I had a wonderful interview with Karen Hunter. She asks all.the.right. questions, and is really just passionate about educating the community. Named one of the “Heavy Hundred” (The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts In America) by industry bible Talkers Magazine, Karen has blazed a trail, bringing more action and less talk to the medium. She not only has some of the most provocative interviews with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the world, she is also a change agent—challenging her listeners to participate in the success they want to see and be.
Named one of the “Heavy Hundred” (The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America) every year she’s been on SiriusXM, Karen has blazed a trail, bringing more action and less talk to the medium. She not only has some of the most provocative interviews with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the world, she is also a change agent—challenging her listeners to participate in the success they want to see and be.
Joining the Karen Hunter Show to Discuss Food January 18th, 2019Riana
Leading food companies are facing pressure on all sides. Consumer preferences are shifting. Startups like Beyond Meat, JUST Eggs and Farmer’s Fridge are stealing market share. Meanwhile, food brands’ clients are becoming competitors as grocery chains invest more into their own private labels and as Amazon rolls out its own food products.
Some of these threats are immediate; some may be devastating 5–10 years out.
Many major food companies have begun to invest in e-commerce, healthier product options, new corporate venture funds, and other tools, but is it enough?
I noticed the top trends that emerged in the past year, including:
Meat producers investing in alternative proteins
Biology to the forefront
Food brands adopting blockchain
Growth in AI applications for food
The rise in private labels
New direct-to-consumer distribution strategies
A boom in corporate venture capital investment into food and beverage startups
I will close out a full review on the last week of the year!
Top 2018 Food Trends: A look back December 9th, 2018Riana
Healthy, inexpensive food should be a right for all. Without a healthy diet, our mental acuity, physical health, and mental health deteriorate. But what is a healthy diet? A healthy diet is considered to be a diet that has either positive health benefits or no negatives in regards to health. In the US, the highest obesity rate of any country in the world by far, the average nine-year-old ingested more than three times the recommended amount of added sugar per day. Not only does this cause the mid-day crash that requires more sugar to supplant energy, it leads to long-term heart issues, as well as other diseases. And people know this. So why aren’t people eating better?
Because healthy foods are notoriously way more expensive and less accessible in comparison to unhealthy options. In the United States alone, tens of millions of people live in food deserts without easy access to healthy options they can afford, as the large majority of these people are low income. It’s been found that there’s a higher density of fast food restaurants in these lower-income areas, in comparison to more affluent neighborhoods (Hilmers, Hilmers, and Dave, 2012). While convenience stores and other more affordable options, like Costco, Target, and Walmart, offer healthy options, like canned beans, some fresh produce, and fresh or frozen meats, there’s still an incredible disparity. Stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and other higher-end grocers with vast selections of healthy options from fruit snacks to plant-based frozen meats often don’t exist for millions of people.
So what can we do? Let’s create a culture of smarter food. We need to gear research and development efforts to create lower cost, sustainable methods of sourcing foods, so we can create better foods from these ingredients for less money. Blockchain technology allows us to be more critical about where our foods come from, so it’s easier to support sustainable, ethical practices. For consumers, shopping strategically to get the most out of the money spent on organic or healthier foods will make it easier to get the better-for-you nutrition everyone deserves. Shopping more often, if you have time, and focusing meals around beans, frozen veggies, and what’s on sale makes it easier to get the healthier options at lower prices. Even though Trader Joe’s isn’t as prevalent as larger chains, like Jewel, Kroger, or Safeway, their prices are low and the pre-made, frozen, and plant-based options are plentiful.
High-quality ingredients do not always yield high-quality food. With misleading labels, harmful shipping practices, and farming methods that are less-than-ethical, consumers, restaurants, and small farmers alike are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the best quality food items. Luckily, improvements in blockchain and food sensor technologies allow all people who consume or work in the food industry the agency to be as informed as possible about what’s going into their restaurants, stores, and bodies.
