Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Faulkner's Ranch: Down home fun for all ages

If I were a kindergartener and my mother took me to Faulkner Ranch in October, it would be one of the highlights of my year. In October Bob and Marilyn Faulkner, son Matt, and daughter Christine Loneman magically transform their ranch into a Fall pumpkin depot galloping with movement to keep up with drifting leaves from trees on their twenty acres. This newer property is evidence of a lifetime of making people happy is in every detail of convenience and fun.

Bob watched his parents build a western wear business that operated for more than thirty-five years. What started in their living room expanded to a little storefront at 79th and Wornall in Kansas City, Missouri to a massive location known as Faulkner Western Wear.

“My mother was the original telemarketer,” Bob said jokingly. “I remember her making calls to enroll people in her round dance classes, while Dad went calling square dances.  Square dancers came to our house to buy petticoats. My three siblings and I handed out flyers at the Municipal Center’s square dance festivals, advertising their business.” An avid reader who used to sit and wait each week for the Bookmobile to come by, he and his sibling had plenty of outdoor time with their ponies and horses. 

Bob’s high school sweetheart, whom he met in drama class and married in 1965, had quite a different family history. Marilyn’s childhood memories are rich with family and friends, not businesses. It never occurred to her that she would be part of a family business someday. Now she’s proud to be part of her family’s accomplishments. So many of her friends are saddened that they rarely see their children or grandchildren because everyone is so busy. Marilyn is grateful that is not her story.

Matt and Christine grew up on the property the community remembers as Faulkner’s original Pumpkin Farm. Christine shared some childhood memories. “We were always outside. We had the freedom of forty acres. We romped around the pasture. And my friends and I had a Nature Kids’ Club.” In fact now when she sees her two children and her brother’s two romping around the farm, she loves it. And she makes sure they know the gift they have.  Christine’s fairly convinced the pumpkin transformation at Faulkner’s Ranch grew so fast partly because it was a re-creation of her youth.

So I asked about her ‘job.’ After all, she had no intention of joining her parents in business when she left for Mizzou.  Even though she grew up around the western wear store of her grandparents, she didn’t ever really work in it. “But when George Brett came in to buy new boots” she made sure she dressed up in new cowgirl clothes and was on the floor near the shoe section.  Yet today she quickly replied, “Work is fun. I never had to work in a cubicle. I’m glad for that. And I tell my friends, you will succeed in anything you are passionate about. Otherwise, why steal time from your family? It has to be worth it. For me, I am not stealing time from my family because they are all around me all the time. Especially in our country, everyone has opportunities. You can do what you want and love and you will always succeed and not burn out.”

Bob chimed in, “I grew up in a family with an entrepreneurial spirit. They taught me what I hope I have passed down to my children: you can accomplish much with hard work and by treating people equally and nice. And whatever it takes, you’d better love it.”

This philosophy is likely why Faulkner’s Ranch is loved by every person who spends time there, from little school children to families or even someone like me, now, at a company picnic.

Faulkner’s Ranch is run by a team and if the employees are not family, they are like family who have been with them for years. “With a team you can accomplish anything you want to do,” Bob said, adding that the future of this place is with Christine and Matt. He sees his grandchildren moving up next.  They already show evidence of the Faulkner entrepreneurial spirit.

At Faulkner’s Pumpkin Farm, 10600 Raytown Road, you’ll find folks who love making sure your visit is the best imaginable.  Let the child within gather a great pumpkin memory between 10 am and 6 pm daily.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Bennetts: Connecting Businesses Far and Wide

How can two people from surprisingly different backgrounds build a hugely successful business? Meet Bob and Linda Bennett, owners of Comm World of Kansas City.

A bit of history

From her earliest childhood Linda, of Lee’s Summit, wanted to be an actress. She followed that dream through college by majoring in theatre at University of Kansas. Although she admits that she only went to college because her friends did, she knows it was a good decision. Soon she realized that Linda and acting were not a practical blend. For several years she taught public speaking, debate, mass media and theatre to students with the same love at the former Grandview East Junior High. She developed the theatre program there and discovered that, “Junior high kids can do some pretty amazing things.”

