Lead Bank takes home 2018 Mr. K Award

By Leslie Collins, KC Business Journal

For Lead Bank, giving back to the community is at its core, and it's one of the aspects that helped it land the coveted Mr. K Award Thursday during the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Celebration awards luncheon.

The award recognizes the Kansas City area's Small Business of the Year and is given to a company that not only is driving success but embraces the business philosophies of philanthropist and entrepreneur Ewing Marion Kauffman.

The 90-year-old community bank has supported the chamber's Big 5 initiative of becoming America's most entrepreneurial city by providing mentoring and co-working space to entrepreneurs,

as well as a pop-up retail space to highlight local businesses. It also provides credit to startups and venture capital firms and created the Impact Calculator to help companies determine their effect on the community.

Lead Bank's community involvement doesn't stop there, it also partnered with the city of Kansas City on its "For Change" initiative to help small businesses grow by providing special financing options.

Earlier this month, the Kansas City Business Journal recognized Lead Bank as a 2018 Champion of Business winner.

Wendy Guilllies, CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, introduced Lead Bank as a family- owned company that's dedicated to being at the heart of the success of the community.

"They're committed to thinking ahead, providing smart business solutions and being responsive to the needs of their clients," she said. "They have clearly demonstrated a commitment to the well-being of the Crossroads (Arts District) and to Kansas City."

As Lead Bank CEO Josh Rowland stood on stage to accept the Mr. K Award, he thanked the bank's directors, and in particular, his mother and bank chair Sarah Rowland.

"I'm a lucky guy to get to work in a family business led by mother," he said, adding that she was instrumental in leading the business when his father died in 2015. "We had to make a decision about what kind of business we were going to be, how we were going to do things. And she led the way for us to focus on our values and our true mission of being at the heart of the success of Kansas City and everyone we touch.

"I am grateful to her and I am grateful to our entire staff that we can come to you today to be a part of your success, to work with you and to always keep our minds, our hearts and our focus on compassion for each other, openness to new ideas, inclusiveness of this great, diverse community and nimbleness of spirit. ... Those values are represented so abundantly by all of the Top 10 winners today."

How the Chamber got to No. 1 The Small Business Celebration program is an extensive process that includes a small business showcase, an on-site visit with judges and a breakfast panel discussion with the CEOs of the Top 10 Small Businesses.

This year, an independent panel of judges reviewed 75 applications, which were narrowed to Lead Bank and the following nine other top small businesses:

Blue Nile Contractors Inc., Birmingham, Mo., is a minority-owned wet utility contractor that specializes in trenchless sewer and water construction.

Charlie Hustle, Kansas City, is a vintage-style clothing company known for its sports and collegiate wear. One of its most popular designs is the KC heart, which has been sported by actor Paul Rudd. International Express Trucking Inc., Kansas City, Kan., is one of the largest woman-owned transportation businesses in the six-state Midwest region and now has 85 trucks serving the Midwest. Orbis Biosciences Inc., Lenexa, provides pharmaceutical companies a tech solution to manufacturing challenges and to innovation. Pro Athlete Inc., Kansas City, is an e-commerce company that specializes in the sale of baseball and softball bats and gloves. Royal Services Inc., Stilwell, is a family-owned integrated facility project management company that has worked with clients such as Hallmark Cards Inc. and Sprint Corp. SwimZip, Prairie Village, developed a line of UPF 50+ protective swimwear and accessories line to help users avoid skin cancer. Veracity Consulting Inc., Prairie Village, is a tech consulting group that bridges the gap between business and technology. Wellington, Overland Park, is a women-owned strategic events and marketing communications agency that specializes in designing and creating events that are hyper-focused on brand curation.

In addition to the Mr. K Award, the chamber handed out four specialty awards:

Diverse Small Business of the Year Award: Veracity Consulting Inc. International Small Business of the Year Award: Orbis Biosciences Inc.