Kansas City nonprofit G.I.F.T. just passed three years of providing assistance to Black-owned businesses in the Kansas City area, and is celebrating with a fundraiser dinner Thurs., June 15.

The event, “The Gifted Chef Experience,”  takes place at Children’s Mercy Park and will feature a three-course meal by talented Kansas City Chef Jenette, live Caribbean music, cocktail hour, and a silent auction. Tickets start at $100 per person and can be purchased online at www.kansascitygift.org.

G.I.F.T., which stands for “Generating Income For Tomorrow,” was founded in 2020 by a group of Kansas City business leaders who were concerned about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black-owned businesses.  They began with the concept that if 15,000 people gave $10 a month they could help close the racial wealth gap.  The organization’s founders, Brandon Calloway and Christopher Stewart, took that simple idea and ran with it. 

“We have lived and experienced the long standing, intentional and aggressive disinvestment in Black businesses, in the Black community and in everything east of Troost,” said Calloway.  “We constantly hear that there are these people, developers or organizations who are trying to rectify it, but we were just a couple of dudes who got tired of hearing what everyone else was going to do and seeing what they weren’t doing, so we did it ourselves.”

G.I.F.T. provides grants to Black-owned businesses in a variety of industries, including retail, food service, healthcare, and professional services within their targeted focus area east of Troost.. The G.I.F.T. Program has awarded over $1 million in grants to Black-owned businesses since its inception, with grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 each.  

While some of the grants have been for startups, other grants have proved game changing for the business recipients.  The organization’s list of more than 50 grant recipients includes organizations who have grown into regional and even national serving firms, thanks in part to the lift they received from G.I.F.T.

For example, Sweet Peaches Cobblers, at 2022 G.I.F.T. grant recipient now has their pies in HyVee stores across the region.  Pink Lipps Cosmetics, another 2020 recipient, launched in 41 Target stores that same year.  Through their grants, the organization has helped to create over 500 new jobs in the Kansas City area.

This year G.I.F.T. hosted their first annual Shark-Tank-style pitch competition.  It was the first time businesses outside the organization’s targeted service area were eligible to apply for grants.  Ten businesses competed for the total of $60,000 in awarded grants.   The three grant recipients were:  Caresticks Mobile Phlebotomy that took home the grand prize of $30,000, followed by Deluxe Transportation Group, and Mirror Mirror Books, who were awarded $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.  

Winners of the “We Are Black Pitch Competition, sponsored earlier this year by G.I.F.T. were: (L-R) LaVita Green, Caresticks Mobile Phlebotomy; Dion Dodson, Deluxe Transportation Group; and Dayonne Richardson, Mirror, Mirror, Books.

G.I.F.T. Business Center

In addition to grants and support services, G.I.F.T. opened a business center on Prospect Ave. last year. The business center offers free co-working spaces, a photography studio and access to professionals from companies like OCD Financial and Lead Bank who provide services like accounting, bookkeeping and banking.

The organization also offers a variety of other resources to Black-owned businesses, such as business counseling, marketing assistance, and access to capital.

“We’ve had people come in and sit down with marketing then leave with a full website built, completely free for them,” says Calloway. 

There are no restrictions to receive services and it’s completely free of charge. You can walk in and receive the support you need.

“With opening the business center, we are able to expand the number of businesses we’re able to help,” said Calloway. “We’re able to get the additional resources that these businesses need to grow.”

The G.I.F.T. Business Center is located at 5008 Prospect Ave. It is open Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In 2022, G.I.F.T. was recognized by KC’s City Council for it’s work.

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Since their inception G.I.F.T. has raised $3 million largely from individuals.  Currently there are approximately 700 individuals who donate on a recurring monthly basis, and over 2,000 people who have given one time donations. Individual donors account for roughly half of the money raised by G.I.F.T., and the nonprofit has given out $1.5 million in grants and business assistance to Black-owned businesses on top of the services provided at their business center. 

While individual giving remains a cornerstone of the organization’s funding they’ve also been helped in their efforts by one-time donations from foundations and corporations like Sosland, Kauffman Foundation, and the Hall Family Foundation. 

If you’d like to make a donation, apply for a grant, seek business services, or donate your time visit www.kansascitygift.org for more information.