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KC Chamber Announces 2018 Top 10 Small Businesses

The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce announced its Top 10 Small Businesses for 2018 tonight in a private reception at Westport Plexpod. The 10 companies will now compete for the title of Small Business of the Year and the prestigious Mr. K Award. It’s the next step in the Chamber’s annual Small Business Celebration, which began 32 years ago as a way to honor Kansas City’s small business community.
An independent panel of judges selected the 10 companies from a field of 75 applicants. Judging is based on criteria exemplified by the philosophy of iconic Kansas City entrepreneur Ewing Kauffman:  growth in business, strong employee relations, and outstanding service to the community.
The 2018 Top 10 Small Businesses are:

Blue Nile:  Blue Nile is a wet utility contractor, specializing in open cut and trenchless sewer and water construction. It was founded in 2005 and is minority-owned. It started as a wet utility open cut construction company working with the City of KCMO and expanding to include all metro area municipalities. When KCMO signed its consent degree with the EPA in 2010, Blue Nile expanded again, adding its trenchless division.
Charlie Hustle:  Founded in 2012, Charlie Hustle reflects the owner’s graphic design capabilities and his affection for old, vintage t-shirts. The company launched its website in 2012 with only 16 shirt designs. Their products are all American-made, using the highest quality fabrics for a ‘buttery-soft’ finish. A highlight for the founder and his wife:  seeing actor Paul Rudd wearing one of his shirts on television during the Royals run to the World Series.
International Express Trucking:  The company was founded in 1993 and is one of the largest woman-owned transportation businesses in the six-state Midwest region. The founder invested all of her personal retirement savings to start her business, and now has 85 trucks servicing the Midwest. International Express Trucking focuses its transportation expertise in five areas:  international rail freight, brokerage services, leasing, permit services, and Drive Away/Tow Away/Logistics.
Lead Bank:  A Kansas City-focused community bank, Lead Bank provides full banking services for businesses, families, and nonprofit organizations. The bank is committed to entrepreneurship, promising in 2013 to invest $1-million in Kansas City start-ups. It was founded in 1928 with one location, and purchased by its current family owners in 2008. It’s been on a growth curve ever since, with three locations and $200-million in assets.
Orbis:  This Top 10 Small Business was founded in 2007 to provide pharmaceutical companies a tech solution to manufacturing challenges and a platform to innovate pharmaceutical products. It was established based on technology invented by one of the co-founders while working on his Ph.D at the University of Illinois. In 2008, Orbis received $500,000 in angel investment, followed by over $9-million in Small Business Innovation Research grants.
Pro Athlete:  Pro Athlete is an eCommerce company that provides baseball and softball bats and gloves, with a focus on providing an unforgettable customer experience. The co-founders were originally looking at opening a Jiffy Lube but instead decided to open a sporting goods store, frustrated by trying to purchase award patches for their son’s high school letter jacket.  Employees are treated exceptionally well – with an in-house chef, lap pool, sauna, hot tub, and more.
Royal Services:  A national, integrated facility project management company, family-owned, operating with family values.  Hallmark Cards was Royal Services’ first client, and the greeting card company has stayed with Royal Service for 25 years, a testament to this Top 10 company’s exceptional service. They describe their business as “chaotic,” dealing with everything from broken water pipes to hurricanes and looting. 
SwimZip:  A diagnosis of skin cancer at the age of 26 – due to sun exposure as a child – prompted the founder of this company to help young children avoid her fate. She developed a line of UPF 50+ protective swimwear for all ages, with a special focus on protecting children’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays. She and her company were featured – and won funding – on the television show “Shark Tank.”
Veracity:  Veracity is a tech consulting group that fuses people, process and technology to deliver customized solutions for its customers. Founded in 2006, Veracity is minority-owned, women-owned, and LGBT-owned. The economic downturn of 2008 was a turning point for the company, providing the opportunity to increase the breadth of the company’s capabilities. Since 2014, Veracity has seen a 200 percent plus increase in income growth.
Wellington:  This Top 10 Small Business was founded in 1994 and is women-owned. Wellington is a strategic events and marketing communications agency that specializes in designing and creating events that are hyper-focused on brand curation. They work with everyone from Fortune 500 brands to nonprofit organizations. One of their first projects was the grand opening of the then-newly expanded Bartle Hall.
The KC Chamber’s Top 10 will be honored at two upcoming events:
Top 10 Think Tank:  Small Business Best Practices Breakfast 2018 – May 3, 7:30 – 9:00 a.m., The Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center: Previously called the Top 10 CEO Breakfast, this event features a conversation with the leaders of the Top 10 Small Businesses on the secrets to their success.
Small Business Celebration Awards Luncheon 2018 – May 24, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Kansas City Downtown Marriott: The Top 10 Small Businesses will be honored and the Small Business of the Year/Mr. K Award will be announced, as well as the Diverse Small Business Award, the Legacy of KC Award, the Entrepreneur Award, and the International Award.