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Black women are one of the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in the United States and this past July, The PepsiCo Foundation and the National Urban League launched its initiative to provide 500 Black restaurant owners with capital, technical assistance, and mentorship services over the next five years as part of their Black Restaurant Accelerator Program.
“As the pandemic exposed existing disparities many minority business owners face, we saw a fundamental threat that could erase the decades of progress Black-owned restaurants have made. This investment will help Black restaurateurs not only recover from the pandemic but set them on a path to long-term economic resilience, “C.D. Glin, Vice President of Global Head of Philanthropy at The PepsiCo Foundation said in a press release. “We are inspired by the progress we are making through our collaboration with the National Urban League to address a fundamental gap and create opportunities for Black-business owners to build generational wealth and continue to strengthen their communities.”
Among those 500 Black restaurant owners who will receive grants from The PepsiCo Foundation, is a group of Black-women-owned restaurant owners. These women, along with the rest of the recipients, will receive critical support after their businesses were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We had a chance to chat with these Black women entrepreneurs about their inspiration, what makes them unique, how they overcame challenges, and what being a Black women entrepreneur means to them. Check out our interview below. 

Addis NOLA: New Orleans, LA

Owner – Biruk Alemayehu

Addis Nola

Source: Addis Nola / Addis Nola

HelloBeautiful: What inspired you to open Addis NOLA restaurant?

Biruk Alemayehu: My love and passion for the cuisine of my home country and my drive to bring that magical taste from my heart to the heart of New Orleans. 

HB: What makes your cuisine unique or stand apart from its competitors?

Alemayehu: In the entire state of Louisiana, Addis is one of only two Ethiopian restaurants. That unique cuisine paired with our intimate space, and heartwarming service welcome anyone and everyone into an experience like none other in New Orleans. 

HB: What does being a Black woman entrepreneur mean to you?

Alemayehu: I am beyond blessed and grateful to be a Black woman entrepreneur. To be that means that I am building something that I can leave for my family, generational wealth, and Black ownership. Two things that systemic racism in America has denied us from for too long. 

HB: How did you overcome the challenges in the last year and what role has the BRA accelerator program played in that?

Alemayehu: There are so many challenges that every Black women in America has to fight through to become successful in business and it’s only made easier when people and programs like this PepsiCo BRA come together and support us in overcoming that adversity. 

Chef’s of the Streets : Upper Marlboro, MD

Co-Owner – Shamara Watson

Chef of the Streets

Source: Chef of the Streets / Chef of the Streets

HelloBeautiful: What inspired you to open up Chef’s of the Streets?

Shamara Watson: The inspiration to open Chef’s Of The Streets began with our love for preparing and cooking food for family and friends. 

HB: What makes your cuisine unique or stand apart from its competitors?

Watson: Chef’s of the Streets stands apart from its competitors due to our unique signature spices and sauces with our unorthodox ways of preparing our food combinations.

HB: What does being a Black woman entrepreneur mean to you?

Watson: Being a Black woman entrepreneur feels exciting and wonderful. I started my business with a dream and $300.00 dollars. The inspiration for my business was the birth of my daughter and watching her become an entrepreneur herself with her own vegan smoothie business. What was once a dream is now becoming a legacy.

HB: How did you overcome the challenges in the last year and what role has the BRA accelerator program played in that?

Watson: We overcame the challenges by tapping into social media advertising and more. We lowered our prices to accommodate families who were struggling. We also began selling individual meals within the community. The PepsiCo BRA Accelerator program helped us as well to purchase our first catering truck, more advertisement and made traveling to other pop-up events much easier. The BRA Accelerator program has opened our business to more exposure and opportunities.

DeLish

Owner – Jasmine Brown 

De'Lish LLC

Source: De’Lish LLC / De’Lish LLC

HB: What inspired you to open DeLish restaurant?

Jasmine Brown: Initially, it was my late husband’s idea. We were avid diners and both loved different types of food as well as trying new cuisine. A friend of his, had a sister who was a chef, and she was moving back to Ohio from California, and it started out as a conversation about food and turned into opening a restaurant.  

HB: What makes your cuisine unique or stand apart from its competitors?

Brown: My cuisine is unique because it stays ahead of the curve. We work with local purveyors and farmers. When we first opened in 2010, no one in the area was doing chicken and waffles, soul rolls, or fried lobster. Our menu was comprised of places we’d visited from other states and brought back home. 

