Making stewardship — and “blowing people’s minds” — the strategy for your business isn’t always the easiest approach, especially during trying times, said Andrew Dowis, but it’s the most rewarding.
“Push yourself to say yes to that crazy idea that doesn’t make sense for the bottom line but makes sense for the betterment of you and your team,” Dowis, CEO of Pro Athlete, said Thursday, accepting the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s top honor — the “Mr. K Award” for the Small Business of the Year.
The award, named for Kansas City’s legendary entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, was presented during the Chamber’s virtual small business celebration.
“This year’s winner exemplifies the pillars of Mr. K’s success and legacy in Kansas City: strong employee relations, sustainable growth, and a commitment to philanthropy and giving back to the greater Kansas city community,” said Wendy Guillies, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Founded in a Parkville shopping center in 1987 by Wes and Judi Hedrick — and led today by their son Scott Hedrick, who serves as chairman and majority owner — Pro Athlete is now an eCommerce giant, and a go-to retailer for baseball bats and gloves. The business powers JustBats, the nation’s largest online bat dealer, and JustGloves, an online source for baseball and softball gloves from top brands.
Click here to learn more about Pro Athlete.
Consistently ranked among the best places to work in Kansas City, Pro Athlete boasts a workplace that feels much more like a sports fan’s paradise, according to the Chamber. With amenities like a batting cage, a swimming pool, a chef, a basketball court and more, Pro Athlete has received numerous local, regional, and national workplace awards.
“Yes, we have all these really great benefits and perks for our employees, but we focused on the strategy behind the perks,” said Dowis. “Whether it’s a haircut or hitting the gym or something else, we want our employees to do these things during their work time so they don’t take away from family time.”
The Chamber’s award was given to Pro Athlete, in part, because of the company’s mid-pandemic decision to allow some furloughed employees to return to the payroll while doing volunteer work during the Kansas City company’s temporary shutdown.
“Work can and should be fun for all,” Dowis said during Pro Athlete’s acceptance remarks. “That means everyone, not just people who look like me, but for people from all walks of life, no matter what color of skin they have, who they love or what they believe in.”
In addition to Pro Athlete, the full list of 2020 Top 10 Small Businesses includes: Amply Media, Cherry Co., Chicken N Pickle, J. Rieger & Co., Messenger Coffee, McLain’s Bakery, Prairie Elder Care, Signal Theory, and Traders Insurance Company.
Click here to watch profile videos showcasing each of the Top 10 companies.
Watch the video below from Mr. K Award finalist and Diverse Small Business of the Year Award winner Cherry, then keep reading for more Chamber honorees.
The KC Chamber also honored four other small businesses for the following awards:
- The 2020 Emerging Business Award — BMG Advisors — A financial services business that focuses on financial planning, investment management, and relationship management.
- The Legacy of KC Award — BNIM — An architecture firm with a focus on sustainability. This award honors a company that has been in Kansas City at least 15 years, has a proven record of providing quality products and services, and shows a high level of community involvement.
- The Diverse Small Business of the Year Award — Cherry Co. — A woman owned- and minority owned-sporting apparel company. Cherry Co. was also a Top 10 Small Business.
- The Weida International Small Business Award — Ultra Tech Aerospace — A market leader in providing manufacturing and distribution services to the commercial and defense aerospace industries.