Member Minute with Augustino Brewing Company

756 N Tyler Rd – Wichita, KS 67212 – (316) 721-5554 – augustinobrew.com
Find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @augustinobrew

The four founders of Augustino Brewing Company have decades of brewing and business expertise. They opened their brewpub in November 2017 and offer locally made craft beer along with special cocktails, coffee and a full range of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, sides and desserts. A calendar filled with special events provides their customers everything from a Mother’s Day brunch experience to a Cornhole Tournament Throwdown.

Augustine and Bianca Iacopelli hosted a ribbon cutting at Augustino Brewing Company for Chamber Champions in April. Check the Chamber Facebook page for event photos.

A majority woman-owned brewery, the business owners include Bianca and Augustine Iacopelli and Kara and Geoff Finn. Augustine Iacopelli recently provided some insights into Wichita’s growing brewery scene and the highlights of owning a small business.

Please tell us a little bit about your company.
We improve our community by creating daily moments of joy for our friends and neighbors. We do this through offering food and beverage experiences not available elsewhere. We feature an American cuisine food menu, a 3.5 barrel brewery that our bar guests can look into, and a full coffee and cocktail bar. If you’re looking for a place to bring a party for drinks, there will be something nearly everyone in your group can enjoy. We also feature special seminars and events in “Beerology” and mixology and host intimate tours of our brewhouse on Saturday afternoons at 3 p.m.

Describe your business’ most recent success.
Every day we have guests coming through our doors and trying out our beers for the first or fiftieth time. Each week, our team has become stronger as we bring on additional A-players that see they are getting in on the ground floor of something really cool and unique in the brewing and restaurant industry. It’s difficult to quality when you’re a startup company and may not be able to offer all the perks of other companies, so you have to find team members who see the big picture and realize the best is yet to come.

To what do you attribute your success?
Never being afraid to fail and never being afraid of being the dumbest guy in the room. Surrounding yourself with smart people who have learned lessons before you is important. Also, trying to absorb (and filter) as much information as possible, while thinking about what might be applicable to what you are trying to accomplish is important.

What differentiates your business from your competitors?
We focus on building relationships with our guests by offering our Ultimate Mug Club, which is our “gym membership without the sweat and a lot more beer!” For one flat price each month, members get beers and coffee included in their membership along with additional discounts. All their beers and coffees are served in our signature 20oz stoneware mugs instead of our pub pint glasses.

We’re also the only brewery in the area that both features a full coffee and mixology bar. There are specialty coffees and cocktails that are available at Augustino Brewing that you cannot get anywhere else. One example of this is Lu’s Habitude. This is a Cuban coffee nitro collaboration between Augustino Brewing and Nitro Joe’s. It can be ordered with or without alcohol and is fantastic either way.

We also produce a podcast called “What’s Brewing with Augustino.” This originated to simply create content to improve our website ranking on Google and other search engines. I’d created over 100 episodes prior to opening our doors and didn’t necessarily intend to continue producing them. However, shortly after we opened, people started asking our staff if I was planning to do new episodes for the show. So, we’re starting the show back up, currently via Facebook Live, with archives going to our channel on SoundCloud, iTunes, and our Augustino Brewing blog on our website. It’s a fun way to get our news and events out to fans.

Augustino Brewing Company is located at 756 N. Tyler Road.

What is something people may not know about your business?
Very few people realize that Augustino Brewing is either the only or one of the only majority women-owned breweries in the state of Kansas and among a handful of women-owned breweries in the region. Even though the sign says Augustino, which people associate with me because of the closeness in name, my spouse Bianca Iacopelli, owns over 60% of the business outright and is our financial hero behind the scenes that makes Augustino Brewing happen.

Where do you see your business in five years?
We’d like to expand our business into additional locations bringing our craft food and beverage experiences to additional communities in the Wichita area and beyond. We’ve been asked many times about distributing our product on a larger scale. We very recently signed a distribution contract and you’ll start seeing Augustino Brewing on draft in some of the finer craft beer establishments in the immediate Wichita area. That stated, we are not in a hurry for mass distribution. All the movement currently in craft beer is toward smaller-scale and local establishments. People want beer that’s made near them in many cases, which is why the regional and national brewery markets are struggling. We believe that we are building a model that is scalable, while still allowing for localized innovation and community involvement.

