Bloch MBA Students’ Success Reaches the Global Scale

Shortly after receiving a graduate degree from the Bloch School, Scott Hansen (MBA, Entrepreneurship Scholars ’14) launched what is now ProfessionalChats, a website chat service specialized in high quality, online engagement. Shortly after, he was joined by fellow Bloch alumnus Trevor Flannigan (MBA ’14), who had a passion for growing companies. Three years later, these native Kansas Citians have done just that. ProfessionalChats now has more than 60 employees, serves five different industries and boasts more than 500 clients with up to $50 million in revenue among seven countries.

How did they do it? We set up an interview with them to find out.

What is ProfessionalChats?

Trevor Flannigan (MBA ’14), Chief Operating Officer, ProfessionalChats

Trevor Flannigan: “ProfessionalChats is a Kansas City-based website chat service that specializes in high quality, online engagement. We have multiple brands geared toward serving specific markets: OrthoChats for orthodontists, HomeServiceChats for residential service companies, HearingChats for audiologists, DentistChats for dentists and ChiroChats for chiropractors. Niching out our service lines as specific client-facing brands has helped us gain credibility within each industry better than generic marketed names. Live website chat has quickly gained traction as an essential part of any large business’s communication.”

How did ProfessionalChats start?

Scott Hansen (MBA ’14), Founder and CEO, ProfessionalChats

Scott Hansen: “I was managing my family’s orthodontic practice. We launched online chat on our website for two reasons: we wanted to convert more ‘shoppers’ into new patients, and we wanted to provide unparalleled customer service. It was a huge success.

However, being ultra-responsive with online chat while managing our normal tasks was difficult. So, we looked at outsourcing the service.  All of the services we could find used overseas labor and contracted chat agents to work from home.  Needless to say, the services offered relatively poor quality. So, instead of giving up, I hired a chat specialist, trained him, and started offering a premium chat service specifically for orthodontists, OrthoChats.” Continue reading

Firebrand Ventures Partners with the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Firebrand will provide investment capital to E-­Scholars Startups

Firebrand Ventures, Kansas City’s premier early‐stage venture capital fund, and the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (RIEI) of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri­‐Kansas City (UMKC) are pleased to announce an exciting new partnership to benefit early­‐stage entrepreneurs in the Kansas City region. The RIEI’s Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-­Scholars) program, which graduated its first cohort in 2011 and since that time has worked with more than 200 individual graduates of the program, assists local students – community and university – in taking their entrepreneurial ideas from concept to launch. E­‐Scholars does this through a structured, two‐semester long program of Saturday workshops focusing on key areas of entrepreneurial marketing, finance, operations, legal, and more. These workshops are complemented by the most extensive network of entrepreneurial mentors in Kansas City – more than 150 of them, and growing.

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Regnier Venture Creation Challenge Finalists Receive Startup Funding


Four Teams Win Top Awards

Sixteen of more than 50 teams advanced to the semifinal round of the 2016 Regnier Venture Creation Challenge May 6. Out of that, four teams walked away as the top winners.

Students presented new concepts to local investors, business leaders and entrepreneurs while competing for up to $40,000 in total awards and seed funding. After hearing from each semifinalist group, four teams were selected to compete for the top prize.

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KCSourceLink Report Describes State of Entrepreneurship in Kansas City

KC SourcelinkPublished on April 25, 2016
‘We Create KC’ report cites progress in several areas
KCSourceLink today released its third We Create KC report, which looks at progress in key areas central to supporting entrepreneurs and business growth in the region. Last year, KCSourceLink, a network of 240+ business-building resources, made more than 155,000 connections to help entrepreneurs and small business owners find the help they need to start and grow.

“At KCSourceLink we are committed to supporting the entrepreneurial community—the pioneers, champions and heroes who’ve gotten us to this point. And we’re also committed to tracking the numbers to measure our progress,” said Maria Meyers, founder of KCSourceLink and head of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center, of which KCSourceLink is a part.

The good news: Kansas City is making progress in terms of access to capital for entrepreneurs, the idea pipeline and resources to support startup growth.

The full report can be downloaded at

Access to Capital

Capital for early-stage entrepreneurs and education for both investors and entrepreneurs has been a focus for development. In the past year:

OneKC for Women launched a new WE-Lend microloan program.
AltCap announced new funds available for contractors and artists.
The Microloan Coalition was formed to bring additional dollars to Kansas City area microenterprises.
LaunchKC and Digital Sandbox KC provided grants for early-stage businesses.
Mid-America Angels and Women’s Capital Connection had their largest year ever in investments.
Northland Angel Investor Network got off the ground and iiM focused its funding on human and animal health and agriculture.
The Collective and a re-formed Angel Capital Group are providing more options on the local investment scene.
KC Rise has announced a new fund that will invest side-by-side with other VCs.
Flyover Capital made its first investments.
Out of town funds like Royal Street Ventures, Lewis and Clark Ventures and Dundee Capital have set up shop and invested in regional businesses.
The Idea Pipeline

Moving innovations from universities and research labs into the marketplace is a difficult process. The Whiteboard2Boardroom program has been working hard to improve the innovation pipeline. Launched in 2009 with four partners, that number has expanded to 22. Whiteboard2Boardroom has identified more than 40 projects in the innovation pipeline, from biodiesel to drug development. This is the first time there’s been a clear snapshot of what Kansas City’s innovation pipeline looks like.