Consumers today are more quality conscious and informed than ever; people want higher quality, fresher products, with more people turning to plant-based food items than ever before. However, just because a product is made of high-quality ingredients doesn’t mean the product itself is high quality.
Improvements in food sensor technology allow consumers to track the ingredients in their food. Blockchain allows us to create public databases, called ledgers, where the food sensor data is recorded and stored, so it can’t be falsified, keeping people shipping food and grocery stores that sell it more honest. This transparency creates consumer security and automatic access to the global food supply chain, making it easier for cooperation across all groups, including food producers, sellers, and buyers. Blockchain also ensures higher standards for food safety and a healthier, more efficient supply chain. In my own work, I plan to utilize blockchain to increase transparency between the people who grow the foods for my team to continually innovate and the people who buy from me. This technology will create a stronger culture of accountability, ensuring companies use sustainable, ethical farming practices and shipping methods the maintain the integrity of the food.
Building a sustainable and trustworthy company culture, especially in big food, is tough. I share my thoughts on an inclusive and mission-oriented Starbucks of the future.
“Consumers today are very fickle,” said Riana Lynn, who is a food and technology entrepreneur. She is also the founder of FoodTrace, a software company that allows food industry executives insight on food sourcing origins. I reached out to Lynn because as a Black expert in supply chain management and the food industry, she sits at a deeply insightful intersection of race, gender and technology. “If a situation turns into a meme or a conversation that holds true in the media a little too long, that’s kind of like what you see when someone goes through a food safety issue. That could hurt the culture and brand in a damaging way.” Lynn has seen in the companies she has managed that the damage will ultimately be felt in lost sales.
When larger corporations fumble, it can be a vital opportunity for newer companies to grab market share. “You can lose favor so fast with your biggest supporters, and it gives the advantage to smaller companies,” said Lynn. She’s also seen how cultivating intentional company culture can be a market differentiator. “A lot of food startups now are building culture and inclusion and an open learning environment into their mission as early as possible,” she said. Lynn has seen this approach prove to be a winning advantage when it comes to attracting customers and supporters who tie their values to their purchasing decisions, like Millennial consumers.
But it’s not just about short-term gain or loss. Lynn stressed the same sentiment that many people are raising when considering Starbucks’s decision to conduct their anti-bias training. It can’t just be about a one day event. “When it comes to a company like Starbucks, the best actions are long-term actions. It’s encouraging that Starbucks is having thousands of its employees take an unconscious bias training, but that’s not enough,” she said. Lynn suggests considering permanent changes that weave inclusion into the fabric of the company. “It has to be incorporated into the culture of the organization and in hiring practices of every major company, particularly public ones. Starbucks has a duty to build culture that advances the entire population, not only for the employees but also the communities that they serve.” Lynn noted that in any company related to food, minorities are relied on every day for industry success. “The only way to solve these issues is to build solutions into your systems with long-term presence and effect. A one day training is lost on so many people if it’s not in human resource documents or policy, or in on-going training, or embedded within permanent best practices,” Lynn noted.
How Starbucks And Other Major Corporations Are Negotiating Very Public Apologies May 29th, 2018Riana
Young leaders gathered at Apeel and Food Tank’s Aperitivo to confront food loss and food waste.
Apeel Sciences and Food Tank invited speakers of The Global Food Innovation Summit to gather at Ratana, an acclaimed restaurant in Milan, for food, drinks, and perspectives on reducing food waste. Danielle Nierenberg and James Rogers, CEO of Apeel Sciences, co-hosted the discussion featuring Alice Delcourt, Chef at Erba Brusca; Nicolas Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen; Riana Lynn, CEO of Food Trace; and Haile Thomas, CEO of The HAPPY Org. As the young leaders explored new solutions to the food system’s most urgent issues, over 100 guests enjoyed a sustainable menu.
