Entrepreneur – and Architect – of the Year

The honorees designed world-class businesses

A crowd of more than 500 guests roamed around the new Bloch Executive Hall to honor the creators of three of the most successful enterprises in the world, who were recognized for their entrepreneurial spirit.

The Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation – which opened in August – received numerous accolades from those in attendance, second only to the Entrepreneur of the Year honorees. The building is celebrated for its unique architecture and innovative classroom styles, which lends itself to experiential learning, and, as was the case at the EOY awards, a great networking venue.

The theme for the Henry W. Bloch School of Management’s EOY celebration was “Every Entrepreneur is an Architect.” It resonated with guests as the recipients talked about their individual entrepreneurial creations.

James and Virginia Stowers founded the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which opened in 2000, and have since endowed the institute with gifts of more than $2 billion. Presented with the Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship, Virginia Stowers accepted for her husband and herself.

After both battled cancer, they wanted to aid in the research to find cures and felt it was their obligation to give back.

“It was our vision to build a place for scientists to do research in a focused way,” said Virginia Stowers. “We wanted to give back something more than valuable than money – research and hope for a better life.”

According to The Scientist’s 2013 Best Places to Work in Academia survey, Stowers Institute is ranked number three in the Top Institutions in the U.S., currently employing 538 people in Kansas City.

David Brain, President, Chief Executive Officer and Trustee of EPR Properties, was selected the Regional Entrepreneur of the Year for his creation of a real estate investment trust, which focuses on the entertainment, cinema and charter school industries.

“My standing here is proof that dreams do come true,” said Brain. “I have been associated with these awards for more than 28 years in one way or another. I am not sure if I deserve this or not, but I am not giving it back.”

Brain said that EPR was borne out of problem-solving, and was more about evolution than revolution, as he stressed the value of independent thinking. Today, EPR Properties is a $4 billion business.

“Failure is not as bad as not trying. I love working on the genesis of things, the engineering of something new. Entrepreneurship is important and is anything but singular and solitary,” Brain concluded.

Brain is a strong advocate for numerous Bloch entrepreneurship students and serves as a mentor to E-Scholar ventures.

“If you treat employees fairly, pay them well and provide benefits, they will treat the customers well and they will stay,” said Jim Sinegal, International Entrepreneur of the Year and Co-Founder and former CEO of Costco.

Costco’s employees are paid an average of $21 per hour, 88 percent receive benefits and the turnover rate is the lowest in retail.

Sinegal said he was asked if he learned a lot about business and how to treat employees from Sol Price, for whom he worked for more than 20 years at the Price Company.

“No. I learned everything from Sol. He was the smartest man I ever knew.”

Since opening in 1983, Costco has grown to 641 warehouses worldwide with sales in excess of $100 billion a year. From its opening up until Sinegal’s retirement in 2012, the stock value of Costco increased by five thousand percent.

Sinegal attributes the success of Costco to a passion for, and an understanding of, the business, as well as a desire to take care of customers and employees and respect suppliers.

He is a true entrepreneur, who believes that you should continue to teach and mentor others.

“The more you teach your employees, the more they can assist you and customers. You can’t do it all yourself. And to students, find somebody you admire and respect to be your mentor,” said Sinegal. “And, always give to local charities.”

In addition to the 2013 EOY recipients, a future entrepreneurial architect was announced at the event. Alec Matlock was chosen as the student entrepreneur of the year for his venture, Envy Gaming, LLC, that specializes in custom video game products.

The Bloch School has celebrated international and local entrepreneurship since 1985 through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Dinner. This event celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit by honoring innovative and creative accomplishments.

Proceeds from the dinner benefit the Bloch School’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, one of Kansas City’s primary resources for educating and creating the next generation of entrepreneurs.



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