by Dan Voorhis – The Wichita Eagle 5/13/2015
Women-owned and -led companies won both of this year’s Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Small Business Awards.
Technology firm Cornerstone Design and Development won the Tier 1 award for companies with one to 25 employees. The company is owned by Joy Eakins.
Construction company Zernco won the Tier 2 award for companies with 26 to 100 employees. Ashley Thill is company president and part owner.
The awards were announced at a luncheon Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.
The companies were judged on their business practices, growth and community involvement. They must be headquartered in Wichita and be a member of the chamber.
Chamber president Gary Plummer said that six of the nine final businesses in the competition were led by women.
“It certainly demonstrates what we’ve all seen if you’ve been in business for some time: Women are playing a much more important role,” he said.
He said the two firms and their owners were pretty special in what they had achieved.
“They’re both very deserving,” he said.
Scott Marko, vice president of Zernco, accepted the award for the company – and admitted that Eakins’ acceptance speech was hard to follow.
He recognized Thill and the company’s employees as key to success.
Afterward, people at the Zernco table were all smiles.
“Proud,” Thill said about the win.
“Yeah, very proud, excited,” Marko said. “We’ve been working really hard just to get to this point.”
Zernco has gone through the award process at least two years. There’s a lot of documentation of business practices and performance, plus interviews, site visits and several chamber meals.
Marko said the process is beneficial, not just because it gets the company’s name out but because it forces managers to take a look at their practices from the outside.
Thill said she is widening the scope of the business beyond being a building contractor.
“We are really looking forward to doing things outside of construction,” she said. “Development, consulting in business processes; I have a strong organizational background, distribution. … Our industry needs a lot of advancement in organization and technology.”
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