Ten Black-owned businesses in Kansas City are preparing for the We Are Black pitch competition, which aims to close the funding gap for entrepreneurs of color. The event, organized by Kansas City G.I.F.T., will debut at the Delta Athenaeum on Mar. 24 and is expected to become an annual occurrence.
G.I.F.T. – Generating Income for Tomorrow – is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2020 to close the racial wealth gap in Kansas City by awarding grants to Black-owned businesses in historically redlined and underserved neighborhoods.
With this The “Shark Tank”-like G.I.F.T. will expand its service boundaries to include Black-owned businesses anywhere in Kansas City, Missouri. The organization currently only awards grants to businesses located between 9th Street on the north to Bannister Road on the outh, Troost on the west and Hardesty Avenue on the east.
The 10 business owners selected for the event will pitch their businesses to a panel of five judges who will select first, second, and third-place winners, who will receive $30,000, $20,000, and $10,000, respectively.
Tickets are available for free with registration at https://bit.ly/3yWxfLB, but donations are appreciated. The We Are Black pitch competition takes place this Fri. Mar. 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
All 10 participants will receive a full year of technical assistance from G.I.F.T., which includes accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, legal, and business coaching services. The businesses, which range in industry, size, and rate of growth, were selected via a live social media poll in January that involved 340 applicants.
Dayonne Richardson — Mirror Mirror Books
Marvin Lyman — Equitable Development Partners
Titus Golden — Ozell Brand
Dion Dodson — Deluxe Transportation Group
Dr. Brenton Hicks — More Life Chiropractic
Ramond Stewart — K.O.P Skincare & Beauty
LaVita Green — Caresticks Mobile Phlebotomy
DeVione Branscumb — Style Vs Fashion Styling Co.
Germaneke Drone — Blakk Brew
Patricia Mitchell — Ish Eyewear
Karis Harrington, chief of business development for G.I.F.T., told Starland News that building a strong Black economic ecosystem is crucial, and mentorship is vital for the small business community to thrive and survive. The relationships contestants build with one another can be even more fruitful than the mentorship and services from G.I.F.T. Harrington believes that the opportunity to form connections with other local business owners makes We Are Black an invaluable experience for all participants.
“At the very least, these businesses are getting an opportunity to come together, to network, to be those fuelling agents for each other,” said Harrington. “I think that is as important as whoever wins the money because I think that’s how we continue to build a strong Black economic ecosystem.”
The grant awards, including the $60,000 to be awarded at the We Are Black pitch competition, are made possible because of individual donations. G.I.F.T. was founded on the premise that if 15,000 people donate $10 a month, it can change Black businesses. Harrington encourages community members to support the competition, whether through attendance on March 24, a financial donation, or both.