5 Kansas City Brands Re-Writing Local Startup Culture By Mixing Purpose & Profit

Companies Inspiring Social Good

Over the past 3 years, Kansas City has quietly earned a reputation as a city of big ideas, entrepreneurs and innovation. One Million Cups, Google Fiber and a stirring cultural renaissance have made Kansas City the welcome home for young brands and startups. 

Long before faster internet and modern office spaces though, Kansas City was known for something else: its heart. That heart has played out on the baseball field, through philanthropy and through everyday kindness. That’s why it should come as no surprise that entrepreneurs are bringing innovation and kindness together in a brand new way.

These are a handful of social enterprises leading the way into a new kind of business in KC. 


1. Freely Given Movement

Freely Given Movement was founded in mid-2015 by Kansas City natives Allison and Chris French. The enterprise brings together powerful story telling with the opportunity to support causes right here in KC. Each collection of apparel starts with a story of a local family in need. Freely Given captures that story and invites the local community to rally around it by buying custom designed local T-shirts. Their first campaign was inspired by a little girl named Kit as she and her family walked through a fight with leukemia. During the campaign 90% of the profits from every shirt sold went to supporting Kit and her family and the campaign raised more than $10,000 to fund her in-home care. Kind of hard not to fall in love with this idea and the passion that Chris and Allison are weaving into it. Find Freely Given Movement's products and inspiring stories online.


2. MADI Apparel

MADI's Westside-based shop feels like something you might walk into on Sunset Blvd but one conversation with founder, Hayley Besheer, and you’ll realize this is more than a trendy boutique. MADI keeps it simple with underwear basics made from Bamboo right here in the US. Customers frequent the shop for the quality and durability of the product but they are also engaged by MADI’s story. For every pair of underwear purchased, MADI donates a pair to women's shelters. The idea was born when Haley learned that underwear is the most needed item of clothing at women’s shelters in the US. She founded MADI to help Kansas City be a part of changing that and the rest is history. You can buy MADI online or at their storefront in the Westside.


3. Life Equals

Life Equals is a KC-based startup that is tackling daily health needs through a line of vitamin products. Their product is in local retail stores like Whole Foods and can be found on their website through a growing commerce platform. Life Equals makes this list for their commitment to broader health goals that span far wider than simply the selling of vitamins. For each Life Equals product purchased, the company donates a month of essential vitamins to malnourished children around the world. Shop their vitamins at local retailers or find Life Equals online.


4. Parasol Pets

Parasol Pet's mission is to provide cats and small dogs a place to rest, feeling securely sheltered and cozy in their uniquely designed and crafted pet beds. The pet beds are elegantly designed with cleanliness in mind for both cats and dogs. For every Umbrella Pet Bed™ purchased, the company partners with the Adoption Center at Wayside Waifs, Kansas City’s largest no-kill animal shelter and pet adoption campus. 


5. The Acts of Good Journal

The Acts Of Good Journal pairs an unapologetic imagination with a belief in the power of simple acts of good and turns it into an interactive agent for kindness. The artfully designed book is created to be passed from person to person as each one does an act of kindness. After the book goes through 12 hands, it is finally returned to its original owner as a diary of stories. Good Acts Journal has paired digital and analog to give the book a timeless feeling while letting you track it's progress around the city or the world. The journal makes a perfect gift or even just an experiment in human nature. You can learn more about the project on their website.