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Social Power: Brandon Calloway and G.I.F.T.


The Prize

Imagine being only two years into starting a brand new non-profit organization and receiving the call that you have been selected as a 2022 Pinnacle Prize winner! That is exactly what happened to Brandon Calloway, co-founder of G.I.F.T. – Generating Income For Tomorrow. Knee-deep in a movement to provide grants to Black-owned businesses in Kansas City, with a specific interest in businesses that operate in low-income areas, Brandon was awarded the coveted prize of $100,000 with no caveats, no strings attached. (The Pinnacle Prize is an annual, generous award founded by philanthropists Kenneth and Ann Baum as a way to reward local individuals … “to help Kansas City reach its full potential by investing in passionate, dedicated leaders 40 and under committed to improving the quality of life for all Kansas Citians – especially those who need help the most.”)




The Hunch

This is the story of someone who is an Army Veteran, and he goes from having a degree in kinesiology and exercise science from Avila University and being certified in fitness training, to a career stop at United Way of Greater Kansas City, to a guy who is following a hunch. Brandon and his two G.I.F.T. co-founders, Cornell Gorman and Christopher Stewart, were part of a Facebook group called BOBKC – Black-owned-businesses-Kansas City, which boasted 15,000 members. Not knowing each other, Brandon and Chris were equally disturbed that there were not enough Black businesses in local Black communities. 

The Problem

Enter the problem needing to be addressed and the historical discussion of race and Our Town. According to Brandon, “Due to the discriminatory practices of redlining in the 1920s and 1930s in Kansas City, Troost Avenue has long been seen as the dividing line between Black and white people of Kansas City, and the dividing line between high and low income communities. Kansas City is one of two hypersegregated cities in the country, which is not hyperbole. It is a designation from the Census.” As Brandon pondered this inequitable situation more, it occurred to him that if each person in the 15,000 member group were to donate $10 a piece, per month, an enormous difference could be made – immediately. 

The Difference

Their creation of G.I.F.T. was immediate. By requesting $10 a month from individuals and expanding the reach to corporations and foundations, the organization – in two years – was able to yield: $687,000 in grants to 35 Black-owned different businesses, with 58 new jobs created. Not bad for about 730 days in the office! And, all of the businesses given grants were east of Troost. Of course it doesn’t happen all at once or in a vacuum. It took many asks and phone calls, lots of social media posts, more asks, and even more word of mouth. But, the key was that Brandon and his team were on to something. It really might just be as simple as asking for the small amounts to be regifted monthly – and naturally it helps to have boosts from larger donors. 

The Whole Package

Supporting a Black-owned business to grow and scale and provide jobs and an economic impact requires more than the money – and G.I.F.T. has made sure that the package of support includes the pieces that they may not even know they need. With high level, one-on-one attention, and technical assistance, turning grants into business success comes in lots of shapes and sizes. There is a Business Center on the website, and it offers help in the areas of getting a headshot, to creating a logo and an identity, to attracting customers, to marketing plans, to website development, and so much more. Of particular importance, and maybe even burying the lead, is the Anti-Racism module offered. Topics range from local redlining history to NPR’s “Putting In the Work To Be An Anti-Racist.”

Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs

Receiving a grant from G.I.F.T. is really not an onerous process. Business owners should apply with the following criteria: be from the east side of town, be Black-owned, have generated revenue for three months, want to add jobs, and commit to serving Kansas City, Missouri. Supporting the base of the businesses east of Troost is just the beginning. In order to serve the higher purpose of eliminating Kansas City’s racial wealth gap, jobs must be created. While we referenced the creation of 58 jobs in the first two years, the total now stands at 108 jobs created. Each one of those jobs is a path to financial independence, health care, child care, housing, and more – not just for those 108 people. 

The Irony/Similarity

The irony of Brandon’s situation is not lost. He was presented with a very large gift to further the work he does – each day obtaining the small gifts to expand the viability of Black-owned businesses. The receipt of his gift came with no fine print, and he strives to similarly require very little in the way of bureaucracy when he gives a grant. It is a remarkable example of a system at work in the best ways possible. It takes a visionary to support a visionary who, in turn, supports others and their dreams. It’s not a political statement, it’s people helping people. 


“Dance with the one who brung you.” It’s an old Southern quote, but it implies his loyalty to the original idea and the initial process. Brandon knows that the continued spark for G.I.F.T.’s success is the individual donor, the social media connection, the idea of community. His original idea was the large group of small donors who keep giving each month. Moving forward, it only makes sense to enhance that idea, keeping it in step with changing social media norms, but keeping the system that appeals to the largest number of people possible. After all, it’s always about one person’s idea to make a change. 

Karen Boyd of Patrice’s Culinary Collective with Brandon Calloway

For a list of businesses that have received G.I.F.T. grants, or to make a donation to the organization, and for more information, visit kansascitygift.org.
Featured in the February 10, 2023 issue of The Independent. 



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