By Amy Geiszler-Jones
Photography by Aaron Patton
When Kamerion Wimbley has a passion, what follows is usually success. From football to dogs to being a serial entrepreneur, Wimbley’s passions all are grounded in his hometown of Wichita. After nine seasons with three teams in the NFL from 2006 to 2015, Wimbley and his family now live in Tampa, Florida. As a player, he had already started investing in and owning Wichita-based businesses, but now he’s planning to expand those ventures in ways that he hopes gives back to the community by creating jobs and providing opportunities for others.
“A lot of people helped me and now it’s time for me to help others,” Wimbley said. “I would say there are lots of opportunities in Wichita and I want to be a part of that. There’s a lot of talent here and there are bright kids who have potential.”
Growing up in Wichita, Wimbley saw the influence others can have on the lives of kids, starting with his dad who coached his basketball team and his brother’s football team and served as a mentor to a lot of neighborhood kids through sports. Wimbley went on to have a standout All City League high school football career for the Wichita Northwest Grizzlies. He graduated in 2002. While in school and with his collie dog at his side, Wimbley became a follower of another competitive activity: dog shows.
As he worked on his social work degree and played football for Florida State University, Wimbley started his first venture into business, breeding and selling dogs. He still owns two related businesses: Premier Pet Relocation and the international Bull Breed Registry Coalition.
While in the NFL, Wimbley took advantage of the NFL’s business and entrepreneurship program, taking a business boot camp through Stanford University, and started more businesses – this time in Wichita. He invested in his cousin’s barbershop and his aunt’s restaurant. He currently owns Twice as Nice Barbershop, which has two locations in strip malls he owns on Central near Hillside and on 21st Street near Hillside; the suites-concept Salon at 32nd Street and North Rock Road; and two locations of Wings & Things restaurants in the strip malls he owns.
At Kay Plaza, the center on 21st Street, Wimbley also has launched Stadium Status Fitness, a workout studio available for fitness contractors and their clients, and the Suites at Kay Plaza, a shared office space area. Eventually Stadium Status Fitness will become a digital platform, to connect consumers with fitness professionals, and expand the reach of the business, he said. “It’ll be like Uber, but for fitness,” he explained.
Earlier this year, he also announced plans for a business collaboration to help introduce entrepreneurship concepts to area youth. “When you’re in a space that doesn’t have enough resources and aren’t connected with other people, you can’t get things done as easily,” Wimbley said. The northeast area where Wimbley is trying to make connections is one of those underdeveloped areas, where kids with potential need to have access to those resources and see models of success.
As part of that “social-preneur” business venture, as Wimbley calls it, students from kindergarten to eighth grade will initially learn about writing business plans and publishing books.
A lot of Wimbley’s business acumen borrows from his sports background. When it comes to running his businesses, Wimbley relies on having a good team in place. “I often refer to myself as someone who looks at things on a macro-level and brings people together to let them do what they do best at the micro-level.” Assembling a good team has been business magnate’s Warren Buffet’s strategy too, Wimbley noted.
When a bad play happens – like the short-term seizure of his Wings & Things restaurants for nonpayment of taxes – he assessed the situation much like a coach would. “We took the time to re-evaluate our business practices,” he said. In March, when the restaurants reopened, employees wore bright yellow T-shirts with the business name on the front and “Seized the Moment” on the back. “It’s our way of saying we took a situation that was perceived as a negative and turned it into a positive,” Wimbley said.
Seizing the moment can also be applied to Wimbley’s interest in his hometown. He likes the resurgence in local pride, the success of Wichita State’s men’s basketball team and WSU’s entrepreneurship offerings, the expansion of entertainment offerings and the efforts to develop areas like the downtown, south-side and northeast areas of Wichita.
“Wichita is reaching growth through innovation and creativity. People are listening and encouraging conversations. I’m excited to be on board with that,” he said.