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Rising Stars: Meet Godfrey Riddle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Godfrey Riddle. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Civic Saint is a purposeful lifestyle on a mission to provide its customers with products that prompt joy, nostalgia, and reflection. Our current lineup includes affirming apparel and accessories. Because we believe and invest in inspiring communities where people reach their full potential, we donate a portion of our proceeds to organizations that advance racial and social equity.

Godfrey Riddle founded Civic Saint in October 2020 following the sudden loss of his parents and a battle with a rare form of head and neck cancer; however, the dream to build a purposeful business took root in Godfrey’s adolescence when his family lost their home to foreclosure the summer after his 7th-grade year. They were temporarily homeless and found shelter in hotel rooms and with relatives before moving into a rental duplex. The experience forever changed his worldview because he couldn’t understand how or why we live in a world where opportunity is rationed. Godfrey grew to realize that it’s a sociopolitical economic choice, not the decision of anyone’s family or person. He made it his mission to found a company that would demonstrate that profitability and positive impact are aligned because investing in your customers, employees, and community pays financial and societal dividends that allow you to build a sustainable business.

Civic Saint donates a portion of its proceeds to nonprofit organizations that work each day to build an equitable, inclusive world: Equal Justice Initiative, The Bail Project, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Troost Market Collective.

Godfrey inherited his passions for public service and fashion from his parents Cecil and Goldie. His mother, Goldie, loved getting dressed up and retired from Olathe Public Schools as a paraeducator. His father, Cecil, worked as a computer programmer in the University of Kansas IT Department for nearly three decades. They were happily married for 39 years. Civic Saint’s mission is dedicated to his parents and the values they demonstrated throughout their lives and instilled in Godfrey: integrity, gratitude, creativity, quality over quantity, joyful living, and public service.

Godfrey aspires for Civic Saint to grow into an ethical fashion and lifestyle brand with a 13-piece, gender-neutral capsule collection of versatile, timeless garments for the creative, community-minded individual. Our products are available online at CivicSaint.com and in stores at Do Good Co., ULAH, and Shop Local KC.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Certainly not. Losing my parents and fighting cancer on top of the burden of being a Black gay man in America has been grueling and–by far–the most difficult chapter of my life thus far.

I was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in May 2018 and six weeks later, my father Cecil passed away suddenly. Losing him was heart-wrenching for everyone in my family, but most especially my mother Goldie because they met when she was 16, married when she was 19 and stayed together for 39 years. I don’t think she ever recovered from the heartbreak and passed away fourteen months later, weeks before my cancer journey entered its most grueling chapter: a major surgery to remove a tumor and rebuild his left jaw followed by six weeks of chemotherapy and proton radiation.

The loss of my parents, struggle of my cancer treatment, and gruesome murders of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor all brought to focus how precious life is but also how perilous it is for Black people. I was tired of waiting to pursue my dream and of fearing for my life and the lives of people who look like me, so I decided I would try to harness the free market to do something about it by supporting organizations that are dismantling the systems of oppression in our society. Additionally, my products promote the visibility of the Black experience as valid and highlight our shared humanity because I feel like Black and Brown people aren’t viewed and valued as humans.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a creative social entrepreneur who has dedicated his career to public service. My specialties are fundraising, program development, and nonprofit administration. Prior to founding Civic Saint, I worked in the nonprofit sector where I’ve raised over $12 million for organizations and initiatives within the last seven years alone including ArtsKC, Rightfully Sewn, KC Friends of Alvin Aiely, and various others.

I started my professional career as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at the City of Phoenix, Arizona where I worked in the City Manager’s Volunteer Office and Neighborhood Services Director’s Office assisting with volunteer and program management. I’m proud to have led research, program development, and grant-writing for two Cities of Service grant-funded programs to tackle access to fresh produce and promote environmental sustainability through energy-use reduction, both at City-owned facilities. The experience introduced me to fundraising and I returned to Kansas City in 2012 to earn my Master of Public Administration from the University of Kansas.

Other highlights of my career that I’m proud of include:

1) Founding the Arts Leadership Series at ArtsKC to train individuals from diverse backgrounds in nonprofit board services then connect them with arts nonprofits.

2) Working as the Director of Development at KC Friends of Alvin Ailey where I worked with CEO Harlan Brownlee to close a $300K projected deficit in one year (we turned a $9K profit), launch two new events, and re-position the organization for sustainability, and

3) Serving as a founding team member and second full-time employee of Rightfully Sewn where I led revenue development and assisted with program development. During my tenure, the organization doubled or tripled is revenue annually, growing its annual revenues from $13K my first year to over $500K in my fourth and final full year.

I have also served on nonprofit boards and committees with several organizations including BlaqOut, Kemper Museum of Art, Francis Family Foundation, Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Ballet, and many more.

In addition to Civic Saint, I currently work full-time as the Director of Resource Development for ArtsKC where I am excited to bring new individual, business, and foundation partners into our work. I am also developing a Creative Leaders Program to prepare and connect rising stars from the corporate sector with arts nonprofit board opportunities. I would say that I am known for my innovative approach and talent for fundraising. My passion for public service, optimistic perspective, and inclusive mindset set me apart from others.

How do you define success?
To me, success means building a life in which I am able to take care of myself and those I love; build a family, and give back to my community in a way that generates equitable opportunities for people to access their full potential, especially for Black and Brown people, women, and girls.

Pricing:

  • Civic Saint offers apparel and accessories ranging in price from $6 to $58.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Civic Saint and Fawn Lies.

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