Resources to Support Startup and Growth

Kansas City has a strong, interconnected web of resources that support entrepreneurial ventures at all stages and in all industries. During the past year, resource organizations came together to form the Multicultural Business Coalition, designed to better engage diverse business owners with programs and services.

We Create KC

The We Create KC report, produced under an award from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, covers six imperatives that were identified as key areas of development in the region’s quest to nurture entrepreneurship and economic growth. These six imperatives came out of research conducted by several local organizations, and helped focus this particular Big 5 initiative defined by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

The six areas are:

Maximize entrepreneurial support resources
Tell the story
Create a strong entrepreneurial pipeline of ideas
Build entrepreneurial talent
Dramatically increase available startup and growth capital
Engage the broader corporate community
Stories that typify the success being driven by area entrepreneurs are highlighted, including:

17°73°, a solar-powered solution to charge cellphones in developing countries
blooom, an online platform that helps average Americans manage their 401(k)s
Jazzy B’s, a BBQ fusion food truck that recently opened a restaurant in Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Weave Gotcha Covered, custom drapery and furnishings business with a social entrepreneurship angle

Hornsby Receives Award for Entrepreneurship


hornsby award

Jeff Hornsby received the John E. Hughes Award for Entrepreneurial Advocacy at the recent 2016 USASBE Conference.  He is the Henry W. Bloch/Missouri Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship and Director of the Regnier Institute.

The award, named after its first recipient John E. Hughes, recognizes an individual who has consistently over time contributed encouragement, support, resources, time, development, talent and skills to further the field of entrepreneurship and support structures that nurture emerging and practicing business owners.

Hornsby has spent his career as an advocate and educator in entrepreneurship. He has authored or co-authored 148 refereed journal and proceedings articles appearing the top journals in entrepreneurship and management including Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice and Journal of Operations Management. His research has earned five conference best paper awards

He  has coauthored five books entitled: “Innovation Acceleration: Transforming Organizational Thinking, New Venture Management: The Entrepreneur’s Roadmap,” “The Human Resource Function in Emerging Enterprises, Frontline HR: A Handbook for the Emerging Manager” and “Training Systems Management.”

The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship® (USASBE) is the largest independent, professional, academic organization in the world dedicated to advancing the discipline of entrepreneurship. With over 1000 members from universities and colleges, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations and the public sector, USASBE is a diverse mix of professionals that share a common commitment to fostering entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors.

Three Professors Awarded Research Prize


“Entrepreneurs' Engagement in Philanthropy: Perspectives.”Three professors were awarded the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals Skystone Partners Research Prize. Marilyn Taylor, D.B.A., Arvin Gottlieb/Missouri Chair of Strategic Management; David Renz, Ph.D., Beth K. Smith/Missouri Chair in Nonprofit Leadership; and Robert Strom, Ph.D., Adjunct Instructor of Business Administration; received the prize for the book they wrote together, “Entrepreneurs’ Engagement in Philanthropy: Perspectives.” The group will receive the award at the March 2016 AFP International Conference on Funding.

Members of the selection committee cited the trio’s publication because it exemplified the high standards of scholarship the prize’s originators sought to encourage. The prize is awarded to a group or author who makes a substantive contribution to knowledge and understanding of fundraising and/or philanthropic behavior; relevant insights for donors, grant makers or fundraisers; creativity and depth of analysis; and quality of style, readability and format.

Career Center Hosts Events for Career Month

The Bloch Career Center is starting the new year off strong by meeting with employers and hosting events for graduate and undergraduate students.

Career Services will celebrate Career Month with two events in February. On Feb. 12, the Job and Internship Fair will allow all students to network, seek internships, or apply for jobs with employers from various industries. On Feb. 26, the Regnier Career Accelerator, held in partnership with the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will focus on connecting students with innovation-centric organizations.

Later this spring, the Career Center will host on-campus interviews with area organizations including State Street, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, DST Systems and PWC, among others. Employers will be assigned interview spaces within the Career Center, and will have the opportunity to meet with selected Bloch students who have applied for positions through Roo Career Network. Many of the events will be held in the Career Center, located in Bloch Executive Hall, Room 102

“If a company commits to spending half a day here, they’re bound to extend second interviews to students, and hopefully, full-time positions,” Surprenant explained.

In addition to on-campus interviews, the Career Center staff meets with area companies to coordinate on-site visits at their firms as well as information sessions with students. The department has added several new staff members, creating capacity to offer services for all students, no matter the degree track. New hires include Amanda Moore and Maggie Reyland Career Coaches; Erin Christensen, Employer Relations Coordinator; and Vanessa Herring, Corporate Outreach Officer.

The Career Center provides services such as mock interviews, resume reviews and job search strategies, in addition to several career-focused special events Surprenant and her staff plan to look into ways to track Bloch students after graduation.

