Three months after its founding, one of Kansas City’s newest entrepreneurial support organizations might have just saved Ruby Jean’s Juicery from closing its doors for good.
“It’s amazing to see a dream come true and really get it done,” said Christoper Stewart, board president and founding member of Generating Income For Tomorrow (GIFT) — a newly founded non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Black-owned businesses in low-income areas through community-backed grants that generate sustainability and creation of Black businesses.
The organization awarded Ruby Jean’s with its first $10,000 grant Wednesday.
“For us to be on the other end of that as the recipient, it’s heartwarming. It’s pretty dope,” Chris Goode, Ruby Jean’s owner, told GIFT and local media.
“To be honest, we needed it before the pandemic,” he added.
The juicery has suspended operations at two of its three locations in Kansas City — including its history-making Whole Foods juice kiosk — since January. The flagship Ruby Jean’s Juicery and Kitchen at 30th and Troost, which was heralded for bringing healthy food options to Kansas City’s east side in 2017, remains open with limited hours.
Click here for more information on where to shop Ruby Jean’s.
The GIFT grant money is expected to help the Troost-pressed juicery regroup after losing more than 85 percent of its business in 2020, Goode said.
“We reached out to Black businesses in the urban core and asked them what their needs are, what their growth plans are and what resources they would look to us for,” explained Brandon Calloway, executive director at GIFT.
“In that outreach, we came across Ruby Jean’s and found out they were going through four or five months of almost zero revenue. They were in a big enough hole where [Goode] was in trouble and [at risk of] losing the whole business,” Calloway said.
Click here to read more about Ruby Jean’s, one of Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2018.
Watch GIFT’s reveal video below, then keep reading.
The ability to help companies like Ruby Jean’s — which itself has turned to uplifting Black-owned businesses since May through the sale of its Black lemonade — is exactly why Stewart wanted to launch GIFT, he said.
“Black owned business and Black money is important. And we really want to take a big stance in letting people know that,” he said. “We want to make sure that people know and understand how this works and how important it is for a Black-owned business to grow.”
Further inspired by widespread racial unrest in Kansas City and the United States, the men behind GIFT — which also includes Cornell Gorman, marketing director — said they want locals to understand how decades of racism — intentional and unintentional — have limited opportunities for Black business owners and Kansas Citians as a population.
“When a Black person is opening up a bakery and a white person is opening up a bakery — because of our systemic oppression and housing and our education system — the white person, statistically, has a higher probability [to succeed] because they’ve [likely] gone to college, they can get funding from friends and family, someone who can cosign a bank loan, or a higher probability that they have been born into generational wealth,” Calloway explained.
“The Black business owner is more likely to fail.”
GIFT hopes to bridge the gap by serving as the friends and family investor for the metro’s emerging Black business owners, Calloway added.
The organization hopes to finance its giving by securing monthly gifts of $10 from 15,000 people — opening the door to local job creation, funding such endeavors as the opening of two grocery stores in Kansas City food deserts, and ultimately working to shatter the city’s racial wealth gap once and for all.
“This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for years and I didn’t plan it,” Stewart said of the way the organization has taken off and how community support through such social media platforms as Facebook have helped unwrap GIFT in a high-impact way.
“It’s amazing to know where we came from and to know where we started. We’re three months in and we’ve been able to give our first $10,000 grant. … It’s just really dope to me.”
Click here to support GIFT or for more information on the effort.