Photo Credit: Feed the Soul Foundation
How Feed The Soul Foundation Is Supporting Black-Owned Restaurants
Among the many casualties of last year’s pandemic were restaurant and bar workers, especially in Black-owned restaurants. Nearly two million in the culinary industry lost their jobs and are still unemployed. Recognizing these challenges, the Feed the Soul Foundation launched in 2020 to help Black culinary businesses.
Founded by entrepreneurs Falayn Farrell, Warren Luckett, and Derek Robinson, the non-profit is an offshoot of the branding and marketing awareness campaign Black Restaurant Week. According to Farrell, on the heels of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, they received interest from corporate partners asking how they could help more. The trio saw an opportunity to support marginalized restaurateurs.
“We would talk to Black-owned restaurants all the time,” Farrell told Travel Noire. “They would say, I know there are certain areas that I need to improve within my business, but I don’t have the capital to do that on my own. Or they just didn’t have the consultants or the expertise to do it on their own. What we want to do with the foundation is really just pick up and continue that conversation with making businesses sustainable in the community.”
In response, the foundation created the Restaurant Business Development Grant Program to assist culinary entrepreneurs with financial and professional resources. The selected businesses are issued a $10,000 cash grant to invest in their ventures as well as six months of business development support. The three sessions of programming include financial literacy training presented by Amergy Bank and one on one consultations with financial consultants. This is followed by the heavily requested marketing and advertising session with topics like traditional forms of advertising, working with the radio stations, billboards, social media buys, and developing a marketing plan. The final session is a critical one-on-one consultation with a business consultant in the area that the entrepreneur selected. The businesses are provided eight areas to focus on including menu consultation, beverage bar program development, and brand identity development.
Farrell explained, “The thought process behind that is when you talk to businesses, as a collective, there’s a lot of programming for small businesses. But it’s usually one size fits all model. When we really talk to businesses, their type of needs are all different. Their challenges are different. So, we didn’t want to put them in the same boat for the whole program.”
The program is just one of many initiatives sponsored by the foundation together with partners like Maker’s Mark® and Grubhub. A national emergency fund was set up to take care of incidentals not covered by insurance. Their scholarship program called Program Next, educates, supports, and mentors the next generation of culinary business leaders.
The inaugural Restaurant Business Development Grant Program cohort consists of 25 diverse small businesses from all over the United States including Jacksonville, FL; Atlanta, GA; New Orleans, LA; Baltimore, MA; Houston, TX; and San Jose, CA.
“One of our sister partner programs is Latin Restaurant Week, and we also understand the need for support in the indigenous community as well. We’re targeting marginalized groups like Black-owned restaurants, but even within that, formerly incarcerated or returning citizens, veterans, and senior citizens. We just really want to help the marginalized community with steps to get ahead.”
The foundation is already looking ahead to cohort two, which is scheduled to open for applications in October. With the support of corporate partners, Farrell hopes they will continue to grow and provide vital assistance to the marginalized small businesses in the culinary industry.
“What we’ve been dealing with in the culinary community is the resurgence of diversity, storytelling, and finally, a platform being created for these groups that were kind of ignored for so long,” she said. “We tell people all the time it’s not about a handout. It’s that they have a good product, and they just want to be sustainable in their community. Money is great. Cash injections are great. But I think if you don’t tell the story of what you do with the cash, within a year you’re back in the same boat because you weren’t taught how to properly invest it back in your business or spend it on your business to grow. Those are some of the problems we’re trying to solve with the foundation.”
For more information on the foundation and applications for the next cohort, visit the site.