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UMKC Bloch School Honors Hometown Entrepreneurs

34th annual celebration recognizes Cerner founders and Kansas City leaders
photo of heart and soul spelled in large letters on Bloch Executive Hall stairs

“Everything that Henry touched was heart and soul first,” said Roasterie founder Danny O’Neil in a warming tribute to the late Henry W. Bloch.

That’s just one of the many lessons Bloch shared with a community of entrepreneurs who sat at his feet and sought his wisdom. And, in true Henry Bloch fashion, the 34th Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, hosted by the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management, was celebratory of the collaborative work it takes to turn dreams into reality.

“In the past few years, we’ve been saying ‘let’s make Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city,’ and we’ve worked together to make that happen,” said UMKC Innovation Center Director Maria Meyers, the Marion and John Kreamer Awardee for Social Entrepreneurship. Meyers founded KCSourceLink, a repository of resources for entrepreneurs in the Kansas City region that has been replicated across the nation.

Meyers accepts award from Mary Bloch as they shake hands on stage

Many of the 2019 honorees shed light on their climbs to success, the leaps of faith it took to get their ideas off the ground and the support from the Kansas City community it took to not give up. People, passion and persistence were the rippling themes of the evening.

“Persistence is the most important character trait for an entrepreneur. It’s essential for success,” said Kansas City Entrepreneur of the Year Michael Rea. “During the difficult times, knowing what you’re fighting for will get you through.”

“Kansas City is a town built by entrepreneurs,”
- Cerner co-founder Cliff Illig, International Entrepreneur of the Year/Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductee

Rea, founder and CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, added that he didn’t start his company because he thought it would make him rich but because he thought it was the right thing to do.

“If you’re not actually creating a change or making a difference in someone’s life, so what?” repeated Zach Anderson Pettet, managing director of Fountain City Fintech at nbckc bank, in his recollection of lessons Bloch passed down.

“Through their entrepreneurial spirits, our honorees have shown what it takes to grow an idea into a successful business and that education these days is more than just about landing your dream job. Education, now, is about creating your dream job,” said Brian Klaas, dean of the Bloch School. Which is what junior business administration major, Ali Brandolino, leans on to find her drive and success in college – through entrepreneurial experiences as a member of UMKC Enactus.

“I’ve realized that my idea of entrepreneurship wasn’t changing the world myself, but inspiring others to change the world. I’m a social entrepreneur and I hope to create my own social venture someday,” said the Enactus vice president and Student Entrepreneur of the Year.

Ali Brandolino speaks at podium

“There’s a long-existing theory that suggests when you dream out loud – when you speak your ideas into the universe – they are more likely to come back to you,” said Tom Bloch. “We could say that’s what happened for Cerner co-founders and Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductees Neal Patterson, Paul Gorup and Cliff Illig.

From an idea generated around a park bench to one of the largest healthcare technology companies in the world 40 years later, Cerner employs more than 29,000 associates in 26 countries worldwide. Illig shared gems from the founders’ journey for attendees to take away.

  1. Treat employees as business associates
  2. Create a collaborative culture to tackle complex problems together
  3. Share the success with your team
  4. Get all of your employees in a room and talk

“I’ve realized that my idea of entrepreneurship wasn’t changing the world myself, but inspiring others to change the world." - Ali Brandolino

“Kansas City is a town built by entrepreneurs,” said Illig. Recalling words from co-founder Neal Patterson, he said “the only way that Kansas City can grow and thrive is through the efforts of its entrepreneurs. We’re not going to attract the big national companies to relocate or headquarter in our city. We have to grow our own.”

All proceeds from the Entrepreneur of the Year awards directly benefit the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s student and community programs. The Regnier Institute at the Bloch School focuses on connecting students and community members with a comprehensive combination of world-class research, renowned faculty, cutting-edge curriculum and experimental programs driven to deliver results and nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Learn more about the Regnier Institute


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