It’s Black History Month, and to celebrate, we’re revisiting some of your favorite Kansas City Black entrepreneur stories from across the KC metro to highlight amazing work in tech, food, health, design, product development, fashion, construction, entertainment, energy and more.
Starting and growing a small business isn’t easy, but these intrepid entrepreneurs will show you how they did some brilliant and inspiring things (and you can take home some bits of wisdom and strategies to start or grow your own venture).
So get ready to uncover how they spurred their ideas into action and how they’ve used resources, experts and connections in Kansas City to make their dreams a reality and grow their businesses . (If you’d like to get connected to organizations that can help your business, tell us what you need here or call us at 816-235-6500.)
Of course, the stories below are just a small, small sampling of all the amazing Black doers, dreamers and makers who’ve shaped Kansas City into a great place to start or grow a business. If you’d like to find a Black business owner to support with your dollars, explore BuyKC and set the filter for the type of KC business you’d like to support.
Now, let’s meet some entrepreneurs …
Alpha Energy and Electric, Gabriel Okafor and Ike Nwabuonwu
Named the 2017 Small Business of the Year by Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, this energy and electrical company located in the Troost Corridor has steadily added prisms and obelisks, blocks and plaques to its teeming trophy table. Uncover how Gabriel and Ika have kept their winning ways going for years.
Aunt Mildred’s Southern Style BBQ, Earstin Sanders
Earstin Sanders is a serial entrepreneur, so when COVID-19 hit, he knew it was time to move on a new business idea that was once hidden away in a safe. See how this lawncare-savvy small business owner made a move into the food space during the pandemic.
Bradford Interior Group, Larry Carr
Can learning when to say “no” and taking fewer construction projects lead to a 30% increase in sales? Larry Carr will tell you yes … and how he did just that. See how Larry peeled back the walls of his business, resolidified his business and got what he needed to scale his business to new heights.
College Coaching Network, Claude Harris
For years, Claude Harris was running a business that helped high schoolers prep for college … but he was dealing with mountains of paperwork. Little did he know that he actually had a tech business. Watch and read how he leveraged KC’s deep tech resources to digitize his current business into a sleek tech platform that helps kids prepare for the most important educational years of their lives.
Dion Dodson, Deluxe Transportation Group
After selling his commercial and residential lawn-care business, serial entrepreneur Dion bought himself a Cadillac Escalade. He started driving for Uber’s premium service to fill his time and enjoy his new ride. But soon, many clients wanted to request him specifically.
“My why for being an entrepreneur is undoubtedly to provide a better life for my family and my awesome Deluxe Transportation Group team as well as plant seeds for the young entrepreneurs that are coming behind me,” he says.
Gigi’s Kale Chips and Gigi the Vegan: Gigi Jones
We all face those trying times in life. When we arrive on the other side, we are different people. For Gigi Jones, who beat cancer, that inspired her to start her own health-centric businesses that aim to highlight the path to health for others. See how she’s making it happen in the consulting, food and health services industries to help every facet of her clients’ health.
Keefe Cravat, Jordan Williams
How do you create a fashion business from scratch? For Jordan Williams, it started with $10, a hot glue gun, velcro and a hand-sewing kit. See how he used the organizations and platforms in Kansas City to stitch together his dream company.
Margaret’s Place, Patricia McCreary
Patricia McCreary’s business idea was inspired by a decades-old promise to her grandmother. See how Patricia founded Margaret’s Place in honor of her late relative and how her business aims to improve the gaps she sees in the senior care industry.
NickiFit, Nicki Jones
A personal journey to get healthy inspired Nicki Jones to create her personal training business. And now, she’s passing on that positive mindset and drive to help others discover the benefits of exercise. And during COVID-19, she’s pivoted and is offering a deeper roster of online courses and virtual training, so folks can stay healthy during a time when we’re all looking to stay active. Watch how drive for self-improvement and assistance from KC entrepreneur organizations helped her build her business stronger.
Philip Hickman, PlaBook
If you don’t know Philip Hickman, know that he’s got quite the résumé. Royals ball boy. Division I linebacker. A scholar with five graduate degrees and a doctorate. A school superintendent. And with his startup, PlaBook, it seems he’s taken all that past experience and poured it into a tech company that’s aiming to put interactive stories in everyone’s pockets. Watch and read why he came back to KC to create his tech startup and how he’s winning over and over again thanks to Kansas City’s deep roster of entrepreneur organizations.
Meet some more entrepreneurs below …
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Precise Operations Management, Janet Lockridge
As businesses grapple with how to open and operate safely during the pandemic, Janet Lockridge of Precise Operations Management is ready. After all, her business at its core is all about is safety. She’s adding more services to her current offerings, like personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, crisis communication planning, stickers, air filters and customizable eLearning for employers. Watch how her business got started and who’s helped her build it over the years.
Ruby Jean’s Juicery, Chris Goode
The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging but also eye-opening for Chris Goode of Ruby Jean’s Juicery. See how Chris says he’s been lifted by community support as COVID-19 paused two of his locations.
UpDown NightLife, Josh Lewis
The path to landing the first funder for your business isn’t easy. So how do you do it? Josh Lewis recounts his road to finding funding and the lessons you can learn from his journey.
The Vendors Assistant, Juaquan Herron and Rodney McDuffie II
Juaquan Herron is a comic book creator, but his experiences at vending expos gave him an idea for a tech business. Find out how he and his brother-in-law teamed up to create the KC-based The Vendors Assistant app and how they conquered the pitch on the path to early-project funding.
Will Brown Interiors, Will Brown
COVID-19 gave Will Brown of Will Brown Interiors more than a clever pandemic pivot. Discover how the pandemic helped him find clarity, greater purpose and a new business channel.
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