5 Reasons to #ShopSmall on Nov. 26

Think about your favorite coffee shop, boutique or restaurant. Now imagine Wichita without all of our local businesses that make our city unique. Small Business Saturday, a day when holiday shoppers are encouraged to support local brick-and-mortar businesses, is scheduled for November 26, 2016.

K. Lanes is a women's boutique located at 600 S. Tyler.

K. Lanes is a women’s boutique located at 600 S. Tyler.

But what exactly are the benefits of shopping small (on the 26th and everyday)? Here are just a few:

1. Supporting your city
When you shop small, you’re also supporting and growing your community. Businesses pay taxes, which in turn fund schools, roads, firefighters, etc. Studies have shown that $68 of every $100 spent at small businesses stays in the community.

2. Impacting the economy
More than half of new U.S. jobs created since 1995 have come from small businesses, making small biz the backbone of America.

Burnell's Fine Jewelry and Design is located at 550 N. Rock and offers pieces from world-famous designers, as well as custom work.

Burnell’s Fine Jewelry and Design is located at 550 N. Rock and offers pieces from world-famous designers, as well as custom work.

3. Being WOWed by excellent customer service
One of the biggest advantages small businesses have over large retailers is the ability to provide more personable, hands-on, and memorable customer service. You will most likely be helped by the owner, their family or someone vested in the success of the business.

4. Finding unique items
Searching for the perfect gifts can be difficult enough without seeing the same products time after time. Small businesses are more likely to offer “Where did you get that?” items not found in departments stores.

MODE is a designer denim outlet boutique located at 2431 N. Greenwich.

MODE is a designer denim outlet boutique located at 2431 N. Greenwich.

5. Being part of the American Dream
Small-business owners are the embodiment of the American Dream; supporting  them makes you part of the dream, and who wouldn’t want that?

Search #ShopSmall on social media to see many more reasons, then add your own!

Wichita’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities Expanding

Scott Schwindaman is the President/CEO of Lubrication Engineers, Inc. He will chair the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2017.

Scott Schwindaman is the President/CEO of Lubrication Engineers, Inc. He will chair the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2017.

By Scott Schwindaman
President/CEO Lubrication Engineers, Inc.
Chair Elect of the Board of Directors for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber’s current Chairman, Barry Schwan, recently wrote a column for the Wichita Eagle and the Chamber’s blog about the renewal of Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit. As Barry noted, I helped initiate and have co-chaired the Entrepreneurship Task Force (ETF) with fellow Chamber board member Gary Oborny (Occidental Management) since it started several years ago.

Two organizations, of many, critical to the success of the entrepreneurial ecosystem are the Chamber and the e2e Accelerator, an initiative of the ETF focused on activating, accelerating and mentoring entrepreneurs. I’m pleased to see a developing partnership between the Chamber and e2e that will provide multiple opportunities to highlight entrepreneurship at some upcoming events.

I’d like to encourage you to circle a few dates on your calendar where you can learn more about some of these new opportunities and connect with the people leading them.

September 29 – Innovators can make valuable connections at the Chamber’s annual business-to-business trade show, Exposure, this Thursday. More than 200 businesses will be exhibiting, including many of the ETF liaison organizations. Representatives of the newly launched e2e accelerator will staff a booth to answer questions about how to apply for their unique mentoring program and to provide details about the upcoming Accelerate the Heartland event. Connecting with the Small Business Administration representatives should also be a priority for those who want to learn more about their successful Emerging Leaders program and their range of lending options. Wichita State University’s Kansas Small Business Development Center will staff a booth to share information about their free consulting services and upcoming educational offerings.

October 5 – Formerly known as the Great Plains Capital Conference, the renamed Accelerate the Heartland event offers a full day focused on jumpstarting Wichita’s entrepreneurial ecosystem with opportunities to learn, share and network. The conference will include entrepreneurs, service providers, government, universities, mentors, investors and others who want to be part of moving new ideas, products and services forward.

December 1 – We’ll be learning from the best when internationally renowned entrepreneur and investor Daymond John takes to the stage for the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. After sharing some of his thoughts about how to position and brand new products and services, John will interact onstage with local entrepreneurs and other area leaders who are fostering and mentoring new startups.

There’s been a tremendous groundswell in the number of opportunities for area entrepreneurs to connect with the people and resources they need to succeed. And it’s been rewarding to see so many organizations developing, supporting and promoting these opportunities together. I encourage you to be part of this movement. As the current chair of the Young Professionals of Wichita, Sam Foreman, so eloquently said earlier this year, our goal is to “shorten the distance from Dream to Done.” It’s all about creating new opportunities and transforming Wichita into the “Opportunity Capital.”

