Your Credit Actually Does Matter

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This podcast is produced by the Kansas City Public Library’s Community Reference team to share different perspectives on money management with an eye toward starting a small business. Over three episodes, Small Business Engagement Specialist Hadiza Sa-Aadu hosts Black business owners from the Kansas City metro area. Each guest shares guidance and advice through personal stories about their challenges and successes, with a common through-line: As one consequence of systemic racism, none of the guests grew up with access to reliable information about money management.

Podcast guest Brandon Calloway is the CEO and co-founder of G.I.F.T., a nonprofit that gives grants to businesses East of Troost – long known as Kansas City’s racial dividing line – to reverse the lingering effects of redlining that contribute to the racial wealth gap.

He talks with Sa-Aadu about the importance of saving money, why credit scores matter, and making it in a nonprofit climate he describes as a white savior industry. That is, an industry dominated by white philanthropists who, he thinks, sincerely want to help but don’t necessarily know the needs of the community.

Calloway learned the importance of saving early on and was good at it. He recalls a time when his parents gave him a $2 daily allowance to use at his discretion. Rather than spend it, he hung onto it because he wanted to purchase a PlayStation.

Once he had enough, he made the purchase. However, his enjoyment of the console was short-lived; Calloway’s family fell back on hard financial times, and his parents made the difficult decision to pawn his PlayStation for much needed cash. This was the first time Calloway became aware that sometimes despite his best efforts, larger circumstances would dictate his family’s financial priorities.

By the time he was 18, Calloway’s credit score was well above average, and he bought his first car. When the car needed major repairs that were more than his gas station earnings could pay for, he turned to his mother for advice. She suggested that he use a payday loan service.

“My parents, as well-intentioned as they were, did not have a lot of financial education,” he tells Sa-Aadu.

At the time, he didn’t worry about the effect a loan like that – or failing to make timely payments – would have on his credit. He lived in an area where jailtime was a frequent consequence of both mistakes and intentional actions, so in comparison, a ding to his credit felt like a minor punishment.

That ding didn’t seem as minor later.

“I went from having magnificent credit to horrific credit in the span of one month. … Once you get there, you feel like you’re drowning,” Calloway says. “Am I ever going to be able to get out of this?

“Your credit actually does matter, even though you’ve seen x amount of people get through life without having good credit.”

After earning a degree from Avila University in exercise and physiology with a minor in law, he served in the Army for three years. Later, he built up his business acumen by managing fitness centers. He realized quickly, though, that he wanted to do more; he wanted to make a difference in others’ lives.

Calloway decided to focus on businesses east of Troost. His nonprofit, G.I.F.T. (Generating Income for Tomorrow), grants approved applicants financial aid in the amounts of $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 and provides them with an accountant for 12 months, a marketing team, legal counsel, and access to his on-staff business coach.

He thinks of what his organization is doing as working toward a systems-level change to eradicate the racial divide, as opposed to simply addressing one challenge after another. Calloway’s organization wants to boost businesses on the east side to the point where they no longer need assistance at all.

Below is an abbreviated list of resources, opportunities, and services G.I.F.T. offers:

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Episode 3 - Brandon Calloway

I'm Hadiza Sa-Aadu the small business and nonprofit specialist at the Kansas City Public Library. Thanks for joining me on this episode of Money Defined Capital Credit and Financing. Today, our guest

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Episode 1 | Episode 2