Great Article and video from Wichita Eagle on winning Best Small Business 2016. http://www.kansas.com/news/business/article77075537.html
Perhaps none of the 10 Wichita businesses on hand for Wednesday’s Small Business Awards luncheon were as prepared to celebrate a victory as the co-owners of Xclusive Events.
After all, Xclusive – owned by siblings Crystal McDonald and Cody Lathrop – is a contract bartending business. Translation: They knew what to do after being named Wichita’s top small business in Tier One (up to 25 employees) for 2016.
“Champagne,” replied McDonald when asked what was next for her and her business a few minutes after the announcement.
In Tier Two (26 to 100 employees), Comfort Care Homes took the top spot.
The event – which took place at the Hyatt Regency Wichita downtown – is put on annually by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. The Eagle’s Business Today was a sponsor of the 12th annual awards.
McDonald didn’t try to hide her emotions while accepting the award, letting her tears of happiness do most of the talking.
The trademarks for Xclusive are its two booze trucks, including a Drink Local truck that serves only local brews, teas and coffees. The company also has a fried-food wagon.
McDonald and Lathrop grew up working in their parents’ concession truck, which traveled from small-town festival to small-town festival.
“We know the other four nominees in our tier and their companies,” Lathrop said. “We think they were all just as deserving, if not more.
“We weren’t expecting this.”
The company, which was founded in 2007, specializes in wedding receptions, corporate functions and “any event where booze is needed,” Lathrop said.
According to Lathrop, achieving success in the small business realm is about hard work and being willing to try new things.
“We weren’t afraid to fail,” Lathrop said. “When something didn’t work, we wrote it off but kept moving on.
“Part of it is about determination, but we also got the right crew to work with us. Once you get motivated people that want to be in the business, it spreads like wildfire.”
In the large business tier, dementia-care company Comfort Care Homes earned the top spot.
The business features specialized homes and environments for those with memory impairment issues, including Alzheimer’s patients.
After the ceremony, owner Doug Stark said it was nice that his line of work, often not the most glamorous, was recognized.
“What we do is not for the faint of heart,” Stark said. “It’s a taxing situation for people, and we work 24/7, 365 days out of the year. We always kind of fly under the radar.
“Nobody really cares about Alzheimer’s care unless they’re in the middle of having a family member with Alzheimer’s. To be publicly recognized, it’s just incredible.”
Doug’s father, Charles Stark, and mother, Mary Lou, had the idea for the company after Charles’ parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the 1980s. The first Comfort Care unit opened in 1993.
Charles Stark was recognized during the ceremony, though Mary Lou was unable to attend for health reasons.
“It’s thrilling to win,” said Charles Stark, who remains involved in the business in an advisory role. “I didn’t think we were going to win, but it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Doug Stark said his company couldn’t have grown to what it is today without its dedicated team of close to 80 employees.
“Our goal when we started was to be the premier dementia care provider in Wichita,” he said. “I’m happy for our caregivers because they’re the people who smile and work through days that can be very tough.”
After nearly everyone had filed out of the hotel Wednesday afternoon, Doug Stark joked that the Comfort Care and Xclusive teams should have a neighborhood get-together. He and Crystal McDonald live just a few blocks away from each other in the Central and Woodlawn area of Wichita.
“My entire management group is coming over on Friday,” Doug Stark told McDonald. “If you hear noise from my backyard from about 4:30 until 9, you’ll know why.”
After all, when it comes to celebrating, McDonald and Lathrop are the people to call.Previous: Documentary – ALIVE INSIDE – Encore Showing
I will always be grateful for the founder’s presentation to Downtown Wichita Kiwanis 20 years ago. His (Charles Stark) comments stayed with me, making the choice of care providers easy for me. Smaller really is better. I am familiar with several “retirement” communities and “memory care” services. Very few match the quality of care provided my ComfortCare Homes. Thank you.
- Barrick Wilson