Honoring Entrepreneurs of the Year

Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2019

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

34th annual celebration recognizes Cerner founders and Kansas City leaders

The University of Missouri-Kansas City honored leaders and visionaries at its 34th Annual Entrepreneur of the Year awards. The celebration is sponsored by the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the university’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management.

The full list of 2019 honorees includes:

Henry W. Bloch International Entrepreneur of the Year and Hall of Fame Inductees:

Neal Patterson (posthumously), Paul Gorup and Cliff Illig, founders of Cerner based in Kansas City. Cerner grew from a tiny startup to the world’s largest independent health-information technology company. Illig is a principal owner of Sporting Kansas City, a Major League Soccer team that he, Patterson and three other partners bought from legendary sports entrepreneur and Hall of Fame member Lamar Hunt in 2006.

Cerner employs more than 29,000 associates in 26 countries worldwide. Illig shared gems from the founders’ journey for attendees to take away.

  • Treat employees as business associates.
  • Create a collaborative culture to tackle complex problems together.
  • Share the success with your team.
  • Get all of your employees in a room and talk.

“Kansas City is a town built by entrepreneurs,” Illig said. Recalling words from co-founder, Patterson, he said “the only way that Kansas City can grow and thrive is through the efforts of its entrepreneurs. We’re not going to attract the big national companies to relocate or headquarter in our city. We have to grow our own.”

Kansas City Entrepreneur of the Year:

Michael Rea, founder and CEO of Rx Savings Solutions. A former retail pharmacist, Rea founded the company in 2008 to give patients affordable options after routinely seeing consumers struggle to pay for medications.

“Persistence is the most important character trait for an entrepreneur. It’s essential for success,” said Kansas City Entrepreneur of the Year Michael Rea. “During the difficult times, knowing what you’re fighting for will get you through.”

Entrepreneur of the Year Winners 2019

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship:

Maria Meyers, executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center and founder of SourceLink. She has developed a number of resources for entrepreneurs in the Kansas City region and nationwide. Her mission: turning fragmented small-business resources into cohesive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems that attract startups, accelerate business growth and create jobs.

“In the past few years, we’ve been saying ‘let’s make Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city,’ and we’ve worked together to make that happen,” Meyers said.

Student Entrepreneur of the Year:

Alessandra Brandolino, a UMKC junior business administration major with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and the vice president of UMKC Enactus. She was part of the three-member UMKC Enactus team that represented North America at the 2019 Unilever Future Leaders’ League, an invitation-only global business case competition in London.

“I’ve realized that my idea of entrepreneurship wasn’t changing the world myself, but inspiring others to change the world, Brandolino said. “I’m a social entrepreneur and I hope to create my own social venture someday.”

Event chairs for 2019 were Terry Dunn, Bob Regnier and Julie Wilson. Regnier is also chair of the Henry W. Bloch Legacy Fund.

The Entrepreneur of the Year Awards event is an iconic Kansas City tradition started in 1985. Beyond its philanthropic cause, this event is a valuable forum where Kansas City CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, industry legends, world-class faculty and students alike are able to celebrate a common passion. The event celebrates entrepreneurial spirit and serves as a source of inspiration to future generations of innovative entrepreneurs.

All proceeds from this event directly benefit the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s student and community programs. The Regnier Institute at the Bloch School focuses on connecting students and community members with a comprehensive combination of world-class research, renowned faculty, cutting-edge curriculum and experimental programs driven to deliver results and nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs.