As we head further into spring, the season of renewal, one woman is helping to spotlight Black-owned food, dessert and spirits businesses.
The annual Black Food and Dessert Expo, founded by Aneesah Smith-Ward, returns April 23-25 at Urbn Ridge Center at 5261 Ridge Ave. with 19 businesses signed up so far. This pop-up will include tastings of food, desserts and spirits, as well as entrees and drinks to purchase and take home.
Smith-Ward, who also owns the Kupcake Bar, says this event is just the tip of the iceberg for her.
“I do it so we can showcase some of the talent that you can’t find in restaurants or food trucks,” she said. Smith-Ward works with each vendor 90 days leading up to the expo on their marketing, branding, goal-setting and legal setup. “I also talk to them so they can learn the highs and the lows of business.”
She said that the variety of Black-owned businesses in the food industry can run the gamut.
“Some want brick and mortar, want to be mobile or even a food truck,” Smith-Ward said. “There’s a lot of competition out there though and I do this so we can be successful.”
Even with all of the competition in the industry, she said she hopes that her event helps to foster togetherness and support.
“We have to have each other’s backs and not be afraid to share resources,” Smith-Ward said.
She also noted that her approach to the food event has been very fruitful because it helps businesses over the long term.
“We teach them how to get repeat customers,” Smith-Ward said. “We really coach them to get repeat customers, because we want them to think beyond the expo to build their businesses.”
And because of her hands-on approach, not only does the expo attract lots of hungry consumers, but also plenty of businesses line up for it.
“There’s always a waiting list for our vendors,” Smith-Ward said. “We fully vet them too.” She said the vendors must have business cards, a logo and professional signage to be a part of the expo.
Since we’re still in pandemic mode, safety precautions for the event include masks required, hour break between shop blocks, PPE (personal protective equipment) for all vendors and temperature checks for everyone who enters.
The expo will also have an event in October in connection with Philadelphia’s Black Restaurant Week.
Businesses involved in the expos have represented the Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Maryland markets.
Businesses for the weekend pop-up include:
• #Veganwhere LLC
• Cheesecakes by Diamond
• Delle’s Sweets LLC
• Food Goddess LLC
• HIS & HERS JUICES
• Miss Goody Goody
• New Freedom Pie
• Nothin’ But Cheesecakez
• Peyton’s Pastries
• Poppa’s Custard Company
• Rell’s Thirstburst
• Rollin In The Springs, LLC
• Zenful Treats by King’s Kaf’e
• Faye’s Caribbean Cuisine
• B&T EatZ LLC
• Pot of Essence LLC
• MK Charmed Desserts
• B Fit N Focused
• Nutz about Popcorn