Founder of blackfoodie.co
Studio Y Fellow and Leader
Tell us a bit about you.
If there is one thing that has remained a constant in my life, it has been my unwillingness to accept the status quo. Growing up, I watched as my family opened one of the first Ethiopian Restaurants in Windsor. In a time when African food had not hit the western scene, they had the drive and foresight to create a new opportunity. This fostered not only my interest in entrepreneurship and desire to challenge the status quo but also my love of food!
These passions of mine have been the driving force behind my new business BlackFoodie.co, an online platform that showcases the best of African, Caribbean and Southern cuisine. Black foodie explores food through a Black lens. It is driven by the lack of resources that exist to educate people of the amazing and unique food experiences, businesses and products created by the African diaspora. As a self starter, I have put my skills in experience design, leadership, and communication in use to effectively manage a team, design and create a social media campaign and build a beautifully designed website.
I don’t see gaps in service- instead I see opportunities. Having founded the first city wide East African Networking Mixer, while President of the Ethiopian Students Association at York, I was able to design an event that allowed students to connect with professionals. This event was so successful it has been running for the last four years.
My ability to think beyond what presently exists and build towards a better future is what led to my selection as 1 of 25 young people from across Ontario for the MaRS Discovery District Studio Y Fellowship.
I am excited to continue using my creative muscles to design products and experiences that inform and inspire while creating opportunities for youth and entrepreneurs from marginalized communities.
As a foodie, what is your favourite thing to cook/eat?
As a Foodie, one of my favourite things to cook is… something new! I love trying a new food and figuring out how to re-create or improve the dish at home. I travel to the south often and during my travels, I fell in love with sweet potato pie. But every time I returned home to Canada I couldn’t find any place that sold sweet potato pie! In fact, many of my friends had never heard of it! So I watched countless YouTube videos and called up my American friends determined to figure out a way to create this amazing piece of the south at home. I experimented several times until I could finally make a pretty good batch myself. Needless to say, I no longer need to fly to Atlanta to get a taste of the south!
What is the best piece of personal advice you were ever given?
The best piece of advice I’ve received was not something directly given to me. I was at a conference recently called weekend startup school and one of the speakers put up a very simple yet powerful quote that resonated with me. It read, “Perfect is good, but done is better” This reinforced what I had learned as a MaRS Studio Y Fellow. If you have an idea, go out there and test it! It may not be perfect but you can learn from your first iteration and continue to improve! Now is the time to start!
What makes BlackFoodie.co different from other offerings for the African diaspora?
What makes Blackfoodie.co different is our commitment to authenticity! African cuisine is the most flavourful diverse food out there! Our taste, our style, and our flavour has traveled with us (the diaspora) everywhere from the islands to the South. Blackfoodie spotlights this amazing cuisine in a way that is true to the richness and flavour of the food. In other words, we are here to save you from the “culture vultures” who distort classics like Jollof rice. We say no to bland alternatives. Instead we give you the real deal! We also showcase the best restaurants that go under the radar. These independent African, Caribbean and Southern restaurants have absolutely delicious food but rarely get the same press or coverage that mainstream restaurants receive. By providing guides and spotlights on these sorts of restaurants, we give you the tools to support local Black business with every bite you take.
What does “Manyatta” mean to you?
Manyatta represents an uncompromising commitment to your community and your purpose. The Manyatta network has recognized the impact that building strong connections and ties within the community can have on every member. It is our responsibility to take the lessons, resources and skills we have gained and use it to uplift our community.