Head Chef Cesare Battisti curated a special menu celebrating ingredients otherwise destined for the landfill. Battisti honored overripe, stale, and typically less noble items with elevated dishes. Attendees enjoyed asparagus risotto recovered asparagus ends, while mondeghili Milanese featured meat Battisti previously used to make broth.
Apeel Sciences, recently named one of CNBC’s Top 50 Disruptors, supports creativity and fresh perspectives on sustainability as part of their mission to eliminate food spoilage. The company’s organic food coating blends typically wasted plant materials such as leaves and peels into a protective spray. “The result is a doubling of the marketable and edible lifespan of fruits and vegetables,” says James Rogers. “And we’re just getting started.”
Photograph courtesy of Apeel Sciences.
Fresh Perspectives on Wasted Food in Milan May 25th, 2018Riana
Each year around this time, someone presents women with a startling and depressing fact – it usually goes like this stat from the AAUW: “Did you know that in 2016, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent?”
And let’s not forget this from Pew Research: “the hourly earnings of Asian and white women ($18 and $17, respectively) are higher than those of black and Hispanic women ($13 and $12, respectively).”
As we approach Equal Pay Day – April 10 – we want our day of events to make a dent in the problem. We are, after all, constantly using fitness as a catalyst to help you chase your big goals, and what bigger goal could there be than advocating for yourself and others?
We’ll be at the gorgeous new venue Loft Lucia at 7 N Carpenter St. This venue is great for all sorts of events – from female empowerment to weddings, whatever. Because we’ll be in the space all day, it will be open to you to co-work, with free-flowing Wi-Fi, snacks and drinks to keep you productive all day.
What are we doing for Equal Pay Day?
Here’s the day’s itinerary. Book as many events within the day as you’d like or just one.
7 am-8:30 am: Meditation + Bullet Journaling. We’ll start the day with an energizing meditation by Rogan Motis of Chill and then create bullet journals to set us on the path to achieve all of the big goals we can imagine. We’ll pursue this creative project with the help of our friends from Paper Source. The workshop fee includes a new moleskin notebook, supplies to turn plain notebooks into bullet journals, instruction and meditation. Breakfast will be provided by KitchFix.
8:30 am-12 pm:Complimentary co-working. Loft Lucia will be open as a part of Equal Pay Day for free co-working.
No need to register, just show up!
12-1 pm:Networking Lunch with Six Degrees Society. We’re partnering with our friends from Six Degrees Society for a networking lunch unlike anything we’ve experienced. You’ll be matched ahead of time with three to four people, curated by the experts at Six Degrees Society – you’ll become fast friends, maybe even helping each other with your next career move. Lunch will be provided by sweetgreen.
1-3 pm: Complimentary co-working. Loft Lucia will be open as a part of Equal Pay Day for free co-working.
No need to register, just show up!
3-5 pm: Complimentary Pay Negotiation Training by AAUW presented by Luna. This portion of the day will be completely complimentary. Grab your colleagues and take this time for your career. You’ll walk away from this two-hour workshop with negotiating skills that will help you outside of your salary conversations. This pay negotiation workshop will be facilitated by the AAUW and is presented by Luna.
And to make getting to and from the training more accessible, Lyft created a special offer for us. With code AAUWCHI get $5 off two rides to or from Loft Lucia on the day of the event from 1 PM to 6 PM.
5-6 pm:Notable Nails will give complimentary manicures on a first-come, first serve basis.
6pm:Sweat X Sweat – Boxing meets Barre. If you’ve been asking yourself, “Where’s the workout?” – rest assured, there’s always a fitness element to help us achieve our big goals. We’re creating an IRL mash-up from the SweatWorking App and your next favorite combo class. This workout will bring together the tough boxing workouts that Courtney Belcastro delivers and the tiny, toning movements by Trista Greco that will make you weird-sore the next day – also known as barre. All workout attendees will automatically be granted access to the panel.
7:30 pm: Panel Discussion – Blazing a path to the top. To finish the night, we’re pinching ourself over the panel of incredible women who will speak about how a path was blazed for them and how they’re helping women today. We’ll be announcing the panelists on a rolling basis, but here’s who we’re ready to announce.
