The Porter House KC closed out the first year of its Alchemy Sandbox program by awarding five more small business owners with up to $5,000 in grants. In total, PHKC Alchemy Sandbox awarded 20 businesses with grants in 2022.
“We started this journey with a simple idea: to deepen our commitment to supporting the small businesses within our community,” said Dan Smith, co-founder of The Porter House KC alongside Charon Thompson. “In addition to supporting through education and resources, we wanted to find a way to infuse small businesses with small direct financial assistance.”
Click here to read more about the Porter House KC’s Alchemy Sandbox program.
The PHKC Alchemy Sandbox program was split into four quarters throughout the year. Local small business owners submitted video applications explaining how they would use the grant money, attended a pitch course and then presented their final pitches to a panel of judges. Each quarter, five founders were ultimately awarded grants.
Q4’s applications gathered Dec. 1 at UMB Bank’s downtown Kansas City, Missouri, offices to share their final pitches. The grant awardees of Q4’s pitch competition included Swagg Inc., Boxout, The Rolling Garden, ICE Studios School of Dance and AI Hub.
Through the course of the program, applicants were challenged and grew as business owners — with many of them pitching their businesses for the first time, Smith noted.
“We know that the process of selecting only five businesses was not a walk-in-the-park,” Smith continued, praising the applicants and judges for their time and dedication.
Smith also thanked UMB Bank for turning the idea of the Alchemy Sandbox program into a reality with a $350,000 donation in December 2021.
Swagg Inc. is a non-profit organization working to provide employment, youth mentorship and other resources for those impacted by mass incarceration. Na’im Al-Amin, the founder of Swagg Inc., plans to use the grant money to fund a Community CareLink platform for arriving at data-driven decisions, as well as managing clients, programs and services.
“Alchemy is the ability to turn a base lead into gold,” Al-Amin said, explaining that the Alchemy Sandbox program was also valuable in its connections. “As a social entrepreneur, to have a program that creates relationships, social capital and access to environments of deference is critical to keep the entrepreneur ecosystem thriving in [Kansas City].”
As a returning citizen (someone who returned to the community after a prison experience) himself, Al-Amin is passionate about promoting ownership for those impacted by mass incarceration, he shared. He encouraged employers and volunteers interested in learning more about how they can get involved to contact him.
Click here to connect with Na’im Al-Amin and Swagg Inc.
The Art Incubator (AI) Hub is a creative coworking space that provides fully equipped studios and resources for people to profit from their creativity, said co-owners James Spikes III and Taylor Burris. Its resources include a photography studio, sound recording studio, digital design lab and apparel design lab.
The duo plans to use the grant to update their equipment to provide greater experiences to members, along with additional operational expenses, they shared.
“As our community grows we need to grow with them and provide them with the best equipment possible and branch out into more art arenas so that everyone can succeed with the services and resources that The AI Hub provides,” Spikes III said.
“The AI Hub is more than just a space,” Burris added. “It is an experience where creativity and innovation meet! With training programs, event space, networking, professional services and more, we truly support in propelling you in the right direction for you to achieve your desired goals.”
Click here to check out The AI Hub.
Boxout was founded by Richie Cherry Sr. as a means to combine mental health counseling with boxing workouts. The Alchemy Sandbox grant will go toward purchasing more equipment such as boxing gloves and punch cards. Cherry also plans to increase brand visibility in the community, he said.
“It was a gratifying experience to be a part of this program,” Cherry said. “I had a lot of doubt in myself leading up to the pitch because I’ve never done anything like this before. But the tools I received from the workshop and other entrepreneurs granted me the opportunity and the confidence to go and pitch. I am very thankful for the preparation.”
Click here to book Boxout’s services.
The Rolling Garden is a mobile plant and accessories boutique that travels within Kansas City to sell tropical houseplants, assist with interior and exterior plant design and offer plant maintenance. Tryce Nelson, the founder of The Rolling Garden, is putting the grant money toward building a greenhouse, he said.
“This will allow us to hold workshops and classes and to house a larger quantity of plants,” Nelson said. “Additionally, it will decrease the amount of care we are able to provide due to the plants getting natural amounts of water and sunlight. … We really want to spread the love and knowledge of plants. Plants have so many benefits to them, and we want to share this with the Kansas City community!”
Click here to find out where The Rolling Garden will be popping up next.
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.