What about your business are you most passionate?
As a homebrewer for about 20 years, the craft beer side of the business is the focus of my passion. However, our ownership team realizes scaling our business requires looking beyond the beer to having a passion for the food and beverage category in general. One thing that is concerning to the craft beer industry right now, is that many younger drinkers are not drinking craft beer, or drinking less of it than their parents’ generation. Just like macro beer was my generation’s “parents’ drink of choice,” and thus not as “cool” as craft beer to people around my age, “craft beer” is becoming that way for the younger generation as they seek out other beverage categories. Because we offer high-end mixology and craft coffee in house in addition to our beer, we’re able to bridge the gap between generations and offer unique products not available at our other area competitors. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to recruit some of the top bartenders and mixologists in the area that bring a level of creativity and passion to other beverage areas. Their enthusiasm for what they do excites me as well and adds significant value to the Augustino Brewing Company brand as a whole.

Is your company involved in any community/civic activities?
We love participating in area philanthropic events, particularly those that support causes helping disadvantaged children and women escaping trafficking and abuse in the community.

What unique beverage can people find at Augustino Brewing Company?
We feature the only nitrogenized Cuban coffee beverage in town, if not anywhere. Lu’s Nitro Habitude Cafecito packs a huge punch in terms of caffeine and sweetness and was our first collaboration on a beverage project with Nitro Joe’s. The reaction we’ve gotten from everyone who has tried it is… “WOW, that’s amazing.”

THE CHAMBER
Why did you join the Chamber and what do you think will be most valuable about Chamber membership?
We believe we’re uniquely positioned as a business that can cater to other businesses. By being one of only two brewpubs currently in town with separate seating areas that can handle groups of over 100 with a full kitchen, we’re able to cater to groups looking for unique food and beverage experiences for both their employees and clients. Before we even opened our doors we were receiving phone calls to book special events and meals at our location and have found that our business clientele was higher than we originally predicted. We look forward to working with fellow Chamber members on planning special events at Augustino Brewing Company in the future.

What is your favorite Chamber event, program, or service and why?
Thus far, I’ve only been to one event which was Networking at Noon at Hopping Gnome Brewing. I enjoyed myself and the fact that there were a number of people I knew there from other professional circles.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly would you recommend Chamber membership to a colleague? Why?
Honestly, the jury is still out for me as I’m a new member. If it’s like many other things I have been involved with in my professional career, the more you invest into an organization the more you’ll get out of it. We’re happy to continue to explore the many resources and opportunities the Chamber has and hope to continue to grow with the Chamber.

Are there other Chamber members that you do business with?
Several, perhaps most notably Heartland Credit Union, who played a very significant role in making Augustino Brewing Company a reality.

SMALL BUSINESS
What is your biggest challenge as a small business?
What’s not a big challenge as a small business startup?! Paying down debts and keeping money coming in, while refining business practices and constantly trying to improve on shoestring budgets. We’ve definitely seen increased business since the beginning of the year, but it’s always a struggle. We go by the mantra, “If we help enough other people and philanthropic organizations where we can, we’ll wind up building good karma in the community and helping ourselves in the process.”

What’s the best thing about being a small business?
Being a “jack of all trades” is finally paying off! I’ve probably learned more in the past six months than the past twenty years. Business ownership is fraught with challenges, but each one is like trying to solve a puzzle and is extremely engaging and exciting.

What’s your best piece of advice for new small business owners?
I’ll pass along some good advice I received from another business owner:   “Remember, the highs are never as high as they feel, nor are the lows as low.”

Something you wish you’d known before you started your business?
Nothing really prepares you for the mental, emotional, and physical toll starting a business can take. You can “know” the things you will face as you deal with the challenges and triumphs of owning and operating a business, but there isn’t anything that lessens the impact ownership has on your well-being and the importance of making time to recover and recuperate, even when it feels like there is no time to do so.

WICHITA BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Why do you like doing business in the Wichita area?
Because it’s a great city with great people. All of our owners are “transplants” from other parts of the country and settled down in Wichita because it’s a gem that many people who have grown up here are only now starting to realizing. There’s a wonderful resurgence in the entrepreneurial community that provides support to local businesses and entrepreneurs trying to bring their ideas and projects to reality.

OTHER ADVICE
Favorite business app? Why?
Evernote Premium is the BOMB! It pretty much ties my business and personal life together no matter where I’m at. I also live off the business card scanning tool when networking. It’s nice to be able to just scan the cards you receive and have them automatically saved and filed within Evernote and in your contact lists simultaneously, not to mention automatically searching to see if the contact is on LinkedIn and available to connect.

