Cameron Martin understands the importance of scaling deep into the community that inspired his journey and first fed the business he built with his wife, Tameisha, he said.
The co-owners of Love is Key — a waffle-centric brunch restaurant and catering concept in the former Soulcentricitea space on Troost Avenue — were awarded a $15,000 grant Tuesday from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation in partnership with the Porter House KC.
“We’re natives of Kansas City,” Cameron Martin explained. “We grew up here. We understand the culture of it. We really want to be able to scale deep and really be able to be a pillar in the community. That comes from seeds like this, so we appreciate everybody for this.”
Of 80 small businesses that applied for the Scale Deep Grant — no live pitches necessary — four were chosen by a panel of judges to share $32,000 for back office support, equipment cost, rental assistance, and general system needs.
Margaret’s Place, Woodie Goodies, and Royale Blue Boy rounded out the list of recipients.
The Porter House team — led by co-founders Dan Smith and Charon Thompson with a mission to help underserved entrepreneurs start and sustain their businesses — came up with the grant’s name after reading a Harvard Business Review article about scaling deep.
“These researchers did an eight-year study in Detroit,” Smith explained. “The focus was scaling up versus scaling deep and the impact it has on the community. And so that scale deep piece with us just kind of resonated.”
As a JPMorgan Chase Foundation grant recipient itself, the nonprofit has been able to hire two employees, Miranda Schultz and Jahna Riley, thanks to the funding influx.
“So we’re really grateful for what JPMorgan Chase has done for us, and without their help, we wouldn’t be able to push to where we are today,” Smith added. “Really excited for what JPMorgan Chase is doing for our community.”
In August, the Martins opened their Love is Key restaurant at 30th Str. and Troost Ave. The Scale Deep Grant is their first big funding win, noted Tameisha Martin.
“He’s a truck driver; I’m a licensed medical social worker,” she said. “We live below our means and really saved the money to launch our restaurant. Just like a lot of you all, we have a story, as well. This is really my mother and my grandmother’s dream. They’ve always wanted a restaurant.”
They plan to use the money to hire more employees and for enhancements to their mobile kitchen, she said.
Click here to learn more about the Scale Deep Grant.
Recipients received their grants at the grand opening celebration of Chase’s new banking branch at the corner of Troost Avenue and Armour Boulevard, not too far from Love is Key. Rico Conn, the new branch manager, noted the foundation made almost $240,000 in charitable contributions to local organizations in the Kansas City region in 2020.
“That’s incredible,” he continued. “That’s a lot of dollars. That’s what we’ve been [hearing] — especially from the Black and Brown perspectives — is, ‘Listen, your support is great. Your handshakes are great. Hugs are awesome, too. Even a Facebook like is cool. But where’s the money? I can’t really power what I really want to do without the funding and financing.’”
Damion Heron, Chase executive director of community and stakeholder engagement in the West Midwest region, said hearing the stories of these small businesses reinforces why Chase chooses to support them.
“It’s not just banking and it’s not just lending,” he explained. “It’s people’s dreams. It’s their culture and their heritage and family dreams that they’ve had for decades. So being a part of making that a reality, it’s just amazing.”
Margaret’s Place — $10,000
Patricia McCreary founded Margaret’s Place — an adult daycare, senior recreation and wellness center — in honor of her grandmother, who she took care of for seven years when she had dementia. Margaret’s Place, according to McCreary, provides space for seniors and those older than 18 with disabilities to get out and live their best lives.
“I did a lot of research and all the research I did pointed to the brain being a muscle and to finding a place that she can go and be active and have fun,” she said. “We toured every adult daycare in Jackson County and her exact words were, ‘I would rather sit at home and rot than go to those places.’ So I’ve been an entrepreneur since 19 and I saw a need, a problem in our Kansas City urban core for people that look like me to find a place for their loved ones to go to.”
McCreary noted she plans to use the grant money toward fixing up a new building recently purchased by Margaret’s Place at 35th Street and Woodland Avenue, right down the street from the new Chase branch.
“It’s refreshing to see bigger banks investing into our community,” she added. “It gives you hope. We’ve been a business for seven years now. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 19 years and you just don’t get opportunities like this. So it’s good to be able to have an opportunity like this. And then just to feel the love and the passion that Chase has for the community, it makes you feel warm and welcome.”
Woodie Goodies — $5,000
Founded in 2021 by Jordon Woods — a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — Woodie Goodies is a book distribution business that places unwanted books in the hands of new readers and keeps them out of landfills.
“We supply used books to people in need, basically via e-commerce websites like Amazon, eBay,” he explained. “All of our leftover books, we then distribute to local businesses around Kansas City like Half Price Books, or whatever kids books that are left over, we also donate to local elementary schools.”
Woods is grateful for the grant money and plans to use it towards the cost of a forklift, so that he can stack and store more boxes of books to distribute, he said.
Royale Boy Blue — $2,000
Thirteen-year-old Madden Tanner is encouraging youth literacy through his business, Royale Boy Blue.
“I write books for young boys especially — and also girls — to encourage them to read more because I found young boys in my school didn’t read as much as I did,” he explained.
He also donates books and hosts reading groups, as well as being a DJ.
The grant money is expected to help his business grow even more, he said.
“It means that I’m being seen for how great my business is and how far it can push other people with literacy,” Tanner added.
Click here to read more about the origins of Royale Boy Blue.
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.