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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This Black History Month, FOX4 has featured stories that celebrate achievements of trailblazers in the business world. Whether an owner is operating a restaurant, radio station or bank, the road to success is filled with challenges.
“I feel like it’s a tremendous, huge gap. The history of money, and the history of Black people, and the history of America, there’s not a lot of reason for people to trust banks,” T-Shirt King owner Chris Evans said.
Overcoming adversity is a familiar situation for Black-owned businesses.
“I feel like at any given moment I take two steps forward and 400 steps back… on my gravestone they’re going to be like, she persevered,” Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant said.
McAfee-Bryant has been a chef for two decades, Evans has been in charge of his family business since 1985. Both share a passion for helping their community.
“I turned down Wall Street for T-shirts,” Evans said.
“We have a food access problem in Kansas City, and it has to be addressed. The only way to deal with this public health issue is to help people with their overall health,” McAfee-Bryant said.
To combat that crisis, McAfee-Bryant founded the Prospect Urban Eatery.
“I am able to share my love of food with people who didn’t necessarily get to experience it the way I’ve experienced it,” she said.
She learned entrepreneurship was key, and helping people with equal access was key, too, but even though being in the non-profit realm has been a bit easier, she’s needed help to stay afloat.
Davin Gordon works for AltCap. The primary goal of the AltCap is to help business that give back to the Kansas City community. They also assist with ensuring documents are prepared and filled properly.
“As a Black-owned business, you’re constantly scrutinized, and your level of production and product gets analyzed with a fine-tooth comb. People will look at you tough and ask more questions, whereas someone else, they just get the business,” he explained.
“What you see is a byproduct of our history, a lot of the redlining, a lot of the intentional efforts in the past.”
It’s a business that Evans has leaned on when balancing finances is a hassle. The payoff is rewarding despite the time it takes to keep a small business going. He loves designing at his warehouse and then showing his product off at his store.
Evans has also been humble. PPP loans have helped, but just like McAfee-Bryant, overcoming the stigma is a challenge that’s hopefully on the way down.
“I’ve had a few people that I’ve known for a long time and they have admitted that they are just blissfully unaware, and now that they’re aware they’re trying to right unintentional wrongs,” she said.
So, despite the sacrifices of losing loved ones, like McAfee-Bryant did when her father died four years ago, or Evans having to sell telephone books at one point, they know financial help will come.
“Everyone has that opportunity to pursue that dream of happiness. We realize that our role is minimal, but we have an obligation and duty to bring others with us,” Gordon said.
And being successful is bigger than them.
“It’s important for other Black and brown students to see me and see me working hard, so that they know it’s possible,” McAfee-Bryant said.