For Harlem Juice Maker, Being Picked by Whole Foods Is Dream Come True
By Dartunorro Clark | October 11, 2016 10:52am
Charmaine DaCosta had a series of hiccups before she landed in Whole Foods stores, which she said is going to help bolster her business.
HARLEM — Charmaine DaCosta had some hiccups before achieving her dream.
After the nonprofit company she worker for shuttered in 2012, she aimed to get into the food industry — but without the resources to go the traditional route.
“Going into food for me meant a restaurant and I realized I don’t have the funding for a restaurant,” she said.
“There were not many great options out there.”
So she started to think outside the box, focusing on creating a Caribbean-inspired juice that was completely natural.
She spent that year figuring out “how to get a natural product to the market without preservatives, without boiling it and without artificial colors.
Eventually she came up with Limation, an organic limeade.
She then entered the Harlem Business Alliance’s business plan on a fluke.
“And I won,” she said, “which really took me in a-whole-nother direction.”
Now she is one of 11 local businesses and entrepreneurs selected to have their products featured on the shelves of Harlem's new Whole Foods Market when it opens on West 125th Street next year.
The store announced this week the first of the Harlem-based businesses whose products it will stock. Ten of them are food-based and one is a personal grooming company.
Through the Harlem Local Vendor Partner Program, which is a partnership between the company and entrepreneur network Harlem Park to Park, the 11 companies beat out 360 applicants.
For DaCosta, getting into Whole Foods was a tough road.
In 2015, she hired a sales person who got her product accepted by online grocery store Fresh Direct and A&P supermarkets, which would have put her in 290 stores in the northeast, she said.
But the supermarket filed for bankruptcy when her first shipment was ready.
“That really set me back,” she said. “I was also not ready to give up on the business, so I just pressed forward.
“I decided I needed to grow some cojones."
She sold her apartment and poured more money into her business. She worked with Harlem Park to Park and applied, for the third time, to get her product picked up by Whole Foods. This time she succeeded.
“It’s just really been a series of learning experiences for me, learning a lot and growing a lot,” she said.
“I’m excited about what this relationship with Whole Foods will bring. I believe that we’re in a good place.
“I did not want to wait for someone else’s permission to do what I love to do. My future is now and I have to build it now.”
At Fulton Stall Market Sunday Market
Music and Limation Limeade...sooo sweet!