Born in Ironton, Missouri, Bob followed his father’s practical life advice to all seven siblings. “My whole concept was that if I treat people right, if I do things right and put great effort into whatever I do, then whatever I do is going to turn out okay. So I did not have any aspirations.” He left home at 17, eventually joined the Air Force and then used his military electronics and communications skills in the workforce.

As fate would have it, Bob knew some of Linda’s friends which led to their meeting in Westport one night in December 1975. They were married two years later.

“I had always wanted to go to college, even though my family was not very big on it,” Bob shares. “When I met Linda I was employed but by our first date I was a student. I decided on the spur of a moment to use my GI Bill for college before it expired. Longview Community College was the only school that would accept me into the semester.” From Longview, the man who attended a one room school house in first grade continued to earn an MBA from University of Missouri Kansas City.

After his graduation, Bob convinced Linda that, “She could go further and do more in the business world.” She believed him and has proven it so.

“We had the opportunity to be minority owners in a small business. But it did not work out well,” Linda confides. When the Bennetts realized the dishonesty of their partner they walked out, leaving them flat broke.

“It just seemed like everything was going south for us,” Bob adds.

“Things around our house were breaking,” Linda continues. “We weren’t running the air conditioning to save money but every window had been painted shut. They were actually breaking while we tried to open them.

“Worst during that time was when our two year old dachshund became paralyzed because of a ruptured disc in her back.” The only chance was an expensive surgery at University of Missouri Columbia. “We absolutely did not have the money. But she was our kid and there was no question. When she came back she was still paralyzed. We walked her and did water therapy with her everyday for four months. One day we saw a twitch in her little back legs. Two weeks later she was walking.” Scarlett lived to age 19.

A month after the business fail, Linda’s father hired them to paint houses for his handyman business. Bob tells the story of a pivotal point in their life journey when, at that time, a friend recommended they read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. “We both read that book and started the goal list. We still have the original pages. My number one goal was to own a Corvette. In June of ’83, I put five thousand down on a new Corvette. Linda’s big goal was a trip to Europe. That’s when goal setting became real to us. The book was so uplifting. And I thought, you know, this will work if I want it to. When you’re at the bottom you just have to look up. When we made that list, we believed it. We’ve scratched off over a page of those goals, including owning our own business and a little farm with horses.”

A few weeks later Bob answered an ad to manage the Kansas City branch of Comm World. The head of the company flew in from Denver to interview Bob even though he had offered the job to someone else. He was intrigued by Bennett and promised that if the other applicant waivered, Bob would be the first person to know. Three days later he called, “He waivered.”

“I started Comm Word of Kansas City on October 19, 1981. And it turned out to be pretty good because a few months later they decided to franchise. Linda and I bought the first franchise offered.”

Linda fills in, “That was buying it on paper, not giving anybody any money. We still didn’t have any.”

Bob continues, “At its peak Comm World had sixty-eight offices nationwide. We were always in the top three. Linda and I helped sell the concept and developed the complete sales program for the whole network.”

Any changes over the years?

“Before I met Bob, I had a negative impression of sales people that they were just trying to get me to buy something I didn’t need or want. He taught me that the profession of sales is honorable, that a good sales person is looking out for the best interest of clients.  A good sales person’s goal is to get clients what they really need and/or want even when they don’t know what they need or want. That’s very true in our industry because most people don’t buy phone systems everyday. We have to guide them. For me, there’s been a lot of sales training and learning. We’ve been privileged to be part of organizations that have been helpful in learning how to be a better business owner. Like the Helzburg Entrepreneur Mentoring Program. We were a “25 under 25” business award winner, which is a gift that keeps on giving because of their programs that have helped both of us.”

Bob continues, “The first twenty years Linda and I did not join many organizations. We just put our nose to the ground when we realized this was a very competitive industry. It could even be very mean, which we learned in the first year or two. We kind of went under the radar and decided that we were going to run an excellent company that makes sure all customers are taken care of. In 2001, we joined an organization that impressed on us the need to get back into the community and start giving back. It’s been very good.

“When I was in the fifth grade I read about Einstein only using twenty percent of his brain. I thought, everyone should use at least that much if Einstein did. And in fifth grade I thought to myself, somewhere, somehow there are keys that when you attain these keys you can unlock your capabilities to use more than twenty percent of your brain. I kept it in the back of my mind that one day I would search for those keys. Well, about ten years ago I started searching for them and slowly but surely through my studies I am starting to find one at a time. It’s proving to be very, very interesting.”

