Kansas City should be home to second chances, hope, and opportunities, said Johnny Waller Jr.
“Kansas City has a rich history of uniting behind its citizens for the common good of its people and that’s what this event is,” said Waller, co-founder of Determination, Incorporated, addressing a wide-ranging audience Thursday at the inaugural Rise Up, Get Started celebration and grants competition for formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs.
A returning citizen himself, Waller knows that life after prison is rich with struggle and void of resources, he explained.
“I have been a convicted felon since I was 18 years old and know firsthand how easy it is to lose sight of your hopes and dreams,” Waller said. “This competition gives men and women in our community the inspiration to pursue their dreams, believe in themselves and have a positive impact on their families and community.”
Designed to bring awareness to the mission of Determination, Incorporated — the non-profit which serves as a pathway to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people through entrepreneurship, and launched in 2018 by Kyle Smith — Rise, Up Get Started saw three budding entrepreneurs walk away with $1,500 grants to grow their businesses.
The nights winners included: Frederick Martin, owner of IFAA Legal Services; York Wilson, founder and president of Strategic Workforce Development; and RJ Sanders, creator of the Trvl Arm.
Click here to learn more about the event’s keynote speaker, Flikshop founder Marcus Bullock.
The co-founders — who also facilitate the Be the Boss business support group for the formerly incarcerated — hope to elevate 40 entrepreneurs during the event’s next showing in November, they said, noting they can’t do it alone.
“Johnny and I get to talk about all this. We get to sit up on stage when you guys are the ones who are putting in the hard work to reach your business goals and to succeed as entrepreneurs,” Smith told the first group of Rise Up, Get Started applicants. “Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for us, for the Be the Boss community, and for yourself and your families.”
Interested in supporting Determination, Incorporated? Click here for details.
The prizes aren’t indicative of winners or losers, said Smith.
Of the 14 Rise Up, Get Started applicants, everyone has what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur and staying the course will help them achieve that, he noted.
“We are so excited to continue to work with you to grow your businesses,” Smith said.