Favorite business book? Why?
Winning by Jack Welsh is a pretty easy read, albeit a little longer than many business books, but many of the principles are rock solid regardless of your industry.

Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell cuts to the bare bones principles of creating a great customer experience. It’s based on his years in hospitality at Hilton, Marriot, and Walt Disney World.

Start Here by Clay Clark, Johnathan Kelly, and Marshall Morris is a beast of a book. It literally outlines the steps of starting a successful business in an actionable manner, complete with accompanying website, templates and business podcast.

SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS
What’s the most effective social media tool for your business? Why?
Right now, it’s definitely Hootsuite. We’ve set up months of “timeless” posts for our feeds to give us a good baseline of communication with our audience that we augment with our more timely photos, videos, and events that we drop in on a more ad hoc basis.

How many hours per week do you devote to connecting with your customers and partners on social media?
It can vary, but the short answer is a lot. As a new business, social media is a very cost effective way to reach our specific audience and test marketing and branding messages before trying to scale our messaging to a wider audience.

Member Minute with Hermes Healthcare, Inc.

1900 N. Amidon, Suite 210 – Wichita, KS 67203 – (316) 260-4110 Hermeshealthcareinc.com | Facebook: @Hermeshealthcare

Hermes Healthcare is a primary care practice that specializes in foot care. Founded in April 2015 by nurse practitioner and owner Jayne Hermes, it serves over 5,000 patients in 75 locations throughout Kansas. More than twenty staff members consisting of nurse practitioners, nurses, medical assistants and office personnel focus on providing adult foot care for their patients. Cardiologist and peripheral vascular interventionist Dr. Ravi Bajaj is the collaborating physician for the practice. 

Nurse Practitioner Jayne Hermes owns Hermes Healthcare and Dr. Ravi Bajaj is the collaborating physician.

Owner Jayne Hermes shared information about the challenges and rewards of operating a growing healthcare practice in this interview.

Describe the mission of Hermes Healthcare.
We fill a clinically neglected gap in healthcare and enhance the quality of life of those we serve by providing excellent foot care and education. Healthy feet are an important part of maintaining independence and enhancing quality of life. Caring for them as we age can be difficult due to failing vision, as well as decreased mobility and flexibility. Diabetes, heart, kidney, and neurological problems put people at risk of loss of limb, making screening, prevention, and education paramount. Peripheral vascular disease is largely unrecognized and can cause foot and leg pain and non-healing wounds leading to amputation. Foot and toe deformities compound the problem by creating pressure points that can lead to painful sores.

Because routine foot care can prevent foot and leg complications and help patients keep their independence, many of our services are covered by Medicare and other insurances if patients have a qualifying diagnosis. Foot care includes a thorough foot exam and assessment of circulation and sensation, trimming and cleaning of nails, reduction of calluses, removal of ingrowing nails, and freezing plantar warts. We also provide education on foot care, safety, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, and other health conditions. We test for peripheral artery occlusion if indicated.

Describe your most recent successes.
— We recently surpassed 5,000 patients.
— April 2 was our third anniversary.
— We’ve outgrown our current facility and are in the process of moving to a new location at 3343 W. Central, which will open in May.
— Our services were profiled in The Wichita Eagle on April 5. That story generated 15 new patients for us on the day the article ran plus a number of inquiries. We’ve continued to gain three to six new patients per day as a result of that article.

To what do you attribute your success?
I think this was God’s plan. It certainly isn’t something I envisioned. The need and opportunity just presented themselves.

What differentiates your business from your competitors?
Our foot care services are different from podiatry in that podiatrists focus on the structure and function of the foot. Our focus is on circulation, sensation, screening, and education.

Hermes Healthcare treats patients at 75 Kansas locations.

What is something people may not know about you or your business?
People don’t know about the prevalence of peripheral vascular disease or that professional foot care is recommended and covered by insurance if present.

Where do you see your business in five years?
Because, atherosclerosis (plaque) is not usually localized, I can see our services expanding to screening, treating and referring for coronary artery disease and carotid disease. While peripheral vascular disease causes pain and poor healing, patients with it usually die of heart disease and stroke. It’s also conceivable that we could expand into other states and regions.

What about your business are you most passionate?
Providing exceptional patient care and a positive work environment.

THE CHAMBER
Why did you join the Chamber and what do you think will be most valuable about Chamber membership?
I joined the Chamber to network and tap into business and leadership resources and marketing opportunities. I find opportunities like this Member Minute to be quite valuable in increasing visibility and exposure.