Moderated by Alida Miranda-Wolff: Alida is an experienced venture capital pro, seasoned at Hyde Park Angels where she created pathways to success for entrepreneurs in a wide variety of sectors. She’s whip-smart, constantly learning and always ready to help someone who asks.
Katlin Smith, CEO/founder of Simple Mills. This Chicago-based company is at the forefront of a clean food movement that is shaping the next generation of natural foods. Named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017, Smith launched Simple Mills in 2013 to provide a cleaner alternative to the natural baking mixes then on the market.
Jenn Dieas, CEO/founder of GlowOut: GlowOut salons arechic boutiques where women get pretty and get social with friends. Glowout houses the essential quick beauty services; blowouts, airbrush tanning, natural nails, makeup and brows in spaces designed to host parties large and small. Jenn is a natural and empathetic leader who channels having to be the boss of her life early into being a boss now.
Riana Lynn, Co-Founder of Women Tech Founders, Journey Foods, Director Cleveland Avenue Ventures: Riana is a leader in food innovation, technology, and venture strategy. A biologist turned serial entrepreneur, Riana has developed high-growth, nationally recognized technology, and food businesses. First-hand experience working through problems and scaling a family juice company inspired her to develop acquired supply chain transparency software. She now serves as the CEO of Journey Foods, an exciting combination of her science, CPG, and technology backgrounds. Riana’s work impacts some of the most innovative food and agriculture startups in the world, as well as Fortune 500 companies on new innovations. Her accomplishments have been featured on CNBC, Forbes, USA Today, Wired, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine, among others.
Baaba Holland, founder and CEO of the Baaba Holland Agency: Baaba Holland is a Financial Executive turned Branding Boss. The Baaba Holland Agency grew out of Baaba’s lifelong passion for design, creativity and overall style. Guided by an innovative and direct approach, Baaba helps clients elevate their brands, achieve their goals and unlock their potential. Baaba is extremely passionate about the art of branding, the science of business development and the idea of disrupting the status quo. Driven by the desire to help her clients, and her own intellectual curiosity, she learns everything about her client’s challenges and goals before creating magic for their brands. Baaba loves working with extraordinary leaders to take their businesses to the next level. She believes that your only limit is your mind and that the cure for fear is knowledge & action. Before starting The Baaba Holland Agency, she was an executive at Fortune 500 companies like JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, eventually moving into a Risk Management firm, offering solutions to Museums and Cultural Institutions. She received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Howard University and completed her MBA at Roosevelt University. Baaba is also a board member of Step Up (suwn.org), Chicago chapter.
Thank you Rolling Out for featuring the value of FoodTrace. As our acquisition is now closed. We are soon launching industry-wide traceability reports and best practices kits for purchase.
For years, people of color have been misrepresented and are often paid less for their contributions in many industries. The tech industry is no exception. According to an article written by Fast Company, Black people who work in the tech industry are paid $6K less per year than their White peers. Often overlooked, but never outdone, people of color are taking matters into their own hands by starting their own organizations and tech and software companies to increase inclusion for people of color in the tech industry. With technology ever-evolving, people of color are making sure they are a part of the contributions to the ongoing advancement of technology.
Check out seven Black-owned tech companies that you need to know below.
1) Airfordable: Struggling to book affordable flights? Don’t fret. Airfordable allows consumers to book a trip for a fraction of the cost upfront and pay the remaining balance in several installments before their departure date. Airfordable lets you search for flights on Google Flight, Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, etc. Co-founder and CEO of the company, Ama Marfo was inspired to launch Airfordable after not being able to afford a flight to Ghana during school breaks at Drexel University in Philidelphia to visit family. “I stayed in dorms every single break, alone, and missed my family, “ she stated in an interview with the Young Empire. Three million miles of flights have been booked since the company launch in January 2016. Providing a solution to a problem that many face of not being able to afford flights, Airfordable is creating change.
