Black woman-owned snack brand opens registration for second annual Black Futures programme

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Denise Woodard was the first woman of colour to raise $1m in funding - for Partake Foods, created to cater for her daughter's food allergies. She is now giving back with the Black Futures fellowship programme. Pic: Partake Foods
Denise Woodard was the first woman of colour to raise $1m in funding - for Partake Foods, created to cater for her daughter's food allergies. She is now giving back with the Black Futures fellowship programme. Pic: Partake Foods

Related tags Partake Foods ProjectDiane Black women-owned Black Futures Jay-Z Rihanna H.E.R.

Partake Foods has issued a call out for active HBCU students who are interested in a career in the food and beverage industry to apply for the 2021 fellowship programme.

While the number of Black and Latinx women-led startups crossing the $1MM threshold is growing – from 334 startups in 2018 to over 650 in the ProjectDiane 2020 database – the fundraising for this demographic still lags far behind the average startup founder.

The $1MM Club is a list of the Black & Latinx women who have raised over $1m in outside venture funding.

Black women are the fastest-growing group of female entrepreneurs in the US, with 42% of all new women-owned business founded between 2014 and 2019 being pioneered by a Black woman. However, since ProjectDiance started tracking data, Black women have received less than 1% of venture capital funding.

A member of the $1MM Club, founder and CEO of Partake Foods Denise Woodard is now using her influence to elevate up-and-coming stars of colour interested in exploring a career in the consumer packaged goods arena.

The Coca Cola alum launched Black Futures in Food & Beverage fellowship programme​in 2020 to boost Black and brown representation in the F&B industry by making the journey smoother and more seamless. She has now issued a call out for the second cohort, which kicks off on 5 October.

“Being the first woman of colour to raise $1 million for a CPG packaged food startup is an accomplishment, but it’s one that comes with a great responsibility to increase the number and quality of career opportunities for Black and Brown people seeking to build their careers in the industry,” ​said Woodard.

Partake’s journey

Woodard created her allergy-friendly food company in 2016 in response to her daughter’s multiple food allergies. Partake’s portfolio is certified gluten-free, vegan and free of the top 9 allergens (wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, sesame and shellfish) and includes a Baking Mix collection – launched earlier this year – and both crunchy and soft baked cookie in flavours like Birthday Cake and Double Chocolate.

Woodard kicked off her journey with a Kickstarter campaign and with capital raised from family and friends before the big breakthrough came – in the form of a $1m seed round led by rock star Jay-Z’s VC fund, Marcy Venture Partners, along with funding from her former Coca-Cola boss, Chuck Muth, who is now chief growth officer of Beyond Meat and The Factory.

Partake has subsequently raised $7.5m in funding​ – mostly from big names in the music industry, such as Jay-Z, Grammy award-winning singer H.E.R. and Rihanna – with products available in over 3,000 retailers like Target, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Wegmans, across the US.

Black Futures Fall 2021

After a successful first year, registration is now open for the Fall 2021 programme that starts on 5 October. The seven week programme takes place virtually and encompasses workshops, fireside chats, panels and conversations with some of the industry’s most impactful leaders.

Students will be privy to the various career paths in the F&B sector with deep insight from industry experts. They will be given guidance in resume writing and interview coaching for career readiness, but most importantly, how to build a purpose-driven brand that lasts, along with the presentation skills for an effective pitch.

Over the course of the programme, students will work on a capstone project, pitched at a virtual career day, that will advance their consideration for 2022 spring or summer internships and full-time roles at leading CPG food & beverage companies.

Black Futures is free to all fellows, however, to be eligible, interested applicants must be actively enrolled as a junior or above at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Deadline for application is 3 September. Successful fellows will be notified on 17 September.

“Black and brown people are underrepresented in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) food and beverage workforce, and we feel it is both our opportunity and responsibility to help open doors for Black students interested in exploring CPG career paths,”​ concluded Woodard.

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