What is your favorite Chamber event, program, or service and why?
I appreciate opportunities to learn about the success of other area businesses via Chamber communication initiatives. I’ve been watching the Nuggets of Wisdom (N.O.W.) videos produced by M.A.D. Ad Company about Chamber members. I’m learning a lot about area businesses which is not only beneficial professionally, but personally.  I now know where to have my next diamond ring designed and where to get my craft beer.

What has Chamber membership brought to you and your business?
Exposure, visibility and opportunities to network.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly would you recommend Chamber membership to a colleague? Why?
A 10 because of the opportunities for networking and exposure, resources, support and  communication about Wichita leadership and events.

SMALL BUSINESS
What is your biggest challenge as a small business?
Keeping up with Medicare/insurance policies and regulations.

What’s the best thing about being a small business?
Feeling empowered to succeed.

What’s your best piece of advice for new small business owners?
Discover hidden talents of your staff and put them in a position to best utilize those talents.

Why do you like doing business in the Wichita area?
We are headquartered in Wichita and have many loyal and supportive patients.

Favorite business app?

Up to Date (clinical decision support tool)

Favorite business book?
Nurse Practitioner’s Business Practice and Legal Guide by Carolyn Buppert.

What’s the most effective social media tool for your business?
We use Facebook to recruit qualified staff as well as new patients.

Small Business Equals Big Success

Small businesses are the backbone of our Chamber, with 88% of our members employing less than 100 employees. These businesses are also a vital component of the Kansas economy. The Kansas Department of Labor reports that three-fourths of the companies in in our state employ fewer than ten people.

Every year, the U.S. Small Business Administration declares a national week for communities, regions, territories and states to recognize and celebrate the impact of small businesses and the entrepreneurs who lead them. This year’s National Small Business Week is April 29-May 5.

We’ll be celebrating that week with a number of opportunities for experienced entrepreneurs to inspire others and share their stories. But our small businesses are so important that we’ll also need another day later in the month to continue that celebration. Take a look at the events listed below and plan to join us to support and forge new connections with the successful small businesses in our region.

SMALL BUSINESS PROFILES
Monday through Friday during National Small Business Week we’ll be highlighting one of our Chamber members who operates a small business. You’ll be reading interviews on our blog with women and men who run businesses that deliver everything from needed healthcare to refreshing brewskies. Several of them have reached major milestones this year and some will be celebrating expansions with Chamber ribbon cuttings in the next few months. Share this post and encourage others to subscribe and learn from these successful entrepreneurs.

Hermes Healthcare will be the first business profiled in next week’s series.

April 30 – Hermes Healthcare, Inc.
May 1 – Augustino Brewing Company
May 2 – Red Door Three
May 3 – The Arcade
May 4 – Connie’s Mexico Cafe

WICHITA DISTRICT SBA EVENT
May 1 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. – This year we’re partnering with the Wichita District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration on a free roundtable event for aspiring entrepreneurs. Register to attend The Succeeding in Business Roundtable – Learn How They Made It. Two Chamber members are among the five panelists:  Andrew Gough of Reverie Coffee Roasters and Pattie Durham of Moxie a sass + class boutique

ENGAGE & IGNITE SMALL BUSINESS CONFERENCE
May 23 – Our 3rd annual conference features six morning sessions developed by our small businesses to address their needs. Topics range from conflict resolution to leading change. It’s only $15 to attend the conference, so bring your team!
Register here.

Joe Ontjes of Luminous Neon Inc. will give the keynote speech at the May 23rd luncheon.

SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS LUNCHEON
May 23 – Celebrate our nine Small Business Awards finalists at our annual luncheon to highlight the impact of small business in our region. Our keynote speaker is Joe Ontjes of Luminous Neon, Inc. His topic is Thinking Big: Growth Mindset Principles for Small Business Leaders. You’ll be the first to know who will be named the Small Business of the Year in each category at the conclusion of the luncheon.
Register here.

Small business equals big success every day in our region. Our thanks to all of our members who strive every day to improve our community and our business climate. Wichita wouldn’t be the same without you and we’re grateful that you provide so many needed services while employing our neighbors, friends, family and colleagues.

Chamber Invests Resources in Project Wichita

by Bill Wood, 2018 Chamber Chairman and Partner at Foulston Siefkin LLP

The formation of a new community vision process, Project Wichita, was announced at the Chamber’s Chairman’s Luncheon on February 1. Since that time the organizers have received financial commitments from more than 60 area organizations and businesses interested in ensuring the success of this new initiative.