CommWorld and You

CommWorld of Kansas City celebrates 30 years in October 2011, which is quite an accomplishment for two people who never dreamed about so great an accomplishment until just about thirty years ago.  It proves they know how to serve their clients well. CommWorld provides phone systems and equipment, voicemail, and all kinds of related products to keep businesses connected to the outside world.  When your business is looking for the best and most affordable systems that will keep you connected with seamless communications in and out of the office, Bob and Linda Bennett will discover, with you, the unique plan to make that happen. Contact them at 6200 Main Street, Grandview, Missouri or 816.763.1100. CommWorld of Kansas City.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Candice Diddle: Capturing Life's Best Moments

As a young teen Candice Diddle’s dreams about what she wanted to be when she grew up were varied. “I wanted to be a veterinarian but I didn't think I could handle the sadness that came from it.  But really what I wanted was to save animals. I wanted to have land and have them all out there.
Then I thought I wanted to be a travel agent because I like the idea of traveling.” The busy and attractive young mother of four today had no idea she would someday be leading an active women’s networking group and run her own business, too.

Living in a family that moved many times, Candice cherished times with friends. That included English style horseback riding, much time with friends, and on the phone. Some of her best memories are of visiting her grandparents in Pittsburg, Kansas, where she was born. The visits with her grandmother are “treasured memories because my grandmother’s not around anymore.”

She met her high school sweetheart, Jerry, at work. “I was working in an ice cream store in Olathe and I saw him come in with this family and he was bulkin’ up for football. So he kept comin’ into the ice cream store and one afternoon we just got to talking. Found out he was the guy from Michigan my friend had told me about. So we just became friends. Eventually I started dating Jerry and next thing you know a year later we’re married.” Their youngest of four children are 13 year old twins.

From volunteering in the schools when her children were young to having fun with Creative Memories for a time, Candice’s life is quite different now. She reflects with a bit of incredulity in her voice, “I'm a very shy personality.
I have grown a lot over the last three years (since the networking group began). I have a lot of respect for people that come to something and not know anybody, not know a single soul. I have a lot of respect for that because I need my sidekick.” Not many people will find those words believable as they watch this pretty blonde lead a group of eighty-plus business women in relationship building, aka networking, for the success of their businesses.

Candice and a few friends organized Kansas City Women’s Network, originally a MeetUp group, in 2010. It has developed a life of its own with a personal website and private Facebook group to sing the praises of its members. The women support members by purchasing services or products from each other, giving public shout outs, and forming friendships through their joint activities. Except for the fact that it is led by volunteers, KCWN is operated as a successful small business.

Amazingly, when the group first formed, Candice did not actually have her own business. She tells how her business came about, “I’ve always had a passion for photography. I was always taking pictures of the kids growing up and taking pictures of the boys in their sports. My friend Dena said I should make a business of this. Well, me being queen of volunteer, it’s hard for me to think business. Somebody would actually pay money for my photos?”

Dena continued to encourage her and then another friend, Vickie, helped pull her thoughts together about it. Together they arrived at the name KC Capture Sports Photography. Candice’s new business was born.

“It was kind of like a perfect storm that came together. I love just capturing moments. I love capturing emotion. One thing about photography it can just mold to whatever you like.”

Has the journey to leader and business owner changed her? “I am a much stronger person. I like the change. But I don’t know that I could have done this without so many women being involved who brought their own gifts and talents. I feel so grateful.”

These two businesses are a reflection of who Candice really is. “I’m a mom. That’s who I am. I’m not a business savvy person. I care about the businesses of these women. I care about them.”

Besides a wonderful and supportive husband, Candice adds, “Faith plays a huge role in my life.”

Understanding that Candice is first a nurturer, it’s easy to see why capturing great moments in people’s lives makes her clients happy. It’s easy to see why the networking group she leads has developed into so many supportive relationships.

When it’s important to you that memories of events are captured, contact Candice Diddle. KC Capture Photography will delight your future when you look back through its lens.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carol Miner: Bringing Joy to All

Though her plans of becoming an Occupational Therapist did not come to fruition, the dancing blue eyes and cheery personality of Carol Miner cause anyone to believe she has found her creative niche in life. Carol and her three siblings were raised in Mission, Kansas by their civil engineer father and artistic mother. Her mother attended the Kansas City Art Institute from age ten to twelve and proved highly talented, being one of the first finishing artists at Hallmark Cards.

