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Running a Business: You Have to be Strong!

Dot Lybarger has learned over nearly 25 years of operating her own business that being an entrepreneur requires a lot of talents. Although she operates an interactive website, many of her customers nationwide still appreciate her catalogs.

(MSBF affiliate the Clay County Economic Development Council is recognizing its members through monthly profiles. The small businesses are great examples for all entrepreneurs.)

Dot Lybarger knows something about the challenges of founding and operating a small business.

Owner of Dot's Office Products Inc. in North Kansas City, she founded the company in 1994 and quickly learned that being an entrepreneur involved long hours and more long hours.

“When I started, I worked two full-time jobs in addition to starting my own business,” she recalled. “You work 24/7. I don’t work that hard now, but it’s still different when you own your own company.”

Dot began her business in her Northland home after working in office supply since the 1980s. She would often rise at 3 a.m. to load supplies from a wholesaler and deliver them to her mostly commercial clients. Her obvious dedication helped cement relationships that she still cherishes today.

“I’ve known some of my customers since 1984 or 1985,” she noted. “I believe in personal service and making sure they have what they need.”

These customers are surprisingly diverse, ranging from the Kansas City Public School District to construction contractors organizing to build the new Kansas City International Airport terminal. Most are local, although over the years she’s expanded to include many throughout Missouri, Kansas and even nationwide.

She has definitely faced obstacles, including tough economic times and resistance to opening a woman-owned business. “They were kind of appalled that a woman would try to do this,” she recalled with a smile.

Dot persevered by using a philosophy that can help almost every would-be business owner. “You learn to just stand up and be strong,” she said. “You have to.” Today, she’s proud of being certified nationally by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

She has seen many other changes, including economic ups and downs that also impact her business. Some of the biggest transformations, transformations she strongly endorses, include the continued growth of North Kansas City and the Northland.

“This business area has completely changed,” she said, noting the rise of entertainment businesses like Chicken N Pickle near Burlington and Amour roads. “That area is packed. They have really got that corner growing.”

Equally dramatic is Meierotto Jewelers, which opened last year in the new One North development, a 62-acre, $134 million project just off I-35. “That brought so much class to that area,” she said of the development that replaced a former grain elevator. “It adds so much.”

Although she appreciates the networking opportunity, Dot joined the EDC in part because of her appreciation for Clay County and the Northland. “I’m really proud of this area,” she said. “It’s really coming into its own.”

Dot operates her nearly 25-year-old business with the help of her husband, Phil, and other family members. Outside of work, she admits her life is intentionally not too exciting. “I just like to do nothing,” she laughed. “For years I was down here 16 to 18 hours a day, so just doing nothing is wonderful.”

Dot’s office is located at 1010 East 18th Ave, North Kansas City. For additional information, call (816) 221-8292 or visit

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Midwest Small Busness Finance | 7001 N Locust St. | Gladstone, MO 64118 | Phone: 816-468-4989