Bill Wood leads the Chamber Board as Chairman in 2018.

The Chamber’s participation in Project Wichita includes a financial pledge as well as a commitment to set up focus groups and encourage participation in the process. I’m pleased to be one of three official representatives of the Chamber who are members of the Project Wichita Visioning Team. Jonathan Long, the Chamber’s Director of Community Advancement, joins me on the leadership team as does Hutton Construction CEO and Chamber Board member Ben Hutton. Long is also undertaking facilitator training for Project Wichita focus groups.

Debbie Gann, Vice President Communications & Public Affairs for Spirit AeroSystems, and Scott Schwindaman, President and CEO of Lubrication Engineers, are two of the four Project Wichita co-chairs. Both have recently led our Board of Directors and both continue to be involved in advancing the community. The other two co-chairs also represent Chamber members. Juston White is the Executive Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas, and Aaron Bastian is President at Fidelity Bank.

Listening sessions and surveys will take place through the middle of the year and I have a very specific call to action for each of you. Please participate in a Project Wichita focus group, community event or a survey to identify the issues that are most critical for community success, and please fully engage in the process and ensure that others do the same.
I’m pleased to share with you that the Chamber is diligently working to host several Project Wichita focus groups using the digital toolkit developed by Project Wichita.

Investor Engagement – We’re hosting a focus group on April 19 for input from a joint meeting of our Board of Directors and Board of Advisors. Representatives from the Boards of YPW, Wichita Hispanic Chamber, Heartland Black Chamber and our Small Business Committee will also participate.

Small Business Committee – In addition to participating in the April 19 event, our Small Business Committee will meet on April 25th to develop a plan to solicit more input specifically from small businesses in the region.

Past Chairs – Past Chairmen and Chairwomen of the Chamber will gather on May 1 for a focus group so that we can solicit their unique perspective on Project Wichita discussion questions.

Diversity & Inclusion – Participants from last year’s Diversity & Inclusion listening tour will be invited to a focus group on May 14 and then encouraged to host focus groups with those within their own networks.

Regional Partners – The Chamber is leading a focus group on May 16 in Newton for input from  representatives of area Chambers and Economic Development groups.

Leadership Wichita Alumni – A date for an alumni focus group is being targeted and Leadership Wichita is also working with USD 259 to train high school students as facilitators for classroom focus group sessions.

YPW – Our affiliate, the Young Professionals of Wichita, will host three focus group sessions. Two will be scheduled on area college campuses to ensure participation at the collegiate level.

I look forward to sharing more information with you about this important visioning process as the year progresses.

Digital Wichita Elevates Local Social Media Practices

MEMBER MINUTE WITH DIGITAL WICHITA

Digital Wichita joined the Chamber on Monday, April 2. We’ve interviewed their co-chair, Phil Mershon, for a profile of the organization and to introduce the group to our membership.

Some of the current Digital Wichita Leadership Team members are pictured above. They’re currently working on several 2018 social media events for the Wichita area.

What’s the mission of Digital Wichita?
Our nonprofit group elevates social media practices through access to educational events with nationally-known speakers and authors.

How long has the group been bringing experts to Wichita?
A group of four digital entrepreneurs (Naomi Shapiro, J.D. Patton, Eba Hamid and Cindy Kelly) formed Digital Wichita in 2010 to exchange best practices and improve their own social media skills. The group also wanted to learn from the best practitioners and began producing educational events in 2015. Our first event attracted 225 attendees.

Over the years we’ve brought a number of experts to Wichita, including:  Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion), Mark Schaefer (Schaefer Marketing Solutions), Shannon Johnson (Alaska Air) and Jeff Sieh (Social Media Examiner). It’s very beneficial to Wichita when the nation’s leading social media experts make connections with area business leaders. They become national ambassadors for our business community.

Digital Wichita secured author Marcus Sheridan for a learning experience event that was held in Wichita last October.

To what do you owe your success?
We have a very focused, passionate and well-connected group of about ten people on our planning team. They all volunteer their time to plan these events and they have a history of working well together. They have access to numerous local resources, but they’ve also developed valuable national connections so that we can secure some of the most sought-after speakers for our events.

The partnerships we’ve developed with other area organizations have really expanded our outreach the last three years. Organizations like the Chamber, Applied Technology Acceleration Institute, Douglas Design District and WIBA share our passion for elevating their social media game. They help us reach more businesses and organizations who are interested in keeping on top of the latest social media tools, measurements and practices.

