During Black History Month, Hot Bread Kitchen is celebrating the diverse community of Black entrepreneurs working out of our small business incubator. Their culinary influences and inspirations span the African diaspora and the American palate, from Senegalese Ndambe black-eyed pea stew to Dominican sancocho to North Carolina banana pudding.
“While Black entrepreneurship has increased in the U.S., there’s still a gap in many areas from the number of entrepreneurs, employees, and access to capital, all of which Hot Bread Kitchen addresses in our Small Business programming,” says Kobla Asamoah, Head of Small Business at Hot Bread Kitchen. “Black entrepreneurship is essential on two fronts. One is business ownership: having a voice and agency toward a path of economic empowerment. Second is the importance of having a platform for entrepreneurs to share their culinary traditions and histories.”
“An important part of our mission is to give a platform to Black entrepreneurs to test, launch, and grow their enterprises.” –Kobla Asamoah, Hot Bread Kitchen
FROM WEST AFRICA TO NEW YORK CITY
Incubator members Chef Pierre Thiam and brothers Mohammed and Rahim Diallo are just two of our incubator members sharing a vision to bring African culinary traditions to New Yorkers with their exciting food ventures that mix entrepreneurship with community building.
One of the best known chefs celebrating African food and ingredients is Senegalese chef and social entrepreneur Pierre Thiam, who is also one of Hot Bread Kitchen’s first incubator members. Pierre brings West African food to cooks and eaters through his catering company, food company Yolélé Foods, cookbooks, and fast-casual restaurant Teranga. Order jollof fonio and stay for the atmosphere that celebrates the music, art, and culture of the African diaspora in Harlem. “I see so much opportunity for African food culture, in general, to just explode in New York,” Pierre said in an interview with Bon Appetit.
Another business building community around African foods is Ginjan, founded by brothers Mohammed and Rahim Diallo. Missing the flavors of their Guinea home, they brought the first packaged ginjan juice to market and recently opened an all-day cafe and community space in Harlem. At the Ginjan cafe, Mohammaed and Rahim serve a variety of coffee with African beans and drinks made with their signature ginger juice. “We started off with Africa, but our whole mission is to celebrate and highlight Black culture worldwide, wherever it’s marginalized,” Rahim told Vonnie Williams for Food & Wine Magazine.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS ON THE RISE AND WOMEN OF COLOR ARE AT THE FOREFRONT
According to Business Wire, women of color are leading in entrepreneurship — opening businesses 4.5 times the rate of all new businesses, and double the rate of all women-owned businesses. Black women, in fact, represent the highest rate of growth of any group. Incubator members like Ysanet Batista of Woke Foods and Sandra Mathis of Grace Kelli Cupcakes are leading this charge at Hot Bread Kitchen, both opening businesses with their heritage in mind.
Woke Foods is a women-of-color operated cooperative, where every employee can become a part-owner. “More people and more companies are becoming socially conscious consumers,” Founder Ysanet Batista told Forbes. “That’s our value proposition—we’re a socially conscious business—and it is a big attraction.” Ysanet takes it a step further by serving plant-based “New York meets the Caribbean” cuisine, defined by the Dominican dishes she grew up with like stuffed plantains with eggplant and vegan sancocho.
“I am a trainee by way of my ancestors.” —Sandra Mathis
Before starting her catering and dessert business Grace Kelli Cupcakes, Sandra Mathis was working as a dental assistant and volunteering at her daughter’s school. While Sandra did not anticipate becoming an entrepreneur, selling her daughter’s favorite treats at a school fundraiser seeded the idea to start her own business. Sandra draws inspiration from her North Carolina heritage and New York roots. On the menu are traditional North Carolina foods like collard greens, black-eyed peas, and her grandmother’s baked banana pudding. She learned to cook at her grandmother’s side and is proud to be providing the same influence for her daughter, Grace.
In addition to catering, Sandra teaches cooking classes for children. Grace is right there by her side in a chef’s hat and apron. “She thinks it awesome having her own business named after her, being able to go to school and tell her classmates that she and her mom have their own business, a Black-owned business at that,” Sandra says. In the future, Sandra hopes to add a product line to her catering and dessert business. “I want to be able to pass this down to her, something that she can have, a legacy.”
Hot Bread Kitchen’s Small Business Incubator incubates diverse small food businesses as they build their brand, refine their products and grow their sales. Our program provides shared commercial kitchen space, access-to-market opportunities, and assistance securing capital and scaling sustainably. By supporting underrepresented individuals impacted by racial, social, and economic inequality, we create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive economy where all entrepreneurs can thrive and celebrate culinary tradition and innovation. For more information visit hotbreadkitchen.org/incubates.