Editor’s note: Startland News is showcasing six Kansas City changemakers from five local organizations in its inaugural Community Builders to Watch list. The following highlights two of the 2021 honorees, selected from more than 100 initial nominees by a panel of judges. Click here to view the full list of Community Builders to Watch — presented by Fishtech Group and supporting sponsors Plexpod, Google Fiber and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The Porter House KC launched in 2017 with Dan Smith and Charon Thompson hoping to help underserved entrepreneurs start and sustain their businesses. The organization provides space and classes for entrepreneurs to grow their ideas into full-fledged ventures. The duo organizes a small business development program, as well as a small business mentoring program.
Click here to learn more about the Porter House KC’s recent $175,000 investment from JPMorgan Chase.
Keep reading to dig deeper into Smith’s and Thompson’s work to build a stronger Kansas City.
QUESTION: Could you two tell us a bit about yourself?
DAN: I was born and raised in Kansas City, and I am the co-founder of The Porter House KC. Charon and I originally met through a youth program at the YMCA, but we didn’t really know each other until we connected through our fraternity in college. We realized we had similar interests and have been rocking together ever since.
CHARON: I was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, but I am a military brat so I moved to Kansas City when I was 7 years old. Outside of the Porter House KC, Dan and I started a coffee brand called Black Drip Coffee. Our coffee is about culture and creating something that’s inclusive to everyone.
Click here to read more about Black Drip Coffee.
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Q: When did you first realize your work was building community in Kansas City?
D: For me, that realization has evolved over time. We’ve had conversations with certain leaders in the community who we think are doing amazing work. Then they’ll come to us and say, ‘You guys are leading this charge and doing this and that,’ and we’re like, ‘What? We don’t see it that way.’ We are humbled by it. Our goal has never been to be in the forefront of anything.
When we are actually in the process of helping someone, that is the greatest moment — that is the satisfaction. … Awards have never been a big thing for us, but it’s dope to get recognized. We really appreciate it.
C: I feel the same way. We enjoy working hard to help entrepreneurs, day and night. Sometimes I stay up really late just to find them the resources they need for their business. Dan, he’s up all night sending messages. We want there to be these resources for our community, so we feel that it is a service we need to provide.
Q: What is your hope for Kansas City’s tomorrow?
C: Kansas City is expanding, and we hope to be a part of that growth. Part of PorterHouse KC is that we wanted to build a family — and it’s steadily getting bigger and bigger.
D: Building equitable ecosystems and support in the urban core is huge. My hope is that we continue to intentionally invest and focus on development that creates a space for everybody.
There needs to be more efforts to support our low income and middle class communities, and we can do so by investing in the small business community because the value in that goes far. We have that people understand that and keep that in mind when thinking about new projects and developments around the city.
Q: How can the community get involved with and support your work?
C: They are welcome to contact us and reach out on our social media outlets with The Porter House KC. We are happy to help entrepreneurs the best we can.
D: Even for folks in the community who are not interested in starting their own business, they can help us by supporting the businesses owners who we support. We have a lot of retail or service-based businesses, and they need the community’s support in order to keep going. Tap in with us and ask us questions, so that we can refer people to some of the businesses that have been through our program.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
C: I think we’d want to be known for serving our community. We want to be those guys who help Kansas City and its entrepreneurs grow.
D: We’ve worked hard to get to the place that we’re at right now — and we’re going to continue to work hard — but we feel like other people and other organizations put us in the position that we’re in. We want to make sure that we come through with what we propose to do, so we can grow and get more people involved. And not just in Kansas City, but we envision eventually growing outside of Kansas City as well.
Legacy, man, we both got kids and families. We just want our kids to be able to grow up in a space that we’ve helped create and for them to continue that. I think about my grandfather and his legacy and how I’m a vision of his legacy. My grandfather passed away last July; and through that reflection, I realized I am the way I am because of him. I want my kids to also one day be able to reflect on the things we do and the pathways we lay.
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