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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City group G.I.F.T is working to support Black-owned businesses in the pandemic. The organization has award five grants since they started raising money last April. 

G.I.F.T. stands for Generating Income For Tomorrow. The idea came from a Facebook post. The goal is to pull together community resources to create a fund that can help support business owners and entrepreneurs who need access to capital to stay open. 

Soulcentrictea opened its doors in July 2020 during the pandemic. Manager Ashley Cole said times were tough. 

“It was different because imagine being a business owner and not being able to let business in and actually have people come in because things are closing down,” Cole said. 

Studies show close to a quarter of small businesses fail within the first year. Then factor in the pandemic, and the odds are worse. Taking it a step further, the Kauffman Foundation’s Capital Access Report says Black entrepreneurs are three times less likely to have their loan applications approved. 

Antonio Hatcher, owner of Haul Pros Moving Company, noticed this problem when he tried to get help. He said the pandemic decreased his revenue significantly.  

“You go out looking for funding to all these big banks and everything, and you can’t get it. But then you go right to the community, and they help you out,” Hatcher said. 

Haul Pros and Soulcentrictea are two of the five businesses that were awarded grants, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, through G.I.F.T.

The organization was founded by three Kansas City men who came together after a Facebook post asked if people would be willing to commit to donating $10 a month to create a fund to support businesses in underserved communities in Kansas City.

“What a wonderful feeling it would be to go the Paseo, to go on Prospect and it look like Brookside simply because you committed $10 a month,” said Cornell Gorman, one of the founders of G.I.F.T. 

Gorman said in less than a year, the group has raised close to $300,000.   

“We don’t need the OK from anybody. We can literally come together and build this thing up,” Gorman said. “We are creating a blueprint that we can eventually take to the Kansas side, St Louis, or Chicago.” 

For businesses like Soulcentrictea, the grant helps keep the doors open while creating jobs. 

“For there to be an opportunity to help a Black-owned business have that funding without having to jump through hurdles and hoops and just have that support is amazing,” Cole said. 

The group has given out five grants so far and before the end of April, they have committed to awarding another three.