Carol got into clowning for the third birthday party of her first child. “I discovered a fond place in my heart for clowns.”

“The clowning got me in front of people and helped develop some skills and hidden artistic talent I had inherited from my mom,” Carol shares. Clowning opened to face painting. Carol and husband Steve became Kansas City’s most famous Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus couple, and by that time she had added balloon artistry to her business repertoire. “I realized balloons were something I could do well and enjoy.” Steve encouraged her to earn the Certified Balloon Artist title. Her balloon design implementation is definitely a skill inherited from her father.

Sadly, Steve died of cancer in 2010. He was the partner who took care of business details of the growing enterprise that contracts little clowning but has a large and growing client base who love her designs for all occasions. 

What are the unique balloon designs by Carol of Balloon Garden? Most people have never seen balloons made to look like flower petals, containers or necklaces using uninflated or barely inflated balloons of unusual size and shape.  It’s hard to believe they are balloons, even up close. Her business is called Balloon Garden because it best represents her floral balloon decorating designs. The most fascinating item that Carol makes is not even these.

“In May 2011 I received a call from fashion photographer Kris Hanke. He showed me a dress he wanted me to make – out of balloons. I thought, oh my gosh I can’t believe this, it’s so awesome.” Her blue eyes sparkle as her pretty face glows. “I have always wanted to do balloon dresses but didn’t have an outlet. The dress was designed by an artist in Tokyo who I wrote to for permission, knowing she would be honored that someone wanted to make that dress here in the U.S.” Carol bought a dress form and a second inflator. “I bought a teaching video and talked to other balloon artist friends who had made them. I figured out how to make it the way he wanted. I used extra narrow long balloons that inflate to only one inch in diameter. The balloons are actually woven to make fabric. I made two dresses in two days, one white the other purple.  It was for a photo shoot the next day at Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri. I loved the whole day.”

That gig put Carol on the balloon dress design map. The next request was to design and make a dress for the Eddie Kennison Foundation Celebrity fund raiser for a cure for lupus. “Now I am creating balloon dresses in my head at night.”

Every business is a journey. Carol reflects, “I have matured a lot since I started. I learned my strengths and the things that challenge me the most. I am more of the creative person than the business person. Steve was my business person.” Understandably, the business role change has its own challenges. However, Carol is still the optimist, “It’s an adventure. Every job I do is different and I like that.”

It’s safe to say Carol Miner is a seasoned business owner, given the changes she’s encountered.  Her wisdom rings true, “Before anybody goes into business they need to take a public speaking course. And a business course. If you own your own business you will be in front of people. It’s good to know how to do that the best way.”  In fact, she expands on the advice, “I think kids should be required to take public speaking in high school. No matter what they do in life they are going to have to present themselves. Business courses are very important, too because no one really knows where they’ll end up. I wish I had done that.” Being as successful as she is, does she feel like her business has arrived?  She’s smarter than that. “Everyday the business world is evolving. I am taking a course now and learning more about social media and how it will help my business.

“I certainly don’t feel like I have done everything I want to do. One thing I am really excited about is a special way to do something with balloons that other balloon artists are not doing. I want to do this for grief groups, support groups, and celebrations of milestone events. It can be very inspiring. Hopefully the first event will take place at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City to raise money for Joplin tornado victims. I am passionate about this plan.”

Carol Miner doesn’t allow the tough things of life keep her down. “I enjoy beauty in a lot of things. I love to travel. I love families getting along together. I like holidays. I love to worship God and feel him in all of nature and people. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day things where you look at problems instead of the journey. No matter where you want to go, your real destination is the journey itself. The dash between the year we were born and the year we die is what it’s all about.”

When you’re looking for a one of a kind splash for your event or that of a friend, give Carol a call. Like her other clients, you’ll find that she’s easy to work with. Her designs are original for every special occasion. Her clients will also tell you she actually answers her phone, an obvious good customer service that not all small business owners perceive. Take a peek at her easy to navigate informational site.  More than likely you will refer Carol Miner of Balloon Garden to your friends, too. They will thank you because, in her words, Carol “loves making events and moments unforgettable.”