion in their workforce, business practices, and efforts in the community.

Paul Weida International Small Business Award: This award will go to a small business that recognizes the importance of entering the international marketplace and succeeds in creating a global footprint for our region. (first awarded in 2016)

How would I apply for the additional awards?

If your business does not meet the criteria for Mr. K Small Business of the Year award, there are other ways for your business to be recognized throughout the region through the Small Business Celebration. The Emerging Business of the Year application is available to businesses less than three years old.

Resources for Small Businesses

The KC Chamber loves to help small businesses make important connections and find appropriate resources to help their companies grow. You can start by contacting Vicky Kulikov, Director of Small Business, at (816) 374-5458 or kulikov@kcchamber.com.

Member Discounts

Every little bit of savings helps and the KC Chamber offers discount programs that are ideal for small businesses. You’ll want to check out our discounts on cell phones, office products, payroll services, and certificate of origin processing. You can also learn how to offer a selection of health insurance plans while still controlling your costs. Review our cost saving benefits!

Small Business Priorities

Small businesses who align with the KC Chamber will find their voice amplified in Washington D.C., Jefferson City, Topeka, and KCMO City Hall. You can browse our Public Policy Agendas to learn more about the Chamber’s specific small business priorities.