What’s your most recent success story?
Convincing former Disney executive Duncan Wardle to offer an all-day innovation workshop focused on design thinking in Wichita on April 19 has been very rewarding. We’re using a new model that makes it possible to offer the interactive and hands-on learning experience for $200 per person, a fraction of the usual price. His goal is to help people break through their creative blocks and push past ‘group think.’

Wichita’s entrepreneurial community has been re-energized during the last few years and so the timing is perfect for this workshop. Transforming a great idea into a real working business model requires unleashing and capitalizing on creativity. And sharing those breakthroughs through social media channels is a powerful way to expand on them.

We’re offering Chamber members a reduced cost through the Chamber member-to-member discount program so we hope to meet many of them when they attend. Use the code Chamber50 for $50 off.

Digital Wichita celebrated Social Media Day in 2017 with an event that featured a panel of the digital experts behind Wichita’s top Instagram accounts, including several local entrepreneurs.

How does your organization differ from other area marketing organizations?
We focus solely on social media and we’ve cultivated professional and personal relationships with well-known experts who speak all over the country. We aren’t trying to replace or compete with other marketing organizations. We really enjoy partnering with them and we’re very open to new and innovative ways to work together. We don’t have a monthly meeting or offer annual memberships. We stay laser-focused on one or two events per year.

Why do you like doing business in Wichita?
We really love the entrepreneurial spirit here. People are willing to keep trying until they succeed. This is a large community with a very tight-knit feel. People are very connected. You can generally get to anyone you need to reach with just a few conversations.

Why did you join the Chamber?
We went through the process of becoming a legal nonprofit entity last year. Joining the Chamber was the next logical step.

Becoming more adept at social media helps businesses of all sizes thrive locally and expand their global reach. We want them to succeed in marketing their goods and services internationally. So our mission definitely aligns with the Chamber’s efforts to improve the overall business environment in the region. We believe membership will increase our visibility and provide us with more opportunities to partner with other organizations and businesses.

What’s your favorite Chamber event?
I attended the Chamber’s Annual Meeting last year and I’ve always been impressed with the caliber of speakers who headline that event.

Do you have a charity component to your work?
We want our events to be affordable to companies and organizations of all sizes, so we just try to cover our basic expenses with a low registration fee. In the event that we do raise a little extra money, we’d definitely like to give back to the city that has helped shape us. We’re interested in donating to local nonprofits, especially those that use and understand the power of social media.

Please welcome Digital Wichita to the Chamber by following them on these social media channels:  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 Contact Kresta Dundas at 316-268-1115 if you are interested in joining the Chamber or know a company/organization that would benefit from Chamber membership.

Wichita’s Tourney Celebration Was A Slam Dunk

Everyone was a hoopster during Tourney Week. The Wichita Thunder’s mascot, TDog, scored big time with this winning image.

Wichita celebrated March Madness in style last week as the community hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Our thanks to all the tourney planners and organizers who did an extraordinary job of securing the event and then rolling out the red carpet for tournament fans, officials, coaches and players. They made Wichita shine and all of our visitors feel welcome!

We’re rooting for the teams who are still playing and enjoying all the highs and lows associated with March Madness. And we’re still cheering for the over-sized basketball hoop and Wichita flag backboard in front of the Chamber building that was installed by Luminous Neon Inc. Art & Sign Systems to celebrate the event. This engineering marvel easily withstood several earthquakes in early March and strong wind gusts that peaked at 51 mph around Wichita on March 6. It was definitely built to last.

Alison Percy from the Chamber did a crossover dribble before posting a basket and a picture during tourney week.

Tournament fans have been taking videos and photos in front of the three-dimensional display showing off their best basketball moves since it went up in late February. Some of the images have been posted and shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell was the first person to stop by and take a picture on the day it was installed. Area team mascots like TDog from the Wichita Thunder, Heartyandme with the American Heart Association and Baby Jay from the University of Kansas School of Medicine also posted pictures and videos. Congressman Ron Estes shot some hoops in front of the Chamber last weekend and posted a picture on Facebook that he also included in his constituent newsletter. And it’s been a unique backdrop for reporters covering the tournament.

Last week’s social media contest sponsored by Luminous Neon awarded daily winners on Twitter and Instagram who posted images with the hoops display. They earned gift cards from Chamber member restaurants located in the downtown area. Our congratulations to these winners and our thanks to Luminous Neon for their contest sponsorship.