2) Innclusive: You may have heard tales of Black people dealing with discrimination with Airbnb. Innclusive came to be after founder Rohan Gilkes was discriminated against while booking a place in Idaho on Airbnb. The full story of his troubles while booking on a vacation site can be found on Innclusive. Co-founder Zakiyyah Myers, a mother of two who is a friend of Gilkes, decided to join him to do something about discrimination against Blacks while they’re booking. Myers says the difference between Airbnb and Innclusive is that Innclusive is “welcoming of all people from race, religions, and backgrounds.” Tired of dealing with #AirbnbWhileBlack, Innclusive allow users to facilitate the listing and booking of accommodations. To register, create an Innclusive account before booking for your next trip.
Photo credit: Instagram – @Innclusive
3) Lisnr: Sending data over audio can be tricky, but Lisnr has the solution to your problem. The company’s goal is to create wide-scale connectivity everywhere. Lisnr coins themselves as the leading, global provider of data-over-audio (DoA) solutions. Founded by Rodney Williams, Josh Glick, and Chris Ostoich in 2012, Lisnr is advanced and an a near-ultrasonic transmission technology that transmits data fast and secure between devices such as a speaker or microphone. Consumers can use Lisnr for free as the company only charge markerters for using it, such as AT&T, Heineken, Live Nation and Budweiser.
Photo credit: Instagram – @Lisnr
4) HBCU HUB: Despite what some may think, Historically Black Colleges and Universities matter. HBCU HUB, the mobile app, is making that loud and clear. HBCU HUB caters to all students in the United States and in over 50 countries. Founded in 2016 by a student of Grambling State University, Jonathan Swindell, he serves as the CEO of the app alongside Southern University alum Morgan Adams (creative director) and Grambling State University student Kambria Ruffin (chief strategy officer). The purpose of HBCU HUB is to help students who want to get a college education apply, prepare, and get accepted into their dream HBCU. HBCU HUB is helping to continue the importance of HBCUs and helping students gear up for the next step in their lives. Class is in session.
Photo credit: Instagram – @HBCUHUB
5) Food Trace: Now food businesses have a powerful platform. Food Trace, founded by Riana Lynn, builds software and mapping applications for food sourcing management. Food Trace uses Big Data and user profiles from small businesses to link food distributors, farms in the local area, and food manufacturers with wholesale food buyers. Those who want to manage their food business better can choose the $3 per month plan to show customers where to find the user’s products or $33 per year plan for businesses constantly updating their sourcing partners. Businesses can even get one month free when signing up. Users can manage their network, get their business on the map, and bring experiences to their communities.
Photo credit: Instagram – @thefoodtrace
6) Plum Perfect: From flights, apps, food, and even beauty, people of color are creating in the world of technology. Plum Perfect was founded by Asmau Ahmed in 2014. It is the perfect beauty app for women of color. The app uses technology by scanning users’ selfies to find the best makeup shades (lipstick) for their skin tone. “It’s natural for people to take selfies, and we’re riding that wave,” said Ahmed in an article written by Ellen Thomas of WWD.com in 2016. The technology used in the app helps find the perfect match and next makeup product in less than 60 seconds. Ahmed launched Plum Perfect due to frustrations with finding the perfect lipstick shade based on skin tone.
Photo credit: Instagram – @PlumPerfectBeauty
7) Kiverdi: Oil is a nonrenewable resource. With Kiverdi, the technology uses all natural microbes to transform CO2 (carbon dioxide) and various of other gases into high-value oils, nutrients, and bio-based products. Kiverdi technology targets a variety of bio-based compounds. Lisa Dyson is the founder and CEO of Kiverdi. The company was founded in 2008. Dyson has experience in technology through bioengineering and physics research. She has also conducted research at Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton. Dyson received her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through Kivedi’s recycling of carbon dioxide, the company insists that it is bridging the gap between sustainability and profitability.
