Business

Tears, faith in emotional small-business competition awards

Jennifer Ray, owner of the Monarch, accepts the Tier I award from past recipient Crystal McDonald of Xclusive Event Services during the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Awards at the Hyatt. (May 24, 2017)
Jennifer Ray, owner of the Monarch, accepts the Tier I award from past recipient Crystal McDonald of Xclusive Event Services during the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Awards at the Hyatt. (May 24, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

The Monarch, a restaurant and bar in Delano, and Mahaney Roofing were both named Small Business of the Year award winners on Wednesday by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The awards, which were presented during a luncheon event Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Wichita, are in two categories that recognize one company each. Tier I companies have 25 or fewer employees, and Tier II companies have between 26 and 100 employees.

Scott Schwindaman, chairman of the chamber, said the choices among the nine finalists were incredibly difficult this year because each of the finalists was good enough to win.

This year’s event held plenty of emotion. Crystal McDonald, co-owner of Xclusive Events, who won the award last year and got emotional then, teared up again this year as she opened the envelope for the Tier I winner.

“And the winner is – Oh, I think I’m going to cry again – the Monarch” said McDonald.

Monarch owner Jennifer Ray, too, choked up as she came to the podium to receive the award.

“I am so humble right now,” she said. “I spent the last, what, six months looking at all the businesses that made it this far, and especially the businesses in my tier, taking them apart and looking at all the amazing qualities they had and all the reasons why these businesses win. I’m so humble to be with the rest of you, because you are all so amazing.”

Ray said later that she started the Monarch four years ago and never expected to be on a stage receiving an award, to be held up as a model for others.

“I wasn’t where I thought I was going to be,” she said of her moment on the stage. “I thought I was just going to open this cute little sandwich shop and that would be my life. And here I am trying to be a pillar of the community. It’s going to take a minute to absorb that.”

Damon Young, vice president of Mahaney, delivered a moving acceptance speech laying out how company leaders are acting out their faith by taking as employees those who need a second or third chance in life and giving them the opportunity to succeed through hard work.

“There is a verse in the Bible that says ‘Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,’ ” Young said. “And right now, our hearts are full, and they are full of gratitude and really full of pride.”

After he thanked his customers, competitors, company managers and families, he thanked those employees.

“We are bursting with pride in the men who do the work every day,” he said. “Whether it’s 30 degrees outside or 100 degrees outside, they are out there. They’re on your buildings doing a difficult job safely to put the roof on tight. We are appreciative of the people who transform their lives because of the promise of the future.”

Small Business Awards finalists in Tier I included McCurdy Auction, Reverie Coffee Roasters and the Workroom. Etezazi Industries withdrew from the competition. Finalists in Tier II included Builders Plus Construction, Elite Staffing Solutions, Fiber Dynamics and McGinty Machine.

The finalists were chosen from among 26 applicants. More than 120 businesses were nominated.

To qualify for the competition, a business must be headquartered in the Wichita metro area; have been in business for at least three years; demonstrate a commitment to good business practices; maintain good employee relations; contribute to the community; have primary source of revenue from business operations, rather than grants, donors or governmental funding; and be a member in good standing of the chamber at the time of application.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis

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