An emerging Kansas City culinary icon will help lead the way among socially-engaged entrepreneurs creating a more inclusive economy that helps overlooked individuals move workforce barriers to the back burner.
Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant is among 18 employment social enterprise leaders from across the country chosen by leading venture philanthropy REDF (the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund) to participate in its second cohort of the 2023 REDF Accelerator.
The accelerator is a unique, hands-on program designed to springboard growth and learning for leaders of employment social enterprises (ESEs) like The Prospect KC, founded by McAfee-Bryant in 2019.
“The Prospect KC’s 16-week culinary job training program is about offering participants the ability to learn solid kitchen techniques that transfer to the real world while exploring ingredients and dishes that excite the participants,” said McAfee-Bryant. “Seeing the light go on with someone who is experiencing a new flavor, gaining experience with an unfamiliar ingredient, or mastering a technique for the first time – when the light of learning and empowerment goes on – these are the moments of connection that I live for.”
With a focus on building a cohort that brings diverse experience and perspectives to their work, 44 percent of leaders in REDF programming have first-hand experience of the barriers faced by the people they employ, and 39 percent are led by people of color.
The Prospect KC is a social enterprise modeled as a high-impact solution to hunger, homelessness, and poverty, the non-profit serves Kansas City’s east side, a neighborhood struggling with food apartheid, a racist and oppressive system that creates inequitable food systems.
McAfee-Bryant completed the inaugural Launch KC Social Venture Studio cohort in October 2022.
The Prospect KC’s mission is to create lasting change through programs designed to address food access, nutrition education and culinary job training. The Prospect KC also provides comprehensive support services through a robust network of social service partnerships offering food assistance, housing, childcare, transportation, and job training.
“The east side community surrounding the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District deserves and requires the same type of investment I had as a young mother and chef,” McAfee-Bryant continued. “Brilliance is not dictated by your circumstance but by your environment. If you invest equally in the community, then everyone will thrive. The Prospect KC is a social enterprise focused on trying to raise the tide to lift all boats. I look forward to working alongside a cohort of peers at REDF to learn, experiment, and implement best practices that will grow The Prospect KC/The Spot and its community impact.”
Over the course of five months, McAfee-Bryant will work alongside fellow leaders to learn, experiment, and implement innovative methods, skills, and tools to grow The Prospect KC/The Spot and its impact. At the conclusion of the accelerator, organizations will receive a grant to operationalize their strategies, have access to continued opportunities to connect with ESE peers in REDF’s large and growing REDF Community network, and be eligible to apply for REDF’s Growth Portfolio.
“We are excited to welcome the newest cohort of employment social enterprise leaders, like Shanita McAfee-Bryant, to our Accelerator program,” said Yodit Beyene, associate director of the REDF Accelerator. “These individuals are passionate about serving their communities through their businesses and have the drive and determination to succeed. They are the future of the ESE sector, and we are confident that they will make a positive impact on our society. We are proud to support their journey and help them achieve their goals.”
The latest cohort will convene leaders from 11 states and Washington, D.C., including Kentucky, a new state to join the Accelerator network. Representing the broad application of the social enterprise model, industries represented include temporary staffing, equine management, and construction.