Photo credit: Twitter – @kiverdi
7 tech companies you need to know March 27th, 2018Riana
I am thrilled to be included in this list for Black History Month 2018. Thank you!
February is Black History Month, a time for recognizing the historic accomplishments of people of African ancestry.
History is being made all the time, though, so in this article, we’re going to take a forward-looking approach and learn about 20 black entrepreneurs who are pursuing innovative business ventures right now.
These innovators are based all around the world and across many different industries, from financial services to renewable energy. I’m focusing on up-and-coming entrepreneurs rather than household names, so there will probably be quite a few people in this list who are new to you. I hope you take their achievements as inspiration to start new ventures of your own.
So, if you’re ready, let’s start the list of innovative black entrepreneurs to watch out for in 2018.
1. Martin Ijaha
Imagine taking inspiration from the traditional “sou-sou” savings clubs that are common across Africa, matching it up with modern technology, and creating a successful financial technology startup that just attracted a £100million investment from Goldman Sachs.
That’s Martin Ijaha’s story, and I have a feeling it’s only just beginning. His UK startup, Neyber, partners with employers to offer loans to employees at affordable rates, with the repayments being taken directly out of their paychecks. From issuing its first loan in 2014, it’s now lent out more than £50 million, and the new influx of funding should help the company grow fast.
2. Moziah Bridges
Those of you in the U.S. may remember Moziah Bridges from his brief appearance as a precocious 12-year-old bow-tie maker on the reality TV show Shark Tank a few years ago.
Reality TV doesn’t always translate into real-world success, but it has for Bridges. Now 15 years old, he recently signed a seven-figure deal to supply bow ties to the NBA, and his business, Mo’s Bows, is going from strength to strength.
On Shark Tank, he turned down a $50,000 investment offer from one investor in favor of zero money but an ongoing mentorship with fashion mogul Daymond John. That’s looking like a smart move now.
3. Kymberlee Jay
The road to success isn’t always straight and direct. Kymberlee Jay started out as a dancer for Madonna before working as a choreographer, but she’s now found success with DoodleDirect, a company that makes slick animated videos to boost companies’ internal and external communications.
DoodleDirect has done work for major clients like Knight Frank, Vauxhall and the Food Standards Agency, and its success was acknowledged a few months ago when Jay won the Arts and Media Rising Star award at the 2017 Black British Business Awards.
4. Myriam Taylor, Muxima
The daughter of Angolan refugees, Myriam Taylor cofounded both a biotech company and a luxury haircare company in Lisbon, Portugal with her husband Paulo.
When she was pregnant, Taylor wanted to be able to wear her hair both curly and straight while avoiding any harsh chemicals. Not finding a solution she was happy with, she decided to create one herself, and now her company, Muxima, sells a growing range of caviar-based shampoos, conditioners, oils and other products for textured hair both in European department stores and online.
5. Iyin Aboyeji
Nigerian entrepreneur Iyin Aboyeji co-founded Andela, a software training company that snagged a $24 million investment from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s foundation.
But shortly after the investment, Aboyeji left the company to focus a new venture, Flutterwave, focusing on enabling digital payments across Africa. The company has already processed 10 million transactions and $1.2 billion in payments, so watch out for what it does next.
The idea is simple: connect owners of barbershops and beauty salons who have empty chairs with individual stylists who need space to work. Tye is a salon owner with more than 20 years of experience, while Courtney has worked in sales and marketing for companies like Zendesk, Zenefits, and Qualtrics. With their solid business idea, complementary skills and a new infusion of cash, expect ShearShare to grow even faster in 2018.
7. Anne Githuku-Shongwe
After a long career at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Anne Githuku-Shongwe decided to start her own mobile gaming company, Afroes.
Although it seems like a change of direction, development is still at the core of her work: the goal of Afroes is to create games that will “position African youth for productive futures by innovating in skills acquisition, engagement and connecting to opportunity.”