HB: What does being a Black woman entrepreneur mean to you?

Brown: For me being a black woman entrepreneur is one of the greatest feelings ever. I get to show little brown girls that they can do anything if they put their mind to it. They can look at me and know that ANYTHING is possible! 

HB: How did you overcome the challenges in the last year and what role has the BRA accelerator program played in that?

Brown: My restaurant had been closed for almost two years and I was on the verge of getting a “normal job” in December of 2019 when someone I know was in the process of opening a marketplace for vendors. She asked if I wanted to sell my eggrolls there and I agreed to it. So, I started selling my eggrolls in January of 2020 right before the pandemic hit. When everything was forced to shut down, we were made essential to our community. While places were locked down and closed my community would come Thursday-Sunday and buy all the food I had every day. It gave me a sense of purpose. So in August of last year, I purchased a food truck and as a recipient of the PepsiCo BRA Accelerator program, I was able to use some of the monies to pay for my food truck. The most valuable part of the program is that I am going through a ten-week program with a food consultant that will help take my business to the next level. I’m truly grateful! 

Odom’s Kitchen: Baton Rouge, LA

Co-Owner – D’Andra Odom

Odom’s Kitchen

Source: Odom’s Kitchen / Odom’s Kitchen

HelloBeautiful: What inspired you to open Odom’s Kitchen restaurant?

D’Andra Odom: I met my now-husband, who is Chef Brandon Odom in 2013.  We both had a passion for the culinary arts and I had always dreamt of owning an eatery.  Since this turned out to be his passion too, it was only right that we married our passions together.  After years of watching him work endless hours for others, we started exploring the pros and cons of our own business. Having both come from families with deep roots in serving and preparing edible enchantments, we wanted to carry on the legacy of his grandmother, Bonita Legro, and my late mother, Mae Bradford.  When COVID-19 hits and his full-time job shut down.  We began pushing Odom’s Kitchen full-time from our home.  During this pandemic, the owners of Tops Ultra Lounge reached out to us regarding partnering with them to offer a full-time brick and mortar.  So in October 2021, we moved everything from our home to Tops and debuted the brick and mortar of Odom’s Kitchen. 

HB: What makes your cuisine unique or stand apart from its competitors?

Odom: One of the things that sets us apart is that we do not hold our clients to a traditional menu for catering needs.  We consult with each client and allow them to turn their dreams of delicacy into edible enchantment.  Additionally, we try to offer lunch specials that feature some of our most popular catering items. This allows our clients to “sample” cuisines they may otherwise not experience. 

HB: What does being a Black woman entrepreneur mean to you?

Odom: Wow.  This is always my favorite question. My parents came along during the Civil Rights Movement. Hearing stories of being unable to even dine at “lunch counters” makes the opportunity to actually own a business (especially a “lunch counter”) a humbling experience.  Knowing that my very own parents fought to pave the way for Black people to have equal rights to entrepreneurship means a lot to me.  Add this to being able to show our children that they do not have to dream of working for someone makes all of this heartwarming. 

HB: How did you overcome the challenges in the last year and what role has the BRA accelerator program played in that?

Odom: The biggest challenges are equitable access to capital and infrastructure. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with a business. However, we would love to expand to our own space eventually.  The PepsiCo BRA Accelerator program has increased our ability to serve our customers. Additionally, the education and support we are receiving on being successful are tools we will carry with us for years to come. Without BRA, I am confident that we would not be where we are now. It is almost impossible to afford competitive marketing opportunities, so having the backing of the BRA accelerator program has been a blessing to not only our business but our family.

Southern Grace Cincy: Cincinnati, OH

Owner – Nickey Stevenson

Southern Grace Cincy

Source: Southern Grace Cincy / Southern Grace Cincy

HelloBeautiful: What inspired you to start Southern Grace Cincy Catering?

Stevenson: I started Southern Grace Cincy Catering after a failed engagement with my ex-fiance. After we broke up, I went before God and sought him through journaling about moving to Cincinnati and my purpose in life. It was revealed to me, that my work experience from the age of 15 as well as my passion and love for food was my purpose and I was called to cook for others.

HB: What makes your cuisine unique or stand apart from its competitors?

