11 Kansas City Entrepreneurs That Defined 2014

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Kansas City entrepreneurs had a good year; these are the best-of-the-best that 2014 had to offer…

Matt Baldwin – Baldwin Denim

Matt Baldwin is the most frustratingly phenomenal Kansas City entrepreneur in recent history. I say this because he’s got a beautiful family, he’s far better looking than just about everyone I know, he’s Steve Jobs-esq articulate, he’s had more than a handful of viral products, he leases the most pristine retail locations in KC, and the list goes on. If he doesn’t invoke at least a little bit of jealousy: you’re not paying attention. Speaking of things that would be hard to miss if you weren’t paying attention is the emergence of “the KC hat”. Thanks to great design, distribution, and ever-flowing KC pride, this hat took off like a rocket-ship in 2014.

Steve Holle – KC Bier Company

Boulevard Brewing Company will always have a place in our hearts; but after they were acquired the entrepreneur within all of us was both happy and sad. Happy for the well deserving founding entrepreneurs, and sad that we lost a truly hometown fan favorite. Enter, KC Bier Company. The BetaBlox team is a bunch of beer snobs, so we don’t say this lightly: this is some of the best beer we’ve ever tasted. They’ve got great design, growing distribution, and a product that will hopefully stand the test of time.

Toby Rush – EyeVerify

You can’t go to any tech circle around town and not hear about EyeVerify. Their founding story isn’t typical by any means, but very much so uniquely Kansas City. Their leader, Toby Rush, has eloquently pulled together resources and teams from every nook in-town. UMKC, The Startup Village, Think Big, Pipeline, private Kansas City angel investors, and more have all been leveraged to bring the product where it is today. One day in the not too distant future, even the least tech savvy Kansas Citian will know what an eye-print is, and it will be because of EyeVerify.

Tracy Ford – Virtutecture

Architecture. Engineering. Real Estate. These are some of the biggest industries in the world. Leave it to Tracy Ford to figure out a way to make all of their jobs easier. It’s possible to now see what the building they’re designing will actually look like in a way that hasn’t been possible with this level of quality in the history of design. How is this done? He takes a boring and hard to interpret blueprint, converts it to Unity (essentially making it into a video game), and then reads the game via an Occulus Rift (virtual reality headset) that you wear inside of a 10.5 foot in diameter sphere that sits on wheels as if it was a stationary gerbil ball. So you actually get inside of the globe, put on a virtual reality headset, and walk around the pre-constructed building. If this won’t help architects and engineers win some proposals we don’t know what will.

Chase McAnulty – Charlie Hustle

Kansas City pride is a powerful thing. Think about it for a second. It has a the ability to create an atmosphere at Arrowhead that is unmatched by any other stadium in the country – despite it being outdoors and the team not having won a Super Bowl since the sixties. It has the ability to help Johnny Dare at 98.9 raise yet again another ridiculously commendable amount of money for Kansas Citians that need a helping hand with their 18th year of Hope For The Holidays. It has the ability to motivate thousands of citizens to congregate in the freezing cold for the Plaza Lights Ceremony, despite it being nothing more than the flip of a switch. Another thing that Kansas City pride can fuel its entrepreneurs; and that’s what happened with Chase McAnulty and his hit fashion company, Charlie Hustle. His “heart KC” shirts could not be more popular than they are right now, and will undoubtedly remain a staple in our closets for decades to come. And he’s right, we do love KC; and we also love him for being yet another reason KC is banded together as one.

Nathan Corn – FlexPro

FlexPro is most assuredly one of the fastest growing companies (by revenue and customer base) in Kansas City. They ship gourmet meals to their customer’s doors weekly; so all you have to do is heat up your meal before breakfast, lunch, or dinner and chow down. It’s geared towards athletes and/or people that are trying to lose weight, or gain muscle. Their kitchen (the 2nd largest commercial kitchen in Kansas City) is lead by an executive chef and his team, and the business side of things is led by Nathan Corn – one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the city with this size of an operation. They ship to 35+ states weekly, and they’re preparing for a huge New Year’s resolution spike.

Micah Lacerte and Diana Chaloux – HitchFit

Granted, this isn’t a single entrepreneur, but a partnership. Their business model and team is a romantic dance. I meant this first and foremost because they’ve established themselves as a differentiated and powerful gym/fitness business in a city where the big box gyms rule. Secondly, they’re married – which should be inspirational to any couple debating starting a company together. Pair a membership to HitchFit with a FlexPro diet and watch 2015 transform your look and feel. 

Alan Gaylin – Bread & Butter Concepts

Gram & Dun, Urban Table, Taco Republic, BRGR….what do these amazing restaurants have in common? They’re all founded and run by the same team! It’s been amazing to watch as they pop up new and fresh restaurant concepts all over the city; each with unique menus, design, and business models.

Kirk Hasenzahl – Rarewire

BetaBlox receives hundreds of applications every quarter, many of them mobile app related. Each of them have the same problem: who is going to build the thing? Meet Rarewire, the solution we turn to more times than not to fix this problem. Rarewire has built a platform that empowers developers to build their own apps. What’s even cooler is they’ve built the UI/UX to be geared towards new or first-time mobile developers. The kind of people that have a grip on traditional programming, but haven’t yet to dabble in mobile, AKA the biggest market of developers there is. Although this team has had an impressive start, their growth is pointed to the moon.  

Bo Nelson – Thou Mayest

The Crossroads District is hot right now, and one of the many reasons is thanks to Bo Nelson. Bo’s concept: Thou Mayest – part coffee shop, part bar, part co-working space where the city’s ‘work hard/play hard’ leaders come to do just that – work and play. The staff is expertly trained, know their stuff, and actually enjoy interacting with their patrons. If you haven’t checked out this local hot spot, do so ASAP.

Davyeon Ross – ShotTracker

99% of the time when I call someone a serial entrepreneur, it’s an insult. To me it implies a person that bounces from one idea to the next without any sort of follow through on any of them. Davyeon Ross is a serial entrepreneur, but falls in that 1% that should be worn like a badge. His previous companies, one in particular, went on to be some of Kansas City’s great success stories. One of which he took from idea-to-exit. Now, he’s working side-by-side with fellow one percenter serial entrepreneur, Bruce Ianni. Their new product: ShotTracker. It’s a clever tech invention that is most easily described as a FitBit for basketball. It has three parts, (1) the hardware that you wear on your arm to detect when you shoot a basketball, (2) the hardware that sits on the net to detect missed/made shots, and (3) the mobile software that keeps track of all that data as if it was Google analytics for basketball. Although there are a million ways this technology can be used for work and practice, it can also be used for just plain fun. Can you imagine challenging a friend on the other side of the world to a game of horse in real-time? Well, now that’s not a dream but a reality. Welcome to the future of basketball.