KANSAS CITY, MO — A minority-owned business in Kansas City, Missouri, hopes that opening a second location amid the coronavirus pandemic will not only boost sales, but help other minoritites find success.
The Cherry Company, owned by Thalia Cherry, sells fashion-forward sports clothing catered to women, but also designs for men. The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce last week named the 8-year-old company one of this year's top 10 small businesses.
"We are so honored and privileged to be in a group of some amazing businesses that have gone before us," Thalia said.
The Cherry Company is a family owned business, with Thalia as CEO and her husband Mark serving as vice president. Their daughter, Kyla, designs the images on the fashions.
Thalia comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her grandfather owned and operated a 20-acre farm, and her parents owned Flunder's grocery store in Kansas City, Kansas, for 35 years. So it was no surprise when Thalia created her business concept while attending Bethany College in Lindsborg.
"My inspiration really was around how sports transforms community," Thalia said.
The Cherry Company owns licenses to design and sell sports-fashions for 22 universities around the country, including the University of Kansas and The University of Missouri.
While business is booming for the Cherry Company, the majority of Black-owned businesses in the United States are not so lucky. A 2019 Lending Tree study revealed troubling statistics on the survival rate of Black-owned businesses. In Kansas City, Missouri, only 2.4% of minorities are self-employed.
"Kansas City was ranked number 49th as the worst and St. Louis was ranked 50th," Thalia said. "So for me as an entrepreneur, I knew it was important to do something with that information."
This summer, she started a program called Entrepreneurship KC that helps prepare minority high school students who are interested in starting a business. Thalia connects the high school students with business owners and challenges the students to come up with an idea for a business.
"So that they can understand the possibilities; but also understand the financial background, what it requires for capital," Thalia said, "so that you learn a lot earlier, so they can apply those skills and understanding so they can be successful."
Thalia's strategies for success in business are:
1. Seek advice from others who are succeeding in business or have learned from their experience in business.
2. Find someone in business to be a mentor.
3. Research businesses and trends in the industry and the economy to help prepare a business plan.
KC Source Link also connects minority business owners with funding sources, marketing help and the courage to take the risks to grow.
"We have answered the phones at our KC Source Link program for 17 years," said Maria Meyers, KC Source Link executive director, "and every time unemployment goes up, the number of people looking for help starting a business, goes up right along with it."
Thalia's decision to open a new retail space during the pandemic was based in large part on faith.
"I also looked really heavily and studied 2008 and 2009 when we were in the great recession," she said, "like what were the businesses that thrived and survived through that?"
When preparation meets opportunity, Thalia said she believes it will elevate her family-run company to a new level of income and a new level of helping others succeed in business.
We've created a Facebook group, We're Open Kansas City, where members of the community can post businesses serving their community.