A Pair as Perfect as Baseball and Ice Cream

Two Bloch alumni are making their mark in KC
Kiona Sinks and Alec Rodgers smile. Both are wearing Kansas City Monarchs baseball caps

When people go to school to earn their degree, they go for more than the reading, writing and arithmetic. They go to hone skills and form connections that will propel them into fruitful careers.

Two UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management alumni are still building those connections — and building up Kansas City along with them.

The partnership between the two began when Kiona Sinks (MBA, ’21), the digital strategy manager for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, noticed a local hinderance and decided to turn it into an opportunity. Sinks was aware that Alec Rodgers (B.B.A. ’20), a fellow Bloch School graduate, had purchased the local ice cream staple Betty Rae’s, and she wanted to show her support.

“I think one thing that I've learned in Kansas City — we have all the right people, all the right tools, all the right resources, but sometimes we're not great at aligning things strategically,” Sinks says. “Ice cream and baseball historically go hand in hand. When you go to the ballpark, you get a hotdog and a cone. That’s when I thought it’d be really cool to reach out.”

A sweet new collaboration was born.

“Kiona reached out asking if we wanted to partner with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and of course it was a yes from the start,” Rodgers says. “I thought it would be fun to raise funds and awareness for the museum — even just for the collaboration with ice cream and the museum itself. It's like a match made in heaven. Baseball and ice cream go so well together anyway.”

The plan went into motion with the Betty Rae’s truck outside of the museum. Passersby were eager to investigate the bright blue truck, and the warm day called for something cold. Everyone who bought a scoop got a $2 discount off museum admission. The partnership also resulted in a signature flavor: Cake, Batter Batter — a spin on the classic flavor with the colors of the museum swirled in. The treat was a home run, as is the new partnership between two successful Roos.

“I think working with UMKC alumni has been a testament to the culture at UMKC,” Rodgers says. “It’s great. When you’re on campus and involved, you start to feel like it’s home. It’s been neat to make the city an extended home of UMKC. It feels like you’re seeing people you know everywhere, which is so comforting.”

Sinks shares the same feelings about her graduate school experience at UMKC. That’s part of the reason she reached out to Rodgers in the first place.

“I've watched his story progress in the community, in his 20s, thrust into this new role,” Sinks says. “When he took over ownership, I really wanted to be a support to him. And obviously, I literally love ice cream.” 

Alec Rodgers

Alec Rodgers stands in front of Betty Rae's ice cream shop
Rodgers took over Betty Rae's ice cream in 2021. Photo by Brandon Parigo

Sinks is far from alone when it comes to her feelings about ice cream. Rodgers just so happens to have a special connection to Betty Rae’s that extends beyond the scoops.

Rodgers made headlines in 2021 when he took over Betty Rae’s fresh out of the Bloch School. It helped that he scooped ice cream there when he was a student at UMKC, but it was more than a part-time job. He often spent time in the stores — even when he wasn’t scheduled to work — catching up with work friends while making a fresh batch of waffle cones. The stores also provided a change of scenery for studying.

Because of his passion for Betty Rae’s, Rodgers did not hesitate for a moment when the previous owner came to him about purchasing the business, even during a pandemic. He has experienced plenty of success since, though he still faces challenges as a young business owner.

“It's definitely a little intimidating most days,” Rodgers says. “In other ways it's been really good because it gives me a different perspective (having) a lot of employees under a young owner. I find it’s easy to relate to them and where they are in life.”

Under Rodgers’ leadership, Betty Rae’s took the slower winter season to develop new offerings, like cakes and ice cream flights — which will have vegan and non-dairy options — in addition to seasonal rotators and fan favorites.

Betty Rae’s has also added some new creations. Their rotating stock has featured flavors inspired by McLain’s Bakery, Andre’s Chocolates and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, as well as UMKC, of course. The Roo Blue Swirl flavor was added to the store last August, with the ceremonial first scoop going to Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal.

That UMKC connection is apparent with both Bloch School alumni. 

Kiona Sinks

Kiona Sinks stands on the baseball diamond at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Sinks works as the digital strategy manager at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Photo by Brandon Parigo

Rodgers’ time with Betty Rae’s goes back to his college experience, and Sinks’ time at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum follows a similar path. Having been with the museum for more than a year and a half, Sinks started her work as digital strategy manager while earning her master’s degree at UMKC.

“Students in the MBA program are working professionals, first and foremost, and then you slap trying to get a formal education on top of that,” Sinks says. “It can be difficult. Things are not promised. I didn't have this job when I started my degree. I did my own consulting, and I was not waiting for something to come to me. Looking back, it was a great self-investment for me.”

Sinks also knew the Bloch MBA program had benefits when it came to networking opportunities.

“With the Bloch school, I can't tell you how many people are in the local business community,” Sinks says. “They're CEOs, they're executives, and I’m regularly able to interact with and get to know them. You just see the outpouring of love that people have for this institution. It makes you proud. That's what you want. You want to be proud of where you've invested your time.”

In the meantime, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Sinks is eager to get the word out and grow the museum.

“These life lessons that stemmed from the story of the Negro Leagues continue to be an inspiration to me every day, and I think that was the motivation to reach out to Alec,” Sinks says. “Obviously, it doesn't hurt that he’s also a UMKC alum. It puts two and two together. He's a great person, and I’m wishing him all the success for all he's going to do in Kansas City.” The community has likely not seen the end of their friendly partnership, either.

“We both quickly realized that we share a love for Kansas City, a love for the communities that we’re involved in,” Rodgers said. “Kiona has a servant-leader heart, and it was quickly recognizable in her. We both realized that we had a lot in common in that area as well. We just pitch to each other our long-term goals and long-term ideas in the city, and they align really well.” 


Learn more about Henry W. Bloch School of Management

Published: Apr 18, 2022