Honoring Role Models

2017 honorees include from left: Kate Spade, Tom McDonnell, Annie Hurlbut Zander and Ollie Gates. Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Four new members inducted into Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

Four of Kansas City’s most exemplary entrepreneurs were welcomed into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at a gala celebration March 3 at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management.

Designer Kate Spade, restaurateur Ollie Gates, clothier Annie Hurlbut Zander and longtime DST Systems CEO Tom McDonnell make up the second class of honorees. They join an illustrious group of Kansas City icons such as Henry W. Bloch, Ewing Kauffman and Lamar Hunt as inspirations whose stories are intended to ignite the passions and imaginations of the next generation of Kansas City entrepreneurs.

David Brain, another of the hall’s inaugural inductees, presided over the induction ceremony.

“It says a lot about this community, that we not only can create a hall of fame like this, but that we continue to produce the kind of outstanding people whose accomplishments earn them a place in it,” said Brain, co-founder of Sustainable Development Partners Kansas City, one of the world’s largest coworking facilities. “This is Kansas City at its best, and Kansas City’s university is the proper home for it.”

Each of the four honorees was presented with a special Hall of Fame medallion. And each was introduced by a relative or close friend who shared a special memory of the honoree.

Gates, founder of Gates Bar-B-Q, was introduced by Anita Gorman, who served on the city’s Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners with him.

Gorman described how Gates, even at the pinnacle of success, was never too busy to be a dutiful son.

“I saw my fellow commissioner – who owned six restaurants, a commissary and sauce plant and an office building – standing at a Christmas tree lot. His mother was having unexpected company that afternoon, and she was not about to receive guests without a proper Christmas tree,” Gorman said. “So what I saw that day was a man who, for all his success and renown, remembered the lesson of the Ten Commandments: Honor thy father and thy mother.”

Award-winning fashion designer Kate Spade, most recently founder of the Frances Valentine brand, was introduced by her brother, Earl F. Brosnahan.

Brosnahan described his sister’s first entrepreneurial venture: a summer day camp for the young children in the neighborhood, launched while she was still in junior high school.

“She signed up about a dozen kids whose parents were thrilled to have them out of the house; a popular demand which she identified and exploited. Kate meticulously designed the pamphlets, activities, menu and venue, and turned our backyard into a bone fide day care with arts and crafts, games, and competitions,” Brosnahan said. After tracing the meteoric rise of her namesake company, he added, “The rest is history, as Kate moved from stuffing boxes in her apartment to lunch with Princess Diana at the White House. A long way from that backyard day camp!”

Danny Baker of KCUR-FM introduced Zander by describing his meetings with Zander and her extended family while helping out with some early planning for the fledgling Peruvian Connection, now a global retailer of unique handcrafted fabrics. Meetings took place at the dining room table of the family farm in Tonganoxie.

“Annie knew every detail: from the travel costs to Peru, to the complications of getting yarn to the people who made the clothes, to the expense of acquiring a new customer list to receive her catalogues.  All of the details were accompanied by stories and her hearty, cackling laugh – Annie was always having fun!” Baker said. “As complicated as it was to design, create, and sell imported specialty clothing, Annie always joked through the challenges, sweated all the little details, and discovered how to produce joy for those in every part of the business she and her mom created. The joy of being with a family that laughed together is what I remember most vividly.”

Michael J. Brown, CEO and founder of Euronet Worldwide, introduced McDonnell by sharing a first-hand account of McDonnell’s wife learning how to tow a water-skier for the first time. It took a few tries.

“The moral of this story is classic Tom: unemotional, thoughtful, patient, and always mentoring.  He helped Jean to be a crack skier pilot, and he helped me to be the CEO that I am,” Brown said.

UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton offered special thanks to Hall of Fame benefactors Joe and Judy Roetheli, and their Lil’ Red Foundation.

“They saw the need for a dramatic and inspirational space within the Bloch School to honor entrepreneurs, and inspire succeeding generations of students,” Morton said. “The Entrepreneur Hall of Fame is integral to our educational mission. We are giving students, and the community, an inside look into the journeys of many Kansas City entrepreneurs. Their stories are a testament that with the right conditions in place, there are no limits to what visionary entrepreneurs can accomplish.”

Undergraduate student Chad Feather added another thank-you.

“This exhibit, that we are fortunate enough to see on a daily basis, is a reminder that when you put in the hard work, when you follow your passion, and when you strive to succeed even when everyone else says it’s not possible, dreams can come true,” Feather said. “Thank you for inspiring all of us to forge our own paths, follow what we believe in, and truly make a difference in our community.”

The Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at UMKC is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m., and admission is free. It is located inside Bloch Executive Hall at 5108 Cherry St., Kansas City, Missouri.

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