2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Lineup Announced

UMKC Regnier Institute Announces Honorees for 31st Annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

The Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, University of Missouri-Kansas City, has announced the honorees for its 31st Annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards celebration.

“Fearless City: Celebrating Those Who Fearlessly Create” is the theme for the awards celebration. The dinner is Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Kansas City Convention Center, Great Ballroom, 301 W. 13th St., Suite 100, Kansas City, Mo. A Student Venture Showcase and Reception begins at 6 p.m. with the dinner immediately following at 7 p.m.

Mary O’Connor, Senior Vice President, Country Club Bank, will serve as honorary dinner chair.

The 2016 honorees are:

Dave and Demi Kiersznowski, Founders, DEMDACO and RedRock Traditions

International Entrepreneurs of the Year

Dave and Demi Kiersznowski are the founders and owners of DEMDACO, a wholesale gift company, and RedRock Traditions, a direct selling company.

Demi and Dave hold to the philosophy of pursuing business the way it ought to be. They are committed to the idea that business does not solely have to be a financial endeavor. It is first and foremost a human endeavor.

Ewing Marion Kauffman, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Honorary International Entrepreneur of the Year

Kauffman is considered the epitome of American entrepreneurship, who grew Marion Laboratories into a billion dollar pharmaceutical company and established the Kansas City Royals baseball team.

With the enormous success of his business, he turned to philanthropy, using bold approaches to address the complex social problems. He established the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help young people, especially those from underserved backgrounds, get a quality education and to foster entrepreneurship as one of the most effective ways to realize individual promise and spur the economy.

During 2016, the Kauffman Foundation will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ewing Kauffman’s birth on Sept. 21, 1916, by celebrating the legacy that guides the foundation and inspires others to build legacies of their own.

Gary Fish, CEO and Founder, Fishtech Labs; Founder, former CEO and Chairman of the Board, Fishnet Security; Founder and Chairman of the Board, Firemon

Regional Entrepreneur of the Year

A serial entrepreneur and investor with many business interests, Fish currently serves as CEO of Fishtech Labs, which he founded in 2015. Since 1996, he has founded, acquired and sold more than a dozen technology companies. Throughout his career, he has been recognized for his numerous achievements, including being named a technology entrepreneur of the year by Ernst and Young; a Security Super Star by CRN magazine, a technology magazine for solution providers; a Kansas City Top 100 Business Leader; a Distinguished Alumni by DeVry University; and induction in the Kansas City Business Hall of Fame.

In addition to a strong business acumen, Fish is known for his philanthropic work, particularly in cases supporting children and animals. He served in the United States Army National Guard.

Dr. Joseph and Judy Roetheli, Founders, The Lil’ Red Foundation
Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship

Out of their success in the private sector, Joe and Judy Roetheli founded and managed The Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable entity, to build on the themes of instilling respect encouraging dreams and providing hope. The Foundation has four specific focus areas: Third World assistance, pet therapy, entrepreneurship and inspirational stories.

In 1996, Judy encouraged Joe to find a way to improve their dog, Ivan’s, bad breath. The concoction he created quickly grew from a household lifesaver to a national name brand. That same year, they co-founded S&M NuTec, LLC and their Greenies® Dog Treats rapidly became a popular pet treat. By 2005, it had become the #1 dog treat in the United States, one with proven efficacy in deterring buildup of tartar on dog’s teeth. The company later developed other pet products, including Greenies® for cats.

In less than 10 years, the company had become the eighth largest pet food/treat company in the world and in retail. In May 2006, Mars, the largest pet food/treat company in the world, purchased S&M NuTec/ Greenies®.

A Student Entrepreneur of the Year will be announced at the EOY dinner. Selected by the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation leadership and Regnier Institute Advisory Council, the recipient will be an entrepreneurship student who has successfully developed and launched a business, product or venture. The winner will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

Proceeds from the EOY Awards will benefit the Bloch School’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, one of Kansas City’s premier resources for educating and creating the next generation of entrepreneurs. Money raised from previous dinners has supported innovative new programs such as Summer Scholars and Vets2Ventures. For additional information or to register for the event, visit


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