Food startups typically spring up when founders see a gap in the market, and in Chicago, startups enrich the community, including three led by women of color.
One of the companies, Ayo Foods, was born with a specific mission.
Perteet and Fred Spencer wanted to create a business that reflected Perteet’s Liberian heritage, but also made the grocery aisle more inclusive for their daughters.
“Sharing our love letter to West Africa. The line is inspired by the recipes I grew up eating,” she said.
Peanut Stew, Chicken Yassa and Mouth-Numbing Pepper Sauce are just a few of their creations – some collaborations with African celebrity chefs. The business has grown over 800% during the pandemic.
“We knew the market was ready for a more diverse set of flavors. When we talk about the flavors of West Africa it is not at all a monolith. It’s 17 different countries, all with their own unique flavors and traditions,” Perteet said.
On the West Side near Garfield Park, The Hatchery is a food incubator that helps entrepreneurs like Danielle Tubbs realize their dreams. In this case, a line of Jamaican-inspired vegan cookies.
“And so when I started cooking on my own after college and moving to Chicago, I realized that a lot of the flavors that appealed to me were those flavors from back home,” said Tubby’s Taste owner Tubbs. .
A Jamaican in Florida doesn’t necessarily mean jerk chicken all the time either.
“I grew up with fresh coconut trees outside my front door, fresh sugarcane on the side of my yard, mangoes,” she said.
These flavors have directly influenced its product line.
“From oatmeal coconut cinnamon, ginger molasses, a mango coconut lime and an ode to Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee which is our signature chocolate chip oats and mocha.
Another small business from The Hatchery is Cocoa Chili Foods, the brainchild of Niquenya Collins.
“I was a master business coach, a life skills strategist for 25 years. How can I use my love of cooking with my love of helping people and kind of marrying them off,” said Collins.
The business started with jerk sauce, but quickly expanded to encompass Afro-Caribbean soul food, available for pickup, delivery or catered events. One of his favorite dishes is a dish from Senegal.
“Senegalese Chicken Yassa – it’s a slow-cooked chicken dish but it also has sweet onions, jalapeño peppers and it has a sweet, delicious lemon mustard flavor,” she said.
Here’s where you can go:
Tubby’s Taste Jamaican-Inspired Vegan Cookies
Urban Market, 1001 W. Chicago Ave.
Sugar Beet Food Cooperative, 812 Madison St., Oak Park
The company also ships nationwide.
Cocoa Chili Food
135 N. Kedzie Ave (inside hatchery)