December 5, 2020

Staying in business during the heart of a pandemic is the sole priority for any business owner. And for Kelly Lankford, she is fighting to keep two businesses running. Last week, she got word that she is getting some unique help in her quest.

Lankford, owner of KHL Design Studio and INSPO: A Modern Decor Store – both women owned and 100 percent women-staffed – was the recipient of a $5,000 COVID relief grant from The Red Backpack Fund courtesy of the Spanx by Sarah Blakely Foundation. Both businesses are located at 12 SW Third Street in downtown Lee’s Summit.

“Our brick and mortar store in downtown Lee’s Summit has seen about a 50 percent drop in foot traffic,” said Lankford, who opened INSPO in the fall of 2019. “The Red Backpack Fund will allow our store to grow our online business through e-commerce options.”

Lankford’s business was the only women-owned company in the Lee’s Summit or the surrounding area to receive the nationwide grant, which went to over 1,000 such companies, distributing over $5 million in funds.

“We have a small-but-mighty all-female team here,” Lankford said, noting that KHL Design Studio has been open more than a decade. “Grants of this magnitude, focused on businesses owned by women who are fighting to stay open and stay relevant during these difficult times, are truly appreciated and will be put to use to continue our operations, pay our employees and continue to shift our business model.

“We blurred the line between interior design and retail when we opened INSPO last November, offering modern decor and furnishings at accessible price points. We have this great new shop to share, but with the pandemic foot traffic has greatly decreased.”

The $5,000 grant amounts were no coincidence, according to Blakely, Spanx founder.

“My hope is that this gift will help alleviate some of the pressures caused by this horrible pandemic,” she said. “Twenty years ago, I started Spanx with $5,000 in savings, and I see this as a time to pay it forward. Small business is the backbone of our culture. I know what it’s like to be a small business owner, and I want to provide some relief to these entrepreneurs during this time.”

Lankford, the Principal Interior Designer and CEO, has an all-women team, which includes sales associates Staci Allen and Kelly Couts, Junior Designer Erica Forsythe, intern Sydney Rickel and Senior Designer Susan Stevenson.

Lankford’s firm has won nine awards from the American Society of Interior Designers since 2012. INSPO, celebrating its 1-year anniversary, features home decor, furniture and artwork exclusively from local Lee’s Summit artists.