KC’s Makers Take Center Stage in Young Alumni Event

Thursday, March 1, 2018
Chase McAnulty speaking at Meet the Makers

A children’s book author, a “T-shirt guy,” a storeowner and marketing guru, and an internationally recognized chef.

They come from different perspectives and backgrounds, and they focus on very different things, but it quickly became clear the lineup at Wednesday’s Meet the Makers event, sponsored by the University’s Young Alumni Council, are all in the business of big ideas.

The four featured speakers — author Audrey Masoner, ’00; Tyler Enders of Made in KC; Chase McAnulty of Charlie Hustle; and Celina Tio, former executive chef at the American restaurant and owner of Julian and current owner of the Belfry Lounge — each took the stage to share insights in TED Talk-style presentations. They waxed sometimes philosophic, but just as often practical, about being lucky, of being fearless, and of being a Kansas Citian.

“Kansas City is really a place where anything can happen,” Masoner said.

It was part of a story about how she by chance met Aja James, the daughter of Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James, ’80, and how that encounter led to her following a long-held dream of writing a children’s book, Mayor Sly and the Magic Bowtie, a trip through Kansas City’s history with its charismatic current leader. She called similar chance encounters “magical points,” and encouraged those in the audience to sieze on them when they can.

Having worked with hundreds of small businesses, Enders, a co-founder of Made in KC’s growing network of creative endeavors that includes retail shops, cafes, and maker spaces, said many of the most successful share some common traits — sustainability, personal fulfillment and low levels of stress. And that makes sense from a purely practical standpoint, he said.

“If you’re not profitable, you’re not going to be sustainable financially; if it’s not fulfilling, you’re likely going to give up or lose interest relatively quickly; and any business that adds a lot of stress to your life certainly won’t be sustainable either,” he said.

For Tio, the James Beard Award-winning chef who has appeared on Iron Chef and Top Chef and is current owner of the Belfry Lounge, being successful by her own metrics meant learning how and when to take risks.

“I believe that you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations if you want great things to happen,” she said. “I cannot wait until the timing is right because it might not ever be right.”

But success doesn’t always happen the same way twice. McAnulty's company Charlie Hustle started as a one-off project and grew quickly as a company when its KC heart T-shirt became an icon of civic pride overnight. Navigating that sudden spotlight — and the business challenges that came with it – was rewarding even as it left he and his other employees scrambling to catch up and turn their idea into what he called a “predictable success.”

“We built this brand from a creative standpoint — now we have to build a business,” he said. “How do we do that?”

See photos from Meet the Makers! here.