Visionary Leaders Honored by UMKC Bloch School

Four receive Entrepreneur of the Year awards

The University of Missouri-Kansas City honored four exceptional business leaders at its 35th Annual Entrepreneur of the Year awards Nov. 12.

The celebration, sponsored by the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the university’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management, was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The evening’s program began with a Student Venture Showcase, followed by the awards program.

The 2020 honorees include:

  • Henry W. Bloch International Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Yvon Chouinard, founder, Patagonia. He was cited for his global impact for not only building a company but transforming his industry. Chouinard is an itinerant adventurer, passionate activist and iconoclastic businessman. In 1973, he founded Patagonia, a mission-driven company known for its environmental and social initiatives.
  • Kansas City Entrepreneur of the Year: Nathaniel Hagedorn, founder and CEO, NorthPoint Development. With 18 years of commercial real estate experience, Hagedorn has helped raise more than $7 billion in capital over the last eight years for the company’s real estate investments. The NorthPoint family of companies has grown to include the real estate development and management company, an international logistics and freight forwarding firm, a third-party logistics company, warehouse technology and supply-chain integration company, and an industrial architectural and engineering firm.
  • Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship: Robert W. Hatch, chairman and CEO, Cereal Ingredients, Inc. and Great Plains Analytical Lab. Hatch founded Cereal Ingredients, a specialty-food ingredients manufacturer, and Great Plains Analytical Laboratory in 1990. Hatch is also Chairman of FINCA International (Foundation for International Community Assistance), a not-for-profit microfinance organization with a mission to provide financial services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living. FINCA pioneered the “village banking method” of credit delivery, which offers small loans and a savings program to those without access to traditional banks.
  • Student Entrepreneur of the Year: Jonaie Johnson. Currently a Dean’s List business student and athlete at UMKC majoring in entrepreneurship, Johnson started her company, Interplay, when she was accepted into the Bloch School E-Scholars program. Interplay is working towards automating pet interaction by providing dog owners with an interactive, automated dog crate. Last year, she was a starter on the UMKC Roos Western Athletic Conference champion women’s basketball team.

Tom and Mary Bloch, son and daughter-in-law of Bloch School patron and namesake Henry W. Bloch, served as the evening’s co-hosts.

“One thing Dad was really big on was finding creative solutions to our toughest challenges, and tonight, right now, our friends at UMKC and the Bloch School are showing us how that’s done,” Tom Bloch said.

Chancellor Mauli Agrawal thanked the Bloch family for their continuing support and involvement at UMKC.

“Their generosity has helped us continue our efforts to increase access to higher education and inspire students to use their entrepreneurship to lend a helping hand and make the world a better place,” Agrawal said. “We are taking real-world challenges and issues and finding solutions and opportunity through entrepreneurial problem-solving. It’s what Henry would have done, and it’s what we will continue to do…and then some.”

As part of the unique virtual format, this year’s program included a panel discussion among three local entrepreneurs on the topic of adjusting to the “new normal” of the pandemic. The panel was moderated by Maria Meyers, executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center. Participants included Chris Beier, co-founder, Strange Days Brewing Co.; Riddhiman Das, co-founder and CEO, TripleBlind; and Lyndsey Gruber, founder and CEO, PEPPR.

The program also featured an appeal for continued support of the Bloch School’s Summer Scholars program, a beneficiary of the Entrepreneur of the Year program proceeds. Summer Scholars is a 2-week intensive summer program for incoming freshman and transfer students.

Ben Williams, assistant teaching professor at the Bloch School and managing director of the Regnier Institute; and Ali Brandolino, president of the UMKC Enactus team and last year’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year, discussed the program’s features and benefits.

“The goal of Summer Scholars is to kick start students’ college careers, help them build an entrepreneurial mindset that can be applied to any career track, and to encourage the students to get involved in the amazing programs and organizations at the Bloch School,” Williams said.

“As a past participant in the Summer Scholars program, I have seen the benefits,” Brandolino said. “It taught me the basics of entrepreneurship that I've used in many other courses, Enactus and my own business. Early in my journey I learned how to ideate, interview, prototype, test, and pitch.”

The Entrepreneur of the Year Awards event is an iconic Kansas City tradition started in 1985. Beyond its philanthropic cause, this event is a valuable forum where Kansas City CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, industry legends, world-class faculty and students alike are able to celebrate a common passion. The event celebrates entrepreneurial spirit and serves as a source of inspiration to future generations of innovative entrepreneurs.

All proceeds from this event 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.

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