Editor’s note: Startland News is showcasing five Kansas City changemakers from five local organizations through its second annual Community Builders to Watch series. The following highlights one of the 2022 honorees, selected from more than 100 initial nominees. Click here to view the full list of Community Builders to Watch — presented by Engenious Design.
The small business community needed a platform on which to shine amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Vicky Kulikov, who shifted into her role of Small Business Director at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in July 2020. Within her first year, Kulikov and her team launched the Small Business Superstars program — which has recognized more than 2,000 local businesses.
The KC Chamber focuses on growing the region’s economy, advocating for businesses’ interests in the public policy arena, increasing their members’ visibility and connectivity, and providing innovative programs and resources that help members grow their businesses.
Click here to check out the KC Chamber’s Top 10 finalists for the Small Business of the Year award.
Watch the video below, the keep reading to find out what motivates Kulikov to leave her community better than she found it.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
ANSWER: I was born and raised in Kansas City in a Jewish home where the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam — meaning to repair the world — was ever-present. I credit my parents for fostering this concept in me, and I’d like to believe that I have passed on that virtue to my own children.
My professional path hasn’t always been linear. I began my career at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, moved to an insurance agency, and then had two years where I stayed home to raise my daughter. After that, I knew that if I was going to be a full-time working mother, I needed a job that provided meaning and purpose in my life. This led me to almost 10 years at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City working on the fundraising and development team.
Around 2014, the startup community was taking off in Kansas City. It was exciting to see Kansas City transform into a much more vibrant place to live, work and play. I wanted to be part of this transformation. I have been going on almost 9 years at the KC Chamber; and my current role as Small Business Director allows me to give back to the business community and city that I love.
Community Builders to Watch honorees will be celebrated June 15 at a Startland News reception and networking event, presented in partnership with Cyderes, C2FO, KC BizCare, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Profile videos from the Community Builders to Watch will be shown on screen at the KC Live! stage at Power & Light’s Live Block, along with a special concert featuring the Black Creatures.
Click here for event details.
Q: When did you first realize your work was building community in Kansas City?
A: I began to feel that I was helping build community when the Small Business Superstars program took off in 2021 and grew immensely in 2022. We culminated the Superstars this year with 2,200 Small Business Superstars. We celebrated in-person at Plexpod Westport Commons with over 600 Superstars — I knew we were onto something!
Click here to check out a photo gallery of the 2022 Small Business Superstars celebration.
Q: What is your hope for Kansas City’s tomorrow?
A: My hope is that one day soon, all citizens in the metro area will feel safe, included and prosperous in our community. I hope that current inequities in our diverse populations will be addressed head-on with continued collaboration between civic and business communities; that all people will be proud to call Kansas City their home.
Q: How can the community get involved with and support your work?
A: There are a multitude of ways for the community to get involved with the Chamber — from attending events to serving on various committees. The community can support my work in the small business community by introducing me to small business owners who may need some guidance and direction. Also, during next year’s Small Business Superstars program, submit your favorite small businesses when the call is made!
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
A: That’s a tough one. I feel that I am just starting out on my journey, so I haven’t thought about my legacy. I’m the person who really lives in the present and doesn’t think much about the future. I will continue to do my own part in Tikkun Olam — repairing the world.
Right now, that happens to be largely in the small business community; but I always find new ways in which I can serve others. When I leave this earth, I hope to leave behind a good name and be remembered as someone, who may not have changed the world in some major way, but did her part in repairing the world and helping others along the way.
WHAT WE DO
Engenious Design is a creative engineering firm that creates medical devices and high technology systems for our clients.
WHO WE ARE
We are designers, makers, engineers who create new things that make the world a better place. Our team includes Electrical, Embedded Software, Mechanical and Test Engineers, Industrial Designers, Project Managers, Product Managers and others.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
Our team is guided by these four cultural aspirations:
Relate: We invest in healthy relationships with our team, clients, suppliers, partners, and our community
Create: We create new products that improve lives
Produce: We work quickly to get what’s important done
Improve: We have healthy unrest with the status quo, and we take responsibility to make things better