Building Equity for BIPOC Entrepreneurs: How You Can Help Small Food Businesses Thrive

December 1, 2023

Evolution Hot Sauce at Foodwise’s Pop-Ups on the Plaza

Like you, we believe that farmers markets must reflect the diversity of our communities and be a source of economic opportunity and livelihood for small food entrepreneurs. When you donate to Foodwise, you are contributing to a Bay Area community where BIPOC, women, and immigrant food entrepreneurs can thrive.

Whether it’s Nepalese momos from Bini’s Kitchen, freshly pressed mango juice from Mangosay, or handcrafted tacos from Mi Comedor, you’ve experienced some of the delicious products of talented and dedicated food makers at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. And as you know, small food businesses are vital to the fabric of San Francisco, and they need community support to do what they do best.

Earlier this year, Foodwise formalized our Building Equity program, which offers opportunities and business development resources for early-stage entrepreneurs of color to build a customer base at Foodwise farmers markets. What began as a partnership with the nonprofit kitchen incubator La Cocina in 2007 has grown to a robust program with dozens of entrepreneurs participating, many becoming permanent vendors at Foodwise markets. 

LoJo's Tacos booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
LoJo’s Tacos at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

BIPOC Entrepreneurs Building Equity

Establishing a thriving food business is hard, made even more so by social and financial barriers due to structural racism. Farmers markets are a low-risk way for new or early-stage entrepreneurs to gain access to sales channels, build their brand, and trial their products and menus without a lot of capital.

Through the Building Equity program, Bay Area food entrepreneurs pop up at Foodwise markets on a rotating basis, often a month or two, in collaboration with our community partners En2action, La Cocina, Mandela Partners, and SF Black Wealth. For many of the business owners, it’s their first time selling and engaging with customers at a farmers market.

“Popping up at the Ferry Plaza has been amazing. I was super nervous at first, but it was really great,” says Loren Johnson of LoJo’s Tacos, who has popped up on multiple occasions over the last two years. “ A lot of new customers. I think it was around 97% new customers, according to Square.” 

To help reduce barriers for participating entrepreneurs, Foodwise underwrites permit costs, waives our stall fees, and offers technical and marketing support for Building Equity participants. Your donations help make this support possible for small food entrepreneurs as they take this important next step in growing their business.

The Lemonade Bar at Foodwise’s Pop-Ups on the Plaza

Expanding Opportunities through Pop-Ups on the Plaza

This year, we were able to expand opportunities for Black-owned businesses through the Pop-Ups on the Plaza series at the Ferry Plaza. Hosted by Foodwise with support from the Port of San Francisco and San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s Dream Keep Initiative, each of these quarterly public events showcases 12 to 20 Black-owned food and craft businesses and attracts thousands of Bay Area visitors, contributing to a diverse, inclusive, and vibrant San Francisco Waterfront.

A total of 48 vendors will have popped up through the events this year, including Celebrating Black Women Makers in March, Juneteenth on the Waterfront in June, Fall Kickoff in September, and Black Holiday Market to take place on December 9, in collaboration with the Fillmore-based craft market In the Black.

Jameelah Lane, founder of the juice company MelanAID, shares, “Foodwise has been a great place to build brand recognition for MelanAID and to help small biz owners showcase their products.”  

“Participating in the Foodwise Pop-Ups on the Plaza has been very instrumental and very rewarding for my company, The Lemonade Bar,” says Imani M-Glover. “It has opened up many doors that have been unimaginable, and for that, I’m so forever grateful!” 

Gumbo Social at Foodwise’s Pop-Ups on the Plaza

From Pop-Up to Permanent

Pop-up participation has provided visibility and facilitated new connections for businesses, such as Peaches Patties, who opened a brick-and-mortar shop at the San Francisco Ferry Building in 2023, and Gumbo Social, who opened a restaurant in the Bayview and recently joined the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

“A lot of people have found us through just being associated with the farmers market,” says Dontaye Ball, chef and founder of Gumbo Social.

Other participants have gained experience by taking part in Foodwise cooking demos and events. “This is my first time doing a demo like this,” shares Angélica Mena of Sukulenta SF. “Days after the demo, I had a few people visiting my stand buying my food and asking me about the food procedures and ingredients used at the Colombian Pacific Coast. I also got a catering gig from some of the attendees.” 

As space becomes available for longer term placement in Foodwise farmers markets, we prioritize recruiting participants in our Building Equity program. More than a dozen Ferry Plaza food vendors and farms got their start through the pop-up program.

Sierra Young of Mangosay, who transitioned from pop-up to permanent vendor earlier this year, recalls, “When I first popped up in the farmers market, I wasn’t going in with any expectations. It was a little overwhelming. But everyone was so welcoming. It has been unbelievable.” 

Over the last year, Sierra has built a loyal following of regulars who line up at her bright orange cart every Saturday. She marvels, “I didn’t think I was going to be in a position this soon to be thinking about getting a bigger truck. It’s something I feel like is now within reach. I’m able to see my own growth.”

Help Small Businesses Business Thrive

By supporting Foodwise’s Building Equity program, you invest in small food entrepreneurs and the diverse and vibrant culture of San Francisco. Support the business growth, economic viability, and asset-building of BIPOC entrepreneurs with a donation today.

Sierra Young holding a bottle of mango juice in the mobile mango cart at FPFM
Mangosay at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Topics: , , , , ,