New Martin City business owner lives up to name
By Jill Draper
Nick Lewman named his construction company “Matai” to reflect his Polynesian heritage. The word means chief and community leader in Samoa where his mother was born. This summer he’ll travel to his mother’s family village in Tula and don an uma shell necklace and a lavalava sarong as part of an ancestral ceremony to assume the title of Matai for himself.
“It’s an important custom,” he says. “The main thing is upholding traditions and culture.”
Back in South Kansas City, Lewman is well on his way to becoming a community leader and upholder of traditions. As one of the newest members of the Martin City Business and Community Association, he’s helping plan the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and Whiskey Run 5K. He’s also initiated a relationship with Grandview High to mentor students, and he’s grown his horizontal drilling and electrical contracting firm to a successful business with over $1.2 million in gross annual sales. His plan is to hit $3.5 million in the next several years.
He chose to locate Matai Services in the Martin City CrossFit Gym building after partnering on some projects with Nilson Goes Jr. who manages a nearby company, Infinite Energy Construction. Goes also owns the gym and serves as president of the business and community association.
“I love the way this area has a tight-knit community feeling and a business environment at the same time,” Lewman says. “It was a bonus when I heard there was an office over a gym, because I enjoy working out.” He also enjoys old cars, and is restoring a 1953 Chevy Bel Air with the help of MidWest Kustoms Automotive just a few blocks away.
Lewman grew up in the Kansas City area where he and his siblings helped his father with construction projects, including building a house. Later he married and moved to Florida where he worked in the insurance industry. In 2014 he started a side business in construction management, and last spring he moved back to the Midwest to focus on his own business and be closer to family members.
He credits a 12-week course in entrepreneurship called ScaleUP! Kansas City with introducing him to a proper growth strategy. The course was established by the U.S. Small Business Administration and is funded in part by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and administered by the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“Before ScaleUP I was going in 15 different directions,” Lewman says. “But I learned if I found a niche market, I could grow faster. Once I decided to funnel everything into directional drilling and electrical construction, things really started to take off.”
His firm currently works with cell phone companies and has installed electrical conduit for 14 new radar towers at the KCI Airport. He recently was certified as a minority-owned business and hopes to become a regular contractor for local and federal government jobs.
“The thing I enjoy most is the excitement of being involved in a project and seeing it through. I take pride in knowing that I helped build a portion of Kansas City,” he says. “I’m also excited to see the improvements that are happening right here in Martin City and it’s been great to meet all the different business owners.”
After Lewman is designated as an official matai, he’ll become more involved with managing his extended family’s Samoan property—land where bananas, coconuts and papayas grow. And he’ll continue to grow his company and his ties with South Kansas City.
“Community for me is being responsible to the people I associate with and live with and work with. Everything we can do to make these associations stronger and better holds the community together.”
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