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Look North Winner Returns the Favors

November 2020

John Miller not only talked about but showed off his commitment to entrepreneurs during the grand opening of iWerx Gladstone last year.

EDC 2020 Look North Award recipient John Miller, Sr., is not only one of Metro Kansas City’s greatest proponents of small business startups, he also honors those who supported him on his entrepreneurial journey by helping others with theirs.

A longtime Northland small business owner, Miller launched his family-run company in 1973 with the region’s first indoor storage facility. Like any small business startup, it wasn’t easy, but another business owner admired what he saw in Miller and gave him an opportunity to open his first Stor-Safe Facility. Today, that North Kansas City location is one of Miller’s eight buildings in Clay County, totaling one million square feet.

That original support was a major reason for Milller’s entry into the business incubator field with the original iWerx business incubator and co-working space on Burlington in North Kansas City. Today, the operations include four iWerx and designWerx locations in North Kansas City and Gladstone. “Because of the support I received, I felt I had an obligation to return the favor,” he said.

He knows that support often goes beyond even financing or space. “I’ve been there, I’ve done that,” he said of entrepreneurs and their struggles. “I’ve foundered a bit from time to time, so I understand that.”

He also understands the impact small business owners have on their communities. “There’s a lot of employment that depends on small business, and we often don’t remember that,” he said. “It’s a lot more than just a business. It’s jobs and people being able to buy houses and build families, build communities.”

Miller would like to see more entrepreneurial programs in colleges and universities and said that the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) is a good example. “They’re working with high school kids, some who may come back and become millionaires with their businesses,” he said. “We need to grow that concept.”

Growing concepts is also something Miller knows. The original idea for iWerx entrepreneurial center came by brainstorming with North Kansas City Business Council Executive Director Rich Groves. Later input for designWerx came from still others, like Kansas City Councilwoman Heather Hall.

These efforts aren’t finished, either. “We’ve always got something we’re thinking of,” Miller laughed. “When you surround yourself with good people, when you think outside the box, there’s no telling where you will end up.”

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