Stevenson: We specialize in producing fresh locally sourced southern homestyle food served with southern hospitality. 

HB: What does being a Black woman entrepreneur mean to you?

Stevenson: It means being professional at all times with every client and guest interaction. It means knowing every aspect of my business and investing in myself as a leader through leadership programs like the PepsiCo BRA Accelerator Program to help me enhance my skill set and ability to run my business more efficiently. It also means hiring a diverse team to gain different perspectives that will help our business grow through creative collaboration. It means making smart investments that lead to financial stability which leads to freedom.

HB: How did you overcome the challenges in the last year and what role has the BRA accelerator program played in that?

Stevenson: We overcame challenges with Covid-19 by changing our business model to offer curbside service for clients. We partner with a local farmer’s market to provide pre-packaged meals that make lunches and dinners easier for families during the pandemic. I also just finished my first class of the PepsiCo BRA Accelerator program today. I have 9 more weeks to go and I’m super excited. 

Slutty Vegan: Atlanta, GA

Owner – Pinky Cole 

Slutty Vegan

Source: Slutty Vegan / Slutty Vegan

HelloBeautiful: What inspired you to open Slutty Vegan restaurant?

Pinky Cole: Bringing vegan options and food awareness to Atlanta has always been a life dream of mine. There was a point in my life when I moved back to Atlanta for good when I was really focused on myself. I was running, getting my mind together, eating a vegan diet, and mentally preparing for something big that I knew was coming.  I went to college in Atlanta, and when I came back after time in LA, I wanted to create a place where people can reimagine food and vegan food in general. It all started from a late-night craving for vegan food. We have amazing vegan restaurants in Atlanta, but in LA, you can get vegan food on every corner, at any time of day. So, I started brainstorming what I could quickly put together for a restaurant that will serve good vegan food late at night. I had a lightbulb moment with the name Slutty Vegan and almost immediately came up with recipes and names like Sloppy Toppy, One Night Stand, and Fussy Hussy in my kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to find myself in a shared kitchen cooking vegan burgers in August 2018, and it took off from there.

HB: What makes your cuisine unique or stand apart from its competitors?

Cole: A “Slutty Vegan,” in my mind, is someone who eats vegan but enjoys junk food. Our goal is to reinvent vegan food culture, where vegans and meat-eaters can break free from kale and quinoa salads and enjoy creative takes on plant-based burgers, sandwiches, and meals. If we can get people to try vegan options, I believe we are taking a step in the right direction. Beyond the food, Slutty Vegan is the ultimate vibe. We want it to feel like you’re at a party when you’re standing in our line. That energy is something we cherish, and we provide an experience for every customer. Everyone is welcome whether they’re a lifelong vegan, a flexitarian or a full-time carnivore. We want regulars and first-timers (virgins!) alike to embrace Slutty Vegan. We’re not here to pressure anyone to commit to a vegan diet; we want to show them that eating plant-based doesn’t have to be boring or unappealing.

HB: What does being a Black woman entrepreneur mean to you?

Cole:  As a woman first, I have been blessed with so many talents and abilities. Right now, it’s the best time to be a black woman in business. There are so many opportunities, programs, and resources out there to help black women-owned businesses.  Black women have for centuries been the hardest and smartest working people in the game. A majority of my success happened when hard work met opportunity. This Atlanta community that we have rooted our business in has poured into me in such a way that I have no choice but to acknowledge them as a key to my success.

HB: How did you overcome the challenges in the last year and what role has the BRA accelerator program played in that?

Cole: While restaurants are closing, we have been blessed to successfully open two locations with socially distanced lines down the block and have more locations opening before the year ends. While record numbers of people are unemployed, we are able to provide sustainable employment. I am so grateful that the National Urban League and the PepsiCo Foundation are creating innovative ways to support Black businesses like Slutty Vegan. We thrived in a global pandemic because of the community and support from organizations like the National Urban League. We really appreciate the generous support and educational tools from the PepsiCo BRA Accelerator program. These resources will help Slutty Vegan continue to break the barriers of growth faced by Black businesses.

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The PepsiCo Foundation and the National Urban League Awarded 6 Black-Women Owned Restaurants Capital And Mentorship Services Over The Next 5 Years  was originally published on hellobeautiful.com

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