TWITTER WINNERS:  @KirstaMNews – @andymcfayden – @weberk – @AHAKansas – @shaychic – @KUSM_Wichita – @Wichita_Thunder

INSTAGRAM WINNERS: @markhchamberlin – @mandynfouse – @randilanggmailcom – @maryblea08 – @dannymike – @crystalathrop – @jcody864

Although it’s tempting to keep it in place until the NCAA Tournament returns to Wichita in 2021, our giant hoop and backboard are scheduled for removal when the tourney ends. Until then, keep showing us your basketball fever Wichita. We love seeing and sharing your #ILoveWichita posts.

POST A PIC Promo for NCAA Tourney

Post your pictures from March 11-17. Photo credit: Andy McFayden and Mandy Fouse.

Our partners at Luminous Neon had so much fun developing our over-sized basketball hoop and backboard that they are sponsoring a social media contest next week to generate more NCAA tourney excitement. The rules are pretty simple and there are daily gift card prizes to Chamber member eateries.

So get creative and snap a photo in front of the Chamber with our giant basketball hoop and backboard when you’re downtown. Then post your image between March 11 and 17 to welcome NCAA fans, coaches and players. All the official rules are shown below.

SHOW US YOUR MOVES!
– Post your picture with our giant basketball hoop and backboard at 350 West Douglas on either Twitter or Instagram (or both) from 1 a.m. on March 11 through midnight on March 17.

– Tag @chamberwichita and include #ilovewichita in every post.

– One $30 gift card will be awarded daily to one winner on Twitter and one on Instagram. Winners chosen randomly every 24 hours.

– Contestants must have a public profile to participate.

– The promotion complies with all Twitter and Instagram content regulations and contest rules including only one Twitter post per day per person and Instagram winners must be at least 13 years of age.

– Chamber employees and employees of their affiliates are not eligible for prizes.

Follow the Chamber on Instagram and Twitter to see all the creative contest entries. And keep using the #ilovewichita hashtag to welcome our NCAA guests and to highlight all the great things they can experience in Wichita.

Chamber announces 2018 Small Business of the Year finalists

Congratulations to the 2018 Small Business of the Year finalists.

It’s official. The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalists for the 2018 Small Business of the Year award. This is the 14th year for the Small Business Awards program, which is presented by the 2017 award recipients: Mahaney Roofing Company and The Monarch.

In addition to offering well-deserved recognition to small businesses for their achievements and contributions to our community, the program provides owners and their employees the opportunity to showcase their company, share their story, and be rewarded for their efforts.

“Small businesses are at the heart of our community, with more than 80% of our members falling into the small business category,” Chamber President Gary Plummer said. “This program is one of the ways we can recognize the outstanding companies that are creating jobs, giving back to Wichita and making this a stronger community. Congratulations to each of these finalists.”

The award program is split into two categories: Tier One, for companies with 25 employees or less; and Tier Two, for companies with between 26 and 100 employees.

Tier One Finalists
McCurdy Auction, LLC
Paint the Towne
Reverie Coffee Roasters
Shelden Architecture
Watermark Books & Cafe

Tier Two Finalists
Allmetal Recycling, LLC
Elite Staffing Solutions
Stearman Field Bar & Grill
The Anchor

More than 120 small businesses were nominated for the award, and 18 completed the application process. The finalists will be featured at a Sunrise Scrambler event on April 11, and an Awards Luncheon will be held on May 23 to announce this year’s winners.

To apply for the award, companies must be headquartered in Wichita, have been in business at least three years, and be Chamber members. Applicants are then evaluated on their business success, employee relations and community contributions.

More information about the Small Business Awards program and a complete list of past winners can be found at wichitachamber.org/awards.

Surprising and Delighting Hoops Fans!

Our thanks to Luminous Neon President Joe Ontjes said his team for making our hoop-tastic dreams come true!

We’ve been counting down the days until the region hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament March 15-17. The primary tourney hotel, the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview, is just across the street from us, so we have the perfect location for welcoming basketball fans, coaches and players to Wichita. But we had to get a bit creative with our welcome message since we don’t have a marquee or digital signage.

That’s where Joe Ontjes and the creative Luminous Neon Art & Sign Systems team came into the picture. The Luminous team installed a new pedestal sign for the Chamber last year as part of our rebranding initiative. Today they stopped by to install some large temporary “Welcome” decals for us. But they didn’t stop there. They decided to surprise and delight both locals and visiting hoops fans with something very special.

We’re now the proud owners of an oversized basketball backboard that’s perfect for memorable photo ops. The creatives at Luminous outdid themselves with this unique three-dimensional display that includes our favorite hashtag, #ILoveWichita.