“Our goal is to have information on where students are employed, what positions they hold and what their salaries are by 90 days post-graduation,” she says. “Ideally, we will receive this information for over 90 percent of our graduating students.”

Registration is required for the Career Accelerator.  Visit Career Services for more information on the Job and Internship Fair.

Entrepreneur David Brain Kicks Off Spring First Wednesdays

David Brain

David Brain, 2014 Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductee

“Don’t succumb or be deluded by the myth that entrepreneurship is about working for yourself, it’s not. It starts first with the needs of others. If you answer a need of others, are sincere on that and put that first, you will be served well.” This is advice David Brain, inaugural member of the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.  gave in a video that is featured in the hall.

Brain, founder of EPR Properties , will share more of his entrepreneurial experiences at 5 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall, Room 218. The Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation presents the First Wednesdays series for students and community members. Each presentation focuses on the journey of successful entrepreneurs who capture the innovative mindset of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management.

A Kansas City native, Brain has been a strong advocate for the Bloch School’s entrepreneurship programs, having served as a mentor in the E-Scholars program and a judge in the Regnier Venture Creation Challenge. Additionally, Brain serves on the advisory board for the Lewis White Real Estate Center and has been a guest lecturer in several Bloch classes. He was recognized in 2013 as the Regional Entrepreneur of the Year by the Regnier Institute.

Brain co-founded EPR Properties in Kansas City in 1997 with little more than a computer and two telephones in a few sublet cubicles. The company is a specialty real estate investment fund that builds and leases entertainment, recreation and education properties that traditionally were thought to be too volatile for institutional investment. By 2015, the company had built an investment portfolio of $4.5 billion with more than 240 properties across 39 states, investing in theatres, retail centers, water parks, ski parks, public charter schools and more.

The seeds for EPR were planted while Brain attended Tulane University in New Orleans, earning a B.A. in Economics and an MBA. In fact, Brain attributes the success of the company to the ability to identify a market need paired with simple problem-solving. This semester’s First Wednesdays speakers will continue to tie in with the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, following three fellow inductee presentations held during the fall term. . Bob Regnier, Bank of Blue Valley and Regnier Family Foundation, will present March 2 and Lamar Hunt, Jr., on behalf of the Hunt family, will present April 6. The final First Wednesday event will be the Regnier Institute’s Roo Idea Jump. The competition awards prizes to new, independent UMKC student ventures in the concept stage.

For more information on First Wednesdays, please contact the Regnier Institute at, by phone at 816-235-6200. or register online to attend.


Bill Zahner Opens First Wednesdays Featuring Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Inductees

Zahner FW2


“To be successful in business, you need to have passion in what you do.” On Wednesday, September 3, Bill Zahner gave this advice to over 200 UMKC students, alumni and supporters as part of the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s First Wednesday series. Zahner embodies this advice, as his passion led him to head one of the foremost metal work companies in the world.

In his presentation “How One Entrepreneur Turned Metal Into Art,” Zahner explained how the organization has stayed relevant and innovative with changing faces of architecture and technology. Further, he described how A. Zahner Company is always working to exceed customer expectations, turning buildings into pieces of art.

Some of A. Zahner Company’s most notable projects include The Art Gallery of Alberta in Alberta, Canada, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina and the September 11 Museum in New York City, New York.

“We always keep pushing to exceed customer expectations,” Zahner said at Wednesday’s presentation. “Our people want to be proud of what they do. That’s exactly what you want to instill in a company.”

This is the third year of the Regnier Institute’s First Wednesdays programming, where in addition to student updates, a local entrepreneur discusses their entrepreneurial path to give Bloch students a fresh perspective of what it’s like to grow a business from the beginning. With the recent launch of the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, the Regnier Institute saw a natural cohesion and a chance to connect students with high caliber business professionals.

“Allowing students to not only hear from a successful entrepreneur, but to actually interact with them, is an amazing opportunity,” said Ben Williams, Assistant Director of the Regnier Institute.

Zahner’s presentation of the first of three that will come from inaugural members of the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame opened to the public in December 2014, and is designed to inspire students and community by giving them an inside look at the journeys of some of Kansas most well-known entrepreneurs.

Hall of Fame inductees Terry Van Der Tuuk of Graphic Technology, Inc. and Dan Lowe of RED Legacy will helm the events on October 7 and November 4, respectively. Williams foresees growing excitement as these presentations draw nearer.

“So often, students look at successful entrepreneurs as celebrities that are out of their reach,” Williams said.  “When we have people like Bill Zahner, Terry Van Der Tuuk and Dan Lowe show how they became successful through a process that can be followed, that’s when you see students really get excited.”

To register for upcoming First Wednesdays events, visit

From Military to Business Owner


Opportunity to Transition from Boot Camp to E-Scholars

Sixteen veterans stepped up for a three-day business boot camp at the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to discuss potential ventures, some of which are already in the works.

The boot camp, Vets2Ventures, was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Bloch Executive Hall to provide exposure to an entrepreneurial environment for transitioning veterans. Full scholarships were awarded to each veteran accepted into the program, supported by the Regnier Institute and private sponsors.

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