Building a Recession-Proof Business … Just In Case

By Ian Ritter

From left: HealthJoy’s Dorfman, Swell Spark’s Baysinger, PayIT’s Gordon and Andy Rieger.

Legitimate tariff-strife aside, by most economic measures, the economy doesn’t look like it’s going to face a major recession the likes of 2008 any time soon. But several local firms have started around the time of the most serious downturn since the 1930s, and memories of that period are still fresh.

So, it makes sense that, built into their business DNA, recession-aware thinking is top of mind for many business owners.

In a regular executive speaker series held by insurance company Truss, at the Mariner Wealth Advisors headquarters in Overland Park, a panel of company leaders made claims why their enterprises are recession proof.

“One of the coolest thing about alcohol is that people always drink,” said Andy Rieger, co-founder of distillery and hospitality brand J. Rieger & Co., only half joking. After all, people imbibe to celebrate and as a comfort when things are bad. His company is opening a new 60,000-square-foot distillery in July with three bars and a jazz club, in the East Bottoms neighborhood, and Rieger hopes it will invigorate the neighborhood for more development.

No matter the state of the economy, people must still do business with the government, making PayIT, an app that provides payment options and access to everything from vehicle registration to birth certificates, downturn proof, said Grant Gordon, a partner at the Kansas City-based tech firm. “These are things you can’t get away from,” he said, pointing out his company strives to make transactions with government entities more efficient for nominal charges.

Also on the tech front, HealthJoy provides apps that attempt to simplify human-resources benefits packages, including health plans, so that workers can best take advantage of their offerings. With rising healthcare costs “people feel like they’re getting less and paying more,” said Jeff Dorfman, a partner at the company, explaining that in tough economic times, an app that finds people the best healthcare at the lowest costs could prove indispensable.

And even though we aren’t in a recession, it can sometimes seem that way in the retail real estate industry, with continuous news of store closures. Swell Spark, the owner of axe-throwing concept Blade & Timber and Breakout KC, an escape-room chain, is looking to fill those empty spaces. Their expanding concepts lower vacancy rates in shopping centers and increase revenues at neighboring stores, points out Matt Baysinger, chief executive officer. Blade & Timber’s Town Center Plaza location, in Leawood, brought in 74,000 visitors and $10.4 million in sales to nearby tenants its first year of operations, he said. Recession or not, people will always want to go and have experiences, even it they’re shopping less.