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$60K in pitch competition winnings will help Black-owned businesses drive employment, book purchases

By Matthew Gwin,


T he owner of a mobile phlebotomy company took home the $30,000 grand prize at Friday’s We Are Black pitch competition — the first such event organized by Kansas City G.I.F.T.

LaVita Green, Caresticks Mobile Phlebotomy, at the We Are Black pitch competition organized by Kansas City G.I.F.T.

LaVita Green said the funding and resources from G.I.F.T. will help Caresticks Mobile Phlebotomy , which provides patients with on-site and mobile phlebotomy services, to grow its staff of specialized phlebotomists, as well as train new ones.

“I’m utilizing this opportunity to build me up as a leader for my team, and help build my team up as well, so that we can train people to the best of our abilities,” Green said.

Green boasts more than 20 years of experience in healthcare, she shared, and during that time has learned the importance of lab tests and proper blood draws, especially for patients who need specialized care.

“We’re just hoping to create accredited curriculums that are recognized by the board of education to be able to train our health professionals to go out and help patients take charge of their health,” she said.

Caresticks offers two Kansas City area locations — one in the River Market and one in Overland Park — and also provides mobile phlebotomy services for patients who cannot access a physical lab office. Appointments can be booked through the company’s website .

Reflecting community

In addition to Caresticks walking away with the grand prize, Deluxe Transportation Group and Mirror Mirror Books took home $20,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Dion Dodson, president and CEO of Deluxe Transportation Group, said the funding will help his luxury chauffeur service to grow its fleet of vehicles and its team, to whom he attributed much of Deluxe’s success.

“We’ve experienced exponential growth, and we’re extremely grateful for that,” said Dodson, who founded the company in 2019. “But the problem that we often ran into is that we didn’t have the capability to execute and to service all the demand that was coming our way, so we just started outsourcing. … This grant will allow us to purchase more fleet and hire more drivers so we can keep some of that work in-house.”

Dodson also thanked his customers for their support, noting that much of Deluxe’s growth has been driven by word-of-mouth recommendations.

Dayonne Richardson, Mirror Mirror Books, reacts after being announced as a winner in the We Are Black pitch competition organized by Kansas City G.I.F.T.

Dayonne Richardson, owner of Mirror Mirror Books and a reading and writing teacher at Hogan Prep Elementary, said the $10,000 award will allow her company to order more books and dolls that help students of color see themselves reflected in literature.

“I became a children’s book author because I noticed that in a lot of the books that I was reading, my students weren’t reflected in them,” Richardson said. “I want to be a mirror to my readers. I want to be a mirror to my students.”

“With that $10,000, I can order more books and order more dolls,” Richardson continued. “I can extend where the mirror is, so they can take that mirror with them wherever they go. So many times we don’t see ourselves represented, and now they will be able to.”

Big step for GIFT

Friday’s event at the Delta Athenaeum in Midtown represented a crucial step for G.I.F.T., according to Karis Harrington, chief of business development.

G.I.F.T. provides monthly grant awards to Black-owned businesses located from 9th street to Bannister Road, and Troost Avenue to Hardesty Avenue. The We Are Black pitch competition allowed the organization to open up a funding opportunity to any Black-owned business with a Kansas City, Missouri address, she said.

READ MORE: GIFT launches We Are Black pitch competition with 10 entrepreneurs vying for $60K

Competitors and organizers at Kansas City G.I.F.T.’s We Are Black pitch competition

“It was a much heavier lift for myself and our staff than I had expected, but we’re grateful to have the opportunity,” Harrington said. “We take the stress and the work a little bit differently because gratitude really overshadows that.”

In total, 10 business owners pitched to a panel of five judges who deliberated before selecting the three winners.

The full list of competitors included:

All 10 participants will receive a full year of technical assistance from G.I.F.T., which includes accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, legal, and business coaching services, Harrington added.

The winners expressed their gratitude for the support from G.I.F.T., acknowledging that the organization has helped them and their businesses be positioned for long-term success.

“G.I.F.T. is such a monumental organization in the community,” Dodson said. “It is so needed because it allows a lot of times as small business owners and startups we just need that small push of help. . . It’s not a small push; [G.I.F.T.] provides a tremendous push and assistance.”

“G.I.F.T. has changed my whole life,” Richardson added. “They are doing so much good in our community. … G.I.F.T. is changing the whole trajectory of my life and those around me.”

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