The team at Luminous Neon created a special welcome display for basketball fans, coaches and players who will be visiting the city in March.

Luminous Neon President Joe Ontjes said his team enjoyed developing the concept and then producing the king-sized basketball goal. Ontjes said, “Although this big hoop is a departure from the business signs we fabricate daily, it’s the kind of challenge that drives our creative team to do its best work. We feel like we accomplished our mission of making the Chamber’s basketball swishes come true.”

So stop by in the next few weeks and take a selfie with our temporary hoops signage. You can post it as a welcome to the teams, coaches and fans that Wichita will be hosting during tourney week. And then get ready to celebrate at one (or more) of the events our staff has put together to maximize your hoops experience.

YPW/CHAMBER LUNCH & LEARN | “Courtside Q&A” – March 6
A Lunch & Learn for YPs and Chamber members where panelists will discuss the upcoming basketball tournament and what hosting it means for Wichita! We’ll hear from AJ Boleski of INTRUSTBank Arena, Cindy Claycomb from the Wichita City Council, and Moji Rosson of Visit Wichita. Follow this link to register.

MINGLE ON COMMERCE – March 14
Join us as we partner with Xclusive Events on Wednesday, March 14 for the Mingle on Commerce from 4:30 – 6:30 PM. Wear your favorite basketball jersey or team colors and enjoy a cash bar and food trucks. There’s no fee, so no need to register. Learn more here.

MINGLE MADNESS WITH YPW – March 15
Young Professionals of Wichita and the Realtors of South Central Kansas will host an evening mingle at Distillery 244 to celebrate all things basketball. Follow this link to register.

Recipients of Uncommon Citizen and Exceptional Young Leader Awards Announced

Clay Bastian (left) and Clark Bastian (right) have been named the Chamber’s 2018 Uncommon Citizens.

Clark Bastian, chairman and chief executive officer of Fidelity Bank, and his brother Clay Bastian, chairman of Fidelity Financial Corporation, are the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Uncommon Citizens. The native Wichitans and third-generation bankers will be recognized at the 55th annual Honors Night celebration on Thursday, April 26.

Established in 1974, the Uncommon Citizen is the Chamber’s most prestigious individual award. It recognizes those who, by their individual efforts year after year, have made uncommon contributions to the people and institutions of Wichita and the surrounding area. Recipients are honored not only for their role in business but for their participation in cultural, civic, social and philanthropic activities.

Since joining his family’s business in 1980, Clay has been a catalyst of the Bank’s success, providing key oversight in everything from product development to investment portfolio management. As chairman of Fidelity Financial Corporation, the holding company of Fidelity Bank and its subsidiaries, Clay manages Fidelity’s real estate entities, debt securities and other investments. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he is actively involved in several community organizations, including Salvation Army of Wichita, St. James Episcopal Church, Downtown Wichita and Wichita Festivals, Inc.

Under Clark’s leadership as chairman and chief executive officer, Fidelity Bank has surpassed $2 billion in assets and employs more than 450 people in Kansas and Oklahoma. A graduate of Wichita State University, Clark has contributed his time and talents to a variety of civic and charitable organizations. Currently, Clark serves on the boards of the Wichita Community Foundation (chairman) and the Wichita State University Foundation. He recently completed two terms of service on the Ulrich Advisory Board for Wichita State University.

The Chamber has been the beneficiary of the Bastian family’s leadership dating back to Clark and Clay’s father, Marvin, who served as the Chamber Chairman in 1976 and was honored as the 1995 Uncommon Citizen. Clark has served two terms on the Chamber board (2000-2002 and 2007-2009).

Christina Long has been selected as the Chamber’s 2018 Exceptional Young Leader.

Christina Long, owner and principal consultant of CML Collective, is the Chamber’s 2018 Exceptional Young Leader. Established just last year, the award provides premiere recognition of extraordinary young talent who have a history of demonstrated leadership within their job and philanthropic involvement.

A graduate of Wichita State University, Christina has more than 15 years of experience in the field of communication and design. Dedicated to the Wichita community, she serves as the historian for Wichita Urban Professionals; as President/Chief Executive of the Create Campaign, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping urban entrepreneurs to launch, innovate and excel; as a leader of NetWork Kansas’ Wichita Urban E-Community; and a board member of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The announcement of the remaining Honors Night recipients are forthcoming. Reservations for Honors Night may be made online. For tickets and additional information, visit wichitachamber.org/HonorsNight or call 316-268-1123.