Today, Lorris Gibson Jr. is an executive chef and enterprising small businessowner but that was not always the case. Ten years ago, Lorris had completed chef training and was working in the restaurant industry when he struggled with addiction and he and his wife experienced homelessness. After recovering from his addiction with the help of Haven for Hope, Lorris decided to turn his cooking skills into a way to give back to those still struggling.
He started volunteering at St. Vinny’s Bistro, which serves more than 30,000 meals monthly to the unhoused in San Antonio at Haven for Hope. He worked his way up from volunteer to Cook and is now the Executive Chef. He is proud that 80% of employees at St. Vinny’s Bistro have experienced homelessness themselves but have since gained jobs skills and are earning a living and residing independently.
But Lorris wanted to help more people. During a meeting with his advisory board, the directors complimented him on his delicious sauces and suggested bottling them for wider distribution. The idea for Pops G was sparked. The business makes BBQ sauces and rubs and the proceeds will be reinvested in St. Vinny’s Bistro’s mission.
Despite the bold idea, getting the business off the ground was tough. Lorris needed capital to buy inventory, cover manufacturing costs and hire a few employees. He had seen the Liftfund office several times but never knew what services it offered until some friends recommended Liftfund to him. “I had really got in a situation where I was looking for help to keep Pop G’s and this dream alive.” He soon was able to secure a 0% interest loan through the City of San Antonio buydown program and get the help he needed.
Lorris is motivated every day by being able to spread awareness about homelessness and contribute to the solution through his product. The bottle labels share his personal story but more importantly, give hope. “I think it’s pretty important to also bring some people hope that you too can not only come out of homelessness and be able to be self-sufficient but eventually one day to be able to give back to the community.”
In the future, he hopes to own his own bakery and sell “Thank you Cookies” as well as manufacturing Pops G’s sauces in-house, which would allow him to provide even more jobs to formerly unhoused community members.