LaRonda LaNear was tired of the working world’s status quo.
“I’ve always hated authority and it’s always been men in power, telling me what to do — and it never made sense,” she joked, shedding light on a real problem that robbed her of joy nearly every shift at every job she held.
“I took that fuel [and added it] to the fire and I started my own business.”
Her venture of a choice: We Got It Covered, a Kansas City-based catering and meal prep company, rapidly landing corporate partnerships and dishing out feel-good food that makes up for any bliss she might have lost along the way.
“I like making people happy — and what makes you happier than food?” she asked, recalling family memories made around the buffet table.
When We Got It Covered launched in 2017, the company found itself quickly becoming a staple within the Kansas City event scene, as LaNear’s passion for food and people soared.
“I was cooking for 200 to 300 people. … My customer service is outstanding — not to toot my own horn, but that brings people back,” she laughed, detailing her success and corporate partnerships with local companies that include Children’s Mercy Hospital and Cigna.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everything dropped, to be completely honest. People were scared. Nobody wanted to leave the house,” LaNear recalled, noting she tried pivots like curbside pickup and delivery, but the demand for catering services disappeared overnight.
“Honestly, I try not to think about it. … It hit me hard [and] it hit me hard financially. I’m pushing through, though.”
Investing in Black owned businesses in low income communities is a proven method of increasing the economic prosperity of the community, GIFT said.
Click here to learn more about the nonprofit and its mission to create a path toward economic prosperity for Kansas City’s Black community.
A $10,000 grant received from Generating Income for Tomorrow (GIFT) last fall helped, LaNear added.
“They gave me an accountant, a lawyer, a business consultant, all these resources I could use. I’ve been taking huge advantage of [the opportunity,]” she said, noting those close to the program have shown her much-needed support amid the lingering pandemic and pushed her to reach her full potential as an entrepreneur.
“They are literally a lifesaver. They are very resourceful for Black-owned businesses — and we don’t have a lot of help. Starting my business, I didn’t have any guidance. Everything’s just been kind of trial and error.”
Click here to read how one law firm’s effort to offer free legal counsel to minority-led enterprises began with passion in Kansas City.
Watch a GIFT-produced interview with LaNear and learn more about her pandemic-era struggles below then keep reading.
Additional support for We Got It Covered came from a high school classmate of LaNear’s, Alan Kneeland, a partner in one of the East Side’s newest restaurants, The Combine.
“They needed someone to come in and run their catering service,” she said, explaining an additional We Got It Covered service: restaurant management.
“They asked me to partner with them to help them open the restaurant. I’ve been with them for about a year now and it’s just been splendid.”
Click here to read more about The Combine’s intentional debut on Kansas City’s Troost Avenue.
We Got It Covered runs out of the restaurant’s kitchen, with LaNear overseeing day-to-day catering operations.
LaNear’s sense of community — and commitment to food and togetherness — doesn’t stop with neighborhood partnerships.
We Got It Covered has found itself evolving into a social enterprise, working to combat hunger for those experiencing homelessness.
“The homeless problem is crazy in Kansas City. I rode through downtown yesterday and there are tents in front of the courthouse,” LaNear said, astounded, adding she and a friend have spent the past several months distributing sack lunches to people who need them around the city.
“I’m passionate about helping people that are at a more poor advantage than me. [We include] a snack, we’ll do a sandwich, chips, and a bottle of water and then we’ll also do a Ziploc bag full of hygiene products. … They really need help.”
LaNear hopes to make humanitarian efforts a deeper focus of her business as it grows, but admits she shies away from the spotlight when it comes to getting recognition for her acts of kindness.
“I’m kind of learning to be more boisterous about all the things I do for the community,” she said, noting that at the end of the day her primary goal is to make good food that builds relationships.
“Politics are separating people these days. When we come together we don’t [have to] talk about that. We can just enjoy the moment, enjoy food, conversate, and it brings everybody together,” LaNear said.
“It’s time for everybody to come together and forget about what’s going on in the outside world. I feel like that’s the biggest impact I’ve had on the community.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.