With a long track record and recognition over the years from organizations like the Cartier Women’s Initiative and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, there’s plenty of scope for more to come from this creative South African entrepreneur.
8. Maya Penn
Maya Penn was just eight years old when she started her sustainable fashion company, Maya’s Ideas.
Now 17, Penn has written a book, given three TED talks, and been recognized by Oprah Winfrey as a “SuperSoul 100 Entrepreneur”. As her business selling environmentally friendly fashion accessories grows, she also invests in charitable initiatives such as created eco-friendly sanitary pads for women and girls in developing countries and shipping them to healthcare facilities in Haiti, Senegal, Somalia, and more.
9. Lanny Smith
As an entrepreneur, you’re often told to “follow your passion.” But some people have multiple passions, and it’s often their combination that brings success.
That’s been the case for former NBA basketball player Lanny Smith, who now runs Active Faith Sports, a sports retailer infused with his Christian faith. Many of the products have slogans reflecting his religious beliefs, and this combination of sport and religion has clearly found an audience—the company had revenue of almost $7 million in 2016.
10. Freddie Figgers
It takes a lot of courage to go up against the big tech giants like Apple and Verizon, but that’s exactly what Florida entrepreneur Freddie Figgers has done with his cellphone company, Figgers Communication.
The company makes and sells its own proprietary handsets as well as offering its own cellphone network. The phone also has a special feature to prevent texting while driving. Figgers got started with technology at a young age and already has a series of inventions to his name.
11. Mignon Francois
Mignon Francois’s story is the stuff of dreams. She started out deep in debt and selling cupcakes from her living room while caring for six children, and ten years later she’s running a million-dollar company.
The Cupcake Collection is based in Nashville, Tennessee, but you can buy online and have them shipped anywhere. But despite the company’s growth, Francois says she still makes the cupcakes at home:
“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We are just trying to do classic things well. Our cupcakes taste homemade because they are homemade, right in the space where I raised my family.”
12. Tiffany Simpson
Entrepreneurs often have to try several different things before finding success, and Belizean entrepreneur Tiffany Simpson is no exception. She freely admits that she “started several businesses that failed miserably.”
Her initial success came from teaming up with her brother to found Belizean Artwork Publishing, a company publishing books and CDs for local Belizean artists. Then, when her son was diagnosed with autism, she taught herself to develop simple computer games to help him improve his speech and learn other skills. She has since run businesses selling computer games and mobile apps, and even helped her son Jayden set up his own business, The Games Space.
13. Rodney Greenup
Entrepreneurs aren’t always high-profile folks. Sometimes they make a big success in a business that’s not very exciting or glamorous.
That’s the case with Rodney Greenup, founder of oil & gas maintenance firm Greenup Industries of Louisiana. With close to $15 million in revenue and fast growth year on year, this is definitely a success story.
14. Monique Evelle
Brazilian entrepreneur Monique Evelle, Brazil is one of the founders of Kumasi, an e-commerce site that takes its name from a famous Ghanaian market and sells products by entrepreneurs of African ancestry in the area of Salvador de Bahia.
On top of that, Evelle also runs Desabofo Social, an organization that works for human rights education across Brazil.
15. Johanan Dujon
One hallmark of a good entrepreneur is seeing an opportunity where others see only a problem. In recent years, the famous beaches of the Caribbean have been inundated with seaweed. Johanan Dujon of St Lucia recognized that seaweed, although not very pleasant for beachgoers, is very useful for farmers.
So, he began harvesting the seaweed and using it to make Algas Total Plant Tonic, an all-natural product that improves plants’ nutrient uptake efficiency. His company, Algas Organics, has now attracted support from the United Nations Development Programme and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, and he is looking to export the tonic to other parts of the world.
Dujon has plenty of ambition, believing that his seaweed could play an important role in boosting food production without chemical additives: “We believe that sustainable agriculture is the key to food security amidst the challenges of climate change.”
