Touchstone Honoree: Entrepreneur Fund is helping BIPOC business owners thrive

Desiree Jenkins sure enjoys feeding people all summer long from her Mother Roots food truck.

“That’s why I do what I do,” he told us between serving tacos at the farmers market: “Being here in the community and feeding the farmers.”

He really goes with the truck. I have completed the three-year business trial. It is going well. And I like it very much. It excites me and I am constantly thinking of new ideas.

He told us that the Entrepreneur Fund was instrumental in helping him build his website and mission statement.

And there is guidance for growth. They helped me with the financing and that helped me pursue my dream of buying another food truck. So I can cater weddings and do more events.

In Woodland, Yasuko Holt is also living her dream. I am happy to make people happy. And I think that’s where the food is.” He told us.

He is the owner of Zen House, which he first opened in 2006. His goal was to fill the void of Japanese food options in the northern land. I have a great team and great clients.

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The entrepreneur fund helps him to go to the next stage.

“They referred me to this person and that person and then that person and then I was able to buy this building,” he shared.

Holt is currently looking to take the show on the road. I want to open a food truck that serves Japanese food. I was the first to bring Japanese food here and I want to be the first food truck with Japanese food.

And yet, another food business, Nae’s Cookout, is still in the making. “Together we have a good menu,” said co-founder Renee Crawford.

He and co-founder Lamar Taylor plan to have a backyard barbecue-style trailer where you can order and eat outside at tables with music.

They just brought some of Lamar’s handiwork to the Entrepreneur Fund to show the advisory committee.

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All three businesses are part of the Stride program, which was developed a few years ago when the fund decided to focus on diversity.

We find that there are a lot of under-represented people and yet we always meet wonderful people who don’t know each other. “So we thought we needed to create a sense of community,” explained Shawn Volnitz, the fund’s CEO.

Customer joins as a new or existing business. means classes and resources.

“Classes are the educational part. We have access to capital and that’s a big deal. And there is community among other entrepreneurs, as well as our committee. The committee has great feedback to share, said Andrea Black. He is the director of business services.

The fund is really proud of what is going on.

“It was really cool to kind of come alongside them and help them plan the business and figure out the finances. I want to give money and I want to give money to blacks and browns. And I want to see more black and brown businesses around town,” added Stephanie Williams. He is the lead business advisor for the Stride program.

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So watch out for Nae’s Cookout!

We are currently taking business classes. And it makes me feel like I can definitely do it. “I just have an idea,” Crawford said.

We are looking to turn this soul food trailer into a movement. Not just bringing in some of what we call diverse African American food. But open up avenues for us to taste different foods, Taylor said.

Grants from the Superior Duluth Area Community Foundation support the business creation effort.

For more information about the Stride program:

The touchstone celebration will be held on Thursday, November 10, at 6:30 p.m.


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