ABOVE PHOTO: Veganwhere (Photo by Bill Z. Foster)
By Denise Clay-Murray
You can be a food entrepreneur at any age — just ask Terelle Anderson. Putting a modern twist on the time-honored tradition of operating a lemonade stand, 11-year-old Terelle is the “Rell” behind Rell’s Thirstburst, a company that sells drinks made of fresh juices and teas with no preservatives.
His reasons for getting started were simple, Terelle said.
“I wanted to put some money in my pockets, help people and have fun,” he said.
With the help of his mother and father, Edwina and Terelle Sr., Terelle was one of the 20 vendors that took part in last weekend’s Black Food and Dessert Expo at the Urban Ridge Creative Space in East Falls.
From the New Freedom Baking Company, where Hasiynah Mohammed makes a great caramel apple bean pie, to Veganwhere, Corneia White’s healthier homage to her grandmother’s Southern cooking to Zenful Treats by King’s Cafe, where Tyrena Jackson combines relaxation with good food to produce the ultimate in date nights, the Black Food and Dessert Expo had something for everyone.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-day expo was divided into shopping blocks of 30 people each, said Aneesah Smith-Ward, the founder and CEO of the event. Out of the 82 businesses that applied for slots, 20 businesses that are looking to take the next steps in their journey as food entrepreneurs were selected, she said.
At a time when the pandemic made it tough for conventional restaurants to remain open, many of the food vendors at the expo had either started their businesses during the pandemic, or have watched them thrive as people enduring quarantine looked for a way to bring the slightest bit of normalcy to their lives.
“It took me a while to adjust, but it’s been really good for me,” said Chanell Gladden, owner and pastry chef of Peyton’s Pastries, a bakery that specializes in pound cakes, cookies and blondies. “People need some kind of joy.”
The Expo gave these businesses a chance to be discovered by potential clients, said Smith-Ward, who is also the owner of the Kupcake Bar in Eagleton.
“We chose the businesses based on their potential to grow and helped them with marketing and branding 90 days prior to the Expo,” Smith-Ward said.
Now that the City of Philadelphia is relaxing some of its restrictions on indoor dining and catered events, many of these businesses will be able to take advantage of the new opportunities that will come as a result of that.
Prior to the pandemic, Miss Goody Goody, Daejah Cunningham’s bakery specializing in custom cakes and cupcakes, held “Cupcakes and Cocktails” events.
Cunningham hoped that the expo would lead to her being able to help people celebrate their special occasions again.
“There’s definitely been some bumps in the road,” she said. “But things are starting to pick up again.”
But most importantly, the Expo has given these businesses a chance to see that they’re not alone, Smith-Ward said.
“What led me to [put together the Expo] was seeing that there was a lack of unity in the Black food community,” she said.
For more information on the Black Food and Dessert Expo, go to: www.blackfoodanddessertexpo.com.