16. Anne-Marie Imafidon
After completing her Master’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Oxford when she was just 20, Anne-Marie Imafidon went on to a successful career that included positions at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, and Deutsche Bank.
Her current venture is a social enterprise called Stemettes, which aims to encourage more young women to embark on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers.
17. Riana Lynn
More and more people these days want to know where their food is coming from—and, ideally, they want it to be fresh and locally produced.
That’s where Riana Lynn’s startup FoodTrace comes in. It builds software and apps to help link local farms and food distributors with larger wholesale food buyers. Lynn is also an entrepreneur-in-residence with Google Code 2040, a program that works to support and connect black and Latinx entrepreneurs with resources needed to build their companies.
Lynn was selected as an Entrepreneur in Residence on the Google Code2040 program, and also helped out at Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden at the White House.
18. Silas Adekunle
Signing a deal with Apple is always a good thing to have on your resume, and it can lead to big things. So, watch out for Silas Adekunle in 2018. He’s the British-Nigerian CEO and cofounder of Reach Robotics, which recently announced a deal to have its new gaming robots stocked at Apple Stores throughout the US and UK.
The $299.99 MekaMon robot mixes real-world gameplay with augmented reality. If this new gaming platform takes off, Adekunle’s entrepreneurial career is sure to follow a similar trajectory.
19. Ray J
Ray J may seem like an odd name to include on this list. After all, he’s been quite well known as a singer, actor and TV personality for years now.
But in recent years, he’s taken more of an interest in other business ventures through his company Raycon. And his company recently signed a $31 million deal with a major New York electronics distributor, Cowboy Wholesale. The main products of this fairly new business are electronic transport, smartwatches, Bluetooth audio, and drones.
The combination of Ray J’s entrepreneurial ability, some major celebrity endorsements and the power of an experienced distribution company could be powerful.
20. Jean Bosco Nzeyimana
“Sustainably powering the world” may seem like an ambitious slogan for a young Rwandan renewable-energy entrepreneur, but don’t bet against Jean Bosco Nzeyimana. He appeared in a panel discussion with Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and his company, Habona Ltd., is going from strength to strength.
The company focuses on affordable renewable energy sources to help people deal with Rwanda’s severe energy crisis, such as biogas for household cooking and lighting, biomass briquettes, and bio-fertilizer for farmers.
Any list like this is bound to be highly subjective. I tried to include a broad range of black entrepreneurs doing an array of innovative things in different parts of the world, but to be honest, it was quite difficult to narrow it down to just 20 names.
I could have mentioned, for example, the brilliant Adinkra-based design work of Chrissa Amuah in the UK, or Chinwe Ohajuruka’s work on sustainable housing in Nigeria, or creative storyteller Kenia Mattis, or a whole range of other entrepreneurs from Africa and the African diaspora who are engaged in exciting projects.
I’m sure you’ve got your own ideas on who should have been included. So, please feel free to leave a comment below to help expand the list.”
I was recently interviewed by Leanna Garfied of Business Insider. We discussed a range of opportunities for communities and businesses to build better solutions for SNAP recipients. We must continue collaborative efforts to bring fresh and affordable foods to all communities in the future of retail. Thank you for the feature.
“Amazon pitches its new Go store in Seattle as the supermarket of the future.
The store does not feature cashiers or checkout lines. Instead, a sensor-and-camera system detects when shoppers pick items off the shelves, and Amazon charges them automatically via an app when they leave.
In January, Slate’s April Glaser noted another glaring difference between Amazon Go and most traditional supermarkets. The former does not accept food stamps (also known as EBT cards) that are part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that the company does not plan to accept EBT cards at the store, at least for the foreseeable future.
But that could be a bad business move for Amazon, according to Riana Lynn, a biologist and technologist who researches how cities can make fresh food more accessible.
“They could be raking in millions more dollars,” she told Business Insider. “It’s a no-brainer that accepting SNAP could be a lot of money for [Amazon], especially since it’s getting into fresher groceries.”