SBA Honors Joplin Business Owners Comstedt, Hammeke and Johnson For Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery

Jun 04, 2013, 13:44 ET from U.S. Small Business Administration

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Paul Comstedt, Derek Hammeke and Kip Johnson, owners of Amplify Gymnastics, a business that was destroyed during the devastating May 2011 tornado, will receive the U.S. Small Business Administration's 2013 Phoenix Award for their efforts to rebuild their business despite overwhelming odds, while contributing to the recovery of their community. 


The award will be presented during a breakfast event held in Washington, D.C. June 21, during National Small Business Week. Since 1998, the SBA has presented the Phoenix Award to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster.

A few days before the grand opening of Amplify Gymnastics, co-owner Kip Johnson, his father and uncle stopped by the gym to complete some last minute touches.  It was May 22, 2011. They narrowly escaped death when a catastrophic EF5 tornado tore through Joplin.  More than 20 percent of the city was destroyed, and 160 people were killed. The two-ton truck the men used as a makeshift storm shelter was tossed 20 feet. A concrete slab was all that remained of the gym.  

Kip and his partners Paul Comstedt and Derek Hammeke were faced with the daunting task of rebuilding the gym they had envisioned as a place where local kids could get training for their bodies and mentoring for their lives. The trio decided to move forward and got an SBA disaster loan for $256,100. The loan covered rebuilding costs and operating expenses. In February 2012, Amplify held its grand opening with an enrollment of more than 200 youth athletes. Within a few months, 300 more had joined the gym, surpassing Amplify's five-year goal. The gym's initial staff of 10 grew to 23, and the partners are planning an expansion. 

"The Phoenix Award is an acknowledgment of a business owner's heroic efforts and a recognition of the contributions they make to the economic rebirth of their communities," said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills.  "Paul Comstedt, Derek Hammeke and Kip Johnson displayed tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, and they exemplify the spirit one must have to rebound after a disaster like this."  

Events on the National Small Business Week schedule will be available for viewing through SBA's free, live webcasting, which will be accessible at  Those interested can register online at the same site, where additional information (updated weekly) is available about registration, awards ceremonies, small business forums, and educational sessions.

The SBA makes low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profit organizations of all sizes.  More information about the disaster assistance program is available at

Every year since 1963, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight through National Small Business Week the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories.  This year's events will be held June 16-21, in Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. offering tips, tools and trainings for small businesses to start, succeed and grow.  In addition to in-person events, small business owners can participate in online-only panel discussions on hot topics like social media and business financing starting daily at 4pm ET. All events, in-person and online, will be streamed live on Also, visit this site for a full schedule of events and additional information. The event hashtag is #SBW2013.

The U.S. Small Business Administration's participation in this cosponsored activity does not constitute an express or implied endorsement of any cosponsor's, donor's, grantee's, contractor's or participant's opinions, products, or services. All SBA programs and cosponsored programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. Reasonable arrangements for persons with disabilities will be made, if requested at least 2 weeks in advance, by contacting Cosponsorship Authorization #SBW2013.

Release Number: MO 12576-11

Media Contact: Richard Jenkins
Phone: (916) 735-1500

SOURCE U.S. Small Business Administration