A former city worker who swapped skyscrapers for a stall on Brick Lane has been named one of 10 UK recipients of the first Uber Eats Black Business Fund.
The fund, set up by Uber Eats in collaboration with Be Inclusive Hospitality and Enterprise Nation, saw a £50,000 fund distributed to 10 small Black-owned businesses across the country that have been affected by the pandemic.
One winner, Jenny Campbell, gave up a corporate career to launch her own brand of vegan Caribbean food. Early success on an East End stall in London convinced her to officially open the Guava Kitchen in Forest Hill just before the pandemic struck.
She said: "At first, I knew nothing about hospitality, so when I said I wanted to open a restaurant, everyone I knew said don't do it! The pandemic had a severe impact on the business, but now we can push forward with our vision of showcasing the best Black vegan food products from around the world.
"Being a Black female business owner, it's important to me to support a realistic demographic of my local area and set a strong example to young Black people. Around 80% of my young team is made of people from Black or ethnic minority backgrounds. This investment will help us to invest in young local talent."
Matthew Price, Uber Eats general manager, said: "Small businesses and restaurants are the beating heart of local communities, and we're honoured to give so many a platform on Uber Eats. Given the significant economic impact of the pandemic, we are incredibly proud to support small Black-owned businesses across the country. Each recipient has their own story of extraordinary resilience and entrepreneurial drive and we hope the fund will allow them to thrive as their journey continues."
More than 150 restaurants applied for the fund. Other winners included Dirty Kitch, a vegan restaurant in Coventry. Owner Danielle Saunders (pictured) was nine months pregnant when she opened her restaurant in late 2019.
She said: "Starting a business before the pandemic has been incredibly challenging, but we're so proud of what we've managed to achieve. We did everything with a limited budget and depended heavily on the support of the community around us. This support will not only help us grow, but to flourish.
"We have always tried to make our menu as affordable as possible to ensure plant-based food is accessible. Thanks to the grant, we're free to work more in the community. It's my dream to deliver cooking demonstrations in local primary schools, showing young people that it's easy to produce delicious, healthy and sustainable meals."
Most of the winning restaurants were based in London and four of the 10 restaurants served entirely plant-based menus. The full list of recipients of the Black Business Fund grants included:
- The Breakhouse Café, London
- Jam Delish, London
- The Flygerians, London
- Dirty Kitch, Coventry
- TribeV, London
- Drums and Flats, London
- Vegan Shack UK, Manchester
- The Guava Kitchen, London
- Issa Vibe, London
- Bando Belly, London
In the UK, just 5% of small or medium-sized businesses are run by people from Black or other ethnic minority backgrounds.
Uber previously announced investment to support Black-owned small businesses in the US, however this is the first time the company has launched a fund in the UK.
The Black Business Fund recipients were selected by judges from Enterprise Nation, Be Inclusive hospitality and Black Eats London.
Lorraine Copes, founder of Be Inclusive hospitality, said: "I am extremely proud to have partnered on this initiative, providing mentors for the 10 brilliant businesses who will receive this fund. This initiative reinforces what I know to be true, which is the importance of taking a multi-pronged approach in supporting Black businesses to move forward and upward."
Jackson Mclarty, from Black Eats London, added: "Supporting, elevating, and progressively driving forward Black-owned hospitality businesses are our core values and this initiative did exactly that. It was a pleasure to be a part of the judging process and part of an initiative providing both long- and short-term support to business owners who have battled various lockdowns and restrictions over the past two years."