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May 30, 2024

Despite major strides taken by a new generation of bold entrepreneurs and brands, Black-owned food and beverage companies still face persistent headwinds getting on the shelves of mainstream supermarkets, finding significant investment,and scaling long-term.

From a consumer and an equity standpoint, this is untenable. A significant slice – 14% – of American consumers are Black. We know that there are Black founders out there but they are not necessarily making their way into our consciousness or on the radar of much of the established CPG structure. 

As a resource for all founders, Taste Radio, in collaboration with Quentin Vennie, the co-founder and CEO of beverage brand Equitea, has developed a special series that highlights conversations on various aspects of the challenges felt by all entrepreneurs filtered through the experience of Black founders. We also discuss the ways that the environment has changed, and how it has not, as well as identifying resources that our founders may not yet realize exist. 

In this first edition of the series, we sat down with Quentin, Partake Foods founder Denise Woodard and Ibraheem Basir, the founder of A Dozen Cousins, for a roundtable discussion that explores the foundational reasons that each started their brands, how modern Black-owned brands are extending a legacy of Black entrepreneurship, ways in which they are building their companies’ culture to reflect their own, and the impact of Black-owned and ethnic-themed brands in expanding the audience for natural and organic foods.

Show notes:

0:35: Quentin Vennie, Equitea; Denise Woodard, Partake Foods; Ibraheem Basir, A Dozen Cousins – Quentin discusses the origins of the special series and the goals he hopes to achieve; Ibraheem and Denise talk about their respective families history in entrepreneurship, before Quentin explains how the creation of Equitea is partly rooted in his inability to find products that represented him or his culture. Ibraheem and Denise discuss the impact of their experience in corporate CPG companies in the development of their brands; they also explain what gave investors and retailers confidence to “place a bet” on their brands. The trio also talk about how the ebb and flow in how the CPG industry supports Black founders via diversity initiatives and why Quentin was unable to benefit from an initiative intended to support BIPOC entrepreneurship. Ibraheem explains how culture influences all aspects of A Dozen Cousins; Denise talks about incorporating a holistic perspective on culture into Partake Foods; Quentin discusses how black founders in food & beverage can collectively and independently help each other be successful. Ibraheem talks about “the sticky part” of racism and how it affects fundraising; Denise highlights the challenges faced by investment funds that are focused on women- and minority-owned businesses and the trickle down effect on brands like hers; and all three founders explain what they hope to leave as a legacy.

Brands in this episode: Equitea, Partake Foods, A Dozen Cousins