A celebration of unique Kansas City icons
The theme was “Heart & Soul,” and while there was plenty of both to go around, the emphasis at the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards was clearly on Heart. It was a lovefest for two unique Kansas City icons: the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and entrepreneur-philanthropist Henry W. Bloch.
The 32nd Annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards celebration Dec. 5 was sponsored by the school endowed and inspired by Bloch: the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The ceremony was held at the Kauffman Center; the architect who designed it, Moshe Safdie, was honored as International Entrepreneur of the Year; and the project team that built it was jointly honored with the Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
Both icons – the man and the structure – came in for high praise throughout the evening for their roles in forever changing Kansas City for the better.
Father and Son
The festivities began with a self-narrated video tribute to Henry Bloch, who introduced his son, Tom Bloch.
“My father inspires us to do three things: work hard, be honest and follow your dreams. This, very simply, is what propelled him to the pinnacle of entrepreneurial success,” Tom Bloch said. “Tonight we celebrate entrepreneurs who embody my father’s brand of entrepreneurship. And, we also celebrate all of you here tonight who have supported our strong local entrepreneurial community. UMKC is special to our family, and UMKC is critical to Kansas City. It’s where the entrepreneurial mindset is nurtured. And, it’s where early startups accelerate from a mere idea to a successful and sustainable launch.”
The Entrepreneur of the Year Awards event is a 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 the event directly benefit the student and community programs at the Bloch School’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Institute 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.
A Team Approach
The Social Entrepreneur of the Year award was shared by BNIM, JE Dunn Construction, Mark One Electric and U.S. Engineering. Narrating a video introduction for the award, event co-chair Bill Gautreaux explained how the four firms were chosen.
“Collaborating on the construction of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is where social entrepreneurship all came together for these four companies. BNIM brought their leadership in the sustainability movement, which dates back to a 1989 presentation at the AIA National Conference. U.S. Engineering brought creativity and caring for the public, which is evident in their youth mentorship program. Mark One brought their problem solving abilities, which are visible all over our metro area neighborhoods. And JE Dunn brought their focus on culture, which continues to grow through their active employee owners. As the project teams for these four companies came together, they transformed a single sketch into deep thoughtfulness on important issues that ultimately transformed the community.”
Art for People
Sandy and Christine Kemper were honored as Regional Entrepreneurs of the Year. The Kempers are founders of C2FO, a financial technology company which created the world’s first electronic market for working capital. They are also founders of The Collectors Fund (TCF), the management company for the American Masters Collection and the Twentieth Century Masters Collection, the first art ownership and investment funds that allowed members to display the art in their homes. Further, the Kempers manage the Kansas City Collection, an organization promoting and celebrating the Kansas City region’s artistic community by encouraging local companies to display work by exceptional local artists in their places of business. In addition, the two founded YEPKC, a competitive entrepreneurship and scholarship program that pairs high school students with entrepreneurial business in Kansas City and helps fund their college tuition.
Bloch School student Chad Feather was honored as Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Feather, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration later this month, started his first business as a 12-year-old in Kearney, Missouri. Feather still runs the business, which buys and then sells overstock merchandise — everything from car parts to women’s clothing. He also served as president of UMKC’s award-winning Enactus team.
A Matter of Trust
Mary Bloch presented the International Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Safdie.
“Henry Bloch always wanted to do something different; something more than just a job; something to contribute to society,” Mary Bloch said. “Our final awardee has contributed to society in lasting ways. He knows a thing or two about building a solid foundation, and he has created a powerful and very visible legacy.”
Accepting the award, Safdie in turn paid tribute to the project team and to benefactor Julia Irene Kauffman.
“I would like to salute Julia and the whole team for being true patrons for this endeavor,” Safdie said. He compared the complex project to a grand opera with symphony orchestra accompaniment, which requires a high level of collaboration.
“Trust, cooperation and respect led us to where we are,” he said.