Renewing Wichita’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Barry Schwan 2016 Chamber Chairman

Barry Schwan
2016 Chamber Chairman

By Barry Schwan
Owner, House of Schwan, Inc.
2016 Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

If you’ve followed the work of Wichita native and economic analyst James Chung, you’ve heard him outline the four challenges facing Wichita. One of those is the Entrepreneurship Challenge. Chung’s findings indicate that Wichita is behind the curve in startup density and venture capital investments. He’s challenged Wichita to “move the needle” on entrepreneurship and drive innovation forward as we’ve done in the past.

The Chamber appreciates the efforts of two business leaders who are helping Wichita move the needle on entrepreneurship. As co-chairs of the Entrepreneurship Task Force (ETF), Gary Oborny (Occidental Management) and Scott Schwindaman (Lubrication Engineers) have spearheaded an inclusive approach to strengthening our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through their efforts, we’ve seen the emergence of e2e (Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur), a new nonprofit initiative where experienced area entrepreneurs are offering mentoring, seed money and programming to startups and scalable business ventures (see e2ewichita.com).

In addition to their involvement in ETF, both Oborny and Schwindaman are members of the Chamber board of directors. Schwindaman will take over the helm as Chamber chairman in 2017. A past Chamber chairman, Wayne Chambers (High Touch Technologies), recently donated a prime downtown location to launch the e2e Accelerator. It’s at that new site that John Dascher, President/CEO of e2e, and Accelerator Director Jacob Wayman have assembled a team who are working daily to recharge Wichita’s entrepreneurship environment.

Awareness was the first step taken by Oborny, Schwindaman and others to face Wichita’s entrepreneurship challenge. They started convening nearly 40 different organizations on a biweekly basis nearly three years ago to focus attention on the most pressing needs of our entrepreneurs and the gaps in our support of them. Our hats are off to the many loyal supporters who are still a part of that movement in the Wichita region.

One of those partners has been the Wichita district of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Entrepreneurs must have access to capital, and it was reported in August that SBA expects to achieve a near-record lending total of $85 million in fiscal year 2016 (ending September 30). That’s up more than 15% from $72.3 million in 2015. Wichita SBA Director Wayne Bell attributes the increase in lending to more awareness about the variety of financing tools available to startups. That’s a very positive step in the right direction.

We’re also impressed with some of the partnerships that private companies are undertaking. GroundWork is a startup incubator housed in the new offices of Builders Plus Construction in downtown Wichita. Builders Plus Construction CEO Chris Callen believes that entrepreneurism is the key to Wichita’s future and he’s committed to housing early-stage startups who are working collaboratively in the new space.

To further energize Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit, the Chamber has secured one of the most sought after entrepreneurial experts in the country to speak at our December 1 Annual Meeting. As a major investor on ABC’s Emmy-winning Shark Tank series, Daymond John has invested more than $8 million to date on 61 deals with entrepreneurs across the country.  And while he certainly understands the importance of venture capital investments, his most recent book also champions the “power of broke” and the importance of creativity, substance and passion in entrepreneurial ventures.

All of these “good news” activities are renewing and revitalizing Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit. The community leaders who are supporting these vital programs through financial investments, expertise and mentorship are too many to mention in this column. The Chamber applauds all of these efforts and is proud to be part of the growing network supporting the region’s businesses and advocating for the best possible business environment.

This column was originally published in the September issue of Synergy, the Chamber’s quarterly newsletter. Check this link for the full contents of the six-page issue.

Expose Your Biz, Grow Your Network

By Lyndsey Edwards

Are you looking for a good way to expose your business? The 2016 Exposure Business-to-Business Trade Show will be held Thursday, September 29 at Century II Expo Hall. Exposure is the largest trade show of its kind in the area with more than 220 exhibitors and 1,800 attendees. We invite you to register to exhibit your business at Exposure today! Not only will you get to promote your business and expand your network, but you’ll also get an exclusive look at new products and services.

Taylor Dixon with Criser, Gough and Parrish LLC said, “We meet hundreds of people at Exposure, which has led to new clients and relationships. The business connections are why we come back every year. The community connections we make at the show are irreplaceable as well.”

Make sure you check out the brochure that will hit your mailbox this week for all the details on how to register and to pick your booth space. Early-bird pricing ends one month from today on July 29, so make sure to get your registration in before the prices go up. For more details and to see a floor map, check out WichitaBusinessExposure.com.

2016 Exposure Brochure_CoverCrop

Chambers cohost Kansas Commerce Secretary

Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio Soavo met Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams during the Chamber reception.

Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio Soavo met Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams during the Chamber reception held yesterday.

Yesterday the Chamber cohosted an after-work reception with the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Kansas Commerce Secretary Antonio J. Soave. Soave was appointed to the position by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback late last year. More than one hundred business leaders and elected officials turned out to hear his remarks about the business climate in Kansas.

Soave, who earned a law degree from Michigan State and a master’s in international law from the University of San Diego, spoke eloquently and passionately about the partnerships he’s been establishing with Kansas businesses so that his department can add more value to their export plans. Addressing the group in both English and Spanish, he also talked about his efforts to aggressively recruit new companies to the state and build on current efforts to retain those businesses that are already established here.

Soave said that the Greater Wichita Partnership, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other area chambers are important partners in trade development plans and that he will continue working with them on retention and expansion efforts. He indicated that he is “doubling down” to help Kansas businesses attract new jobs to the state.

While Kansas companies are leaders in a variety of industries, Soave recognized that a competitive environment makes it important to utilize economic development tools to retain companies like Cargill. “Our companies here are resilient,” said Soave and they are known for their “integrity, drive and commitment.”

Photos from yesterday’s event are posted on Facebook. Our thanks to Pioneer Balloon for providing the reception location. Other sponsors included Greater Wichita Partnership, Kansas Global Trade Services, Molino’s Mexican Cuisine and the Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association.

The next Government Relations event is Wednesday, June 1, when U.S. Senator Jerry Moran will speak at a Federal Issue Forum luncheon. Register here.


New Engage & Ignite Small Business Conference Scheduled for May 11

2016_SBA_awards_4cLeading-edge ideas and enlightening discussions about the fundamentals of running a small business are the topics of a new conference that has been added to our annual Small Business Awards event. The Engage & Ignite Small Business Conference will be held on Wednesday, May 11, prior to the Small Business Awards Luncheon and the announcement of the 2016 Small Business of the Year.

Angie Elliott, Vice President of Business Services, says the new conference is the brainchild of the Small Business Awards planning committee. “The annual Small Business Awards luncheon is always well attended because people really enjoy learning the stories behind the success of our top ten small businesses. They like to peek behind the scenes and learn about the obstacles those businesses have overcome and how they can apply some of those lessons to their own organizations. We’ve been working on expanding that learning experience and the result is a new morning conference that will be followed by our annual luncheon.”

The conference will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency of Wichita. Three sessions are available for attendees every half hour with a short break in between. Topics range from Dealing with Common Family Business Challenges to Low-Cost Marketing Ideas. The luncheon begins at 11:15 a.m.

Elliott said the Small Business Awards committee kept the conference cost affordable at $15 per person. “We’re hoping that businesses will send more than one person to the conference since we have so many interesting speakers who are focused on providing valuable take-aways that attendees can immediately implement in their operations.”

Small Business Awards Events

Register for all events at wichitachamber.org.

Introducing our 2016 Small Business of the Year finalists

2016_SBA_awards_4cWe are pleased to announce the ten finalists for our 2016 Small Business of the Year award. This is the twelfth year for the Small Business Awards program, which is presented by the 2015 award recipients: Cornerstone Design and Development, Inc. and Zernco, Inc.

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 almost 90% 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 small businesses 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
Patton Termite and Pest Control
Specs Eyewear
TheraPlay Spot
Tru-Building, Inc.
Xclusive Events

Tier Two Finalists
Builders Plus Construction, LLC
Charles E. Mahaney Roofing Company
ComfortCare Homes, Inc.
Midwest Single Source, Inc.
The Martens Company

More than 100 small businesses were nominated for the award, and 25 completed the application process. The finalists will be featured at a Sunrise Scrambler event on April 14, and an Awards Luncheon will be held on May 11 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.

New to the Small Business Awards program this year is the Engage and Ignite Small Business Conference, which will take place from 9-11 a.m. prior to the Awards Luncheon on May 11. The conference will feature nine different workshops covering topics like employee appreciation, marketing, family business issues, growth and more.

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

2016 Finalists

2016 Finalists

2016 SBA Emerging Leaders program kicks off this Friday

By Lyndsey Edwards

Are you a small business owner looking to grow your company in Kansas? The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Emerging Leaders program can help you take your business to the next level.

Emerging LeadersThe Emerging Leaders Program is a class designed to specifically focus on the professional development of existing businesses ready for growth in Kansas – offered at no financial cost.

During the seven months, participants will learn to emerge a self-sustaining business with a three-year strategic growth action plan with benchmarks and performance targets that creates jobs and build communities. Participants will also have access to a network of peers and business leaders who continue to provide support and accountability as the growth plan is implemented.

2014 was the first year for the program to be offered in Wichita. In 2015, sixteen Wichita-area business professionals graduated from the program, including these seven chamber members:

Lynne Bird, Robi Lorik, Jeff Jones, Scott Wegerer  and Rob Whitmer

Lynne Bird, Robi Lorik, Jeff Jones, Scott Wegerer and Rob Whitmer

  • Lynne Bird of Wichita Stamp & Seal, Inc.
  • Jennifer Caughron of KeyCentrix, LLC
  • Robi Lorik of PWI, Inc.
  • Jorge Montoya of JMT Industries, Inc.
  • Scott Wegerer of Five Star Mechanical, Inc.
  • Rob Whitmer of Net-Ability, LLC
  • Jeff Jones of Tru-Building, Inc.

Jones said what he liked most about the class was that he was able to develop a clear, concise three to five year plan with great input from other business leaders, not only in class, but from the community as well. From the program, he gained great friends who are in similar business situations and also, a clearer understanding of what his strengths and weaknesses are. “Anyone serious about their business should commit the time to study with others about their business,” he said.

The program is offered for any businesses who meet the following criteria:

  • An established business (in existence for at least three years)
  • Annual gross revenues between $300,00 and $10 million
  • Have three or more employees (recommended)
  • Time commitment of the business owner, or executive “decision-maker”, to dedicate themselves to attend all thirteen classes and develop a strategic growth plan (a 100+ hour commitment).

The 2016 class will begin in April. Those interested in participating are invited to attend a free, one-hour information session this Friday, Feb. 19 from 3 – 4 p.m. at the Small Business Administration Office. Executives from the 2015 class will be available to answer questions and provide feedback.

Applications for the program are being accepted now until March 1. For more information, visit the SBA website or click here to apply.

Five panelists announced for Feb 11 Chairman’s Lunch

Barry at podium cropped

2016 Chamber Chairman Barry Schwan will host the annual Chairman’s Lunch on February 11.

The annual Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Chairman’s Lunch will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11 at INTRUST Bank Arena. A panel of five local leaders will dig deeper into Wichita’s four clear drivers of economic growth as presented during the first phase of the Focus Forward initiative.

Funded and managed by the Wichita Community Foundation, Focus Forward is a multi-year project focused on advancing the region’s future economic growth. James Chung, a Wichita native with Reach Advisors, recently presented his initial diagnosis about Wichita’s four most important growth challenges (business cycle, entrepreneurial, human capital and perception) to a number of Wichita audiences.

“Local business community leaders have been discussing Chung’s findings and are interested in learning more from elected officials about their thoughts on these same topics,” said Gary Plummer, President and CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. “This year’s program is an opportunity to demonstrate how the Chamber, the community’s local governing bodies, and other leading organizations are utilizing the information Chung shared with us to address the challenges he’s identified.”

The discussion, moderated by Plummer, will include the following panelists:

  • Barry Schwan, 2016 Chamber Chairman
  • Jeff Longwell, Mayor, City of Wichita
  • Bob Layton, Manager, City of Wichita
  • Jim Howell, Chairman, Sedgwick County Commission
  • Mike Scholes, Manager, Sedgwick County

This community event is open to the public. Tickets are $50 for chamber members, $60 for general admission, and $650 for a corporate table sponsorship (includes eight tickets and sponsorship benefits). Call Rachel Groene at 268-1127 or visit wichitachamber.org to purchase tickets.

Elliott named Chamber Vice President

Angie Elliott has been named Vice President of Business Services for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. Her promotion was effective January 1, 2016.

Angie Elliott has been named Vice President of Business Services for the Chamber.

Angie Elliott has been named Vice President of Business Services for the Chamber.

Elliott has been with the Chamber since 2008, when she was named Manager of Business Services. In her new role she oversees the largest business-related events in the community, including the Chamber’s Annual Meeting, Honors Night, and Exposure. In 2015, the Chamber recorded a total attendance of 9,600 at 34 business service events.

Chamber President & CEO Gary Plummer said that Elliott had been promoted as a result of her strong performance during her Chamber tenure, but particularly for assuming more leadership responsibility for her department in 2015. “She’s a strategic thinker who brings a great deal of leadership to our team. We feel very fortunate to have someone of her caliber dedicated to developing the events and programs our members need.”

Elliott earned her bachelor’s in Business from Friends University and earned a Master’s degree from Wichita State University. She’s a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Institute for Organization Management. Elliott has also volunteered for the Kansas Humane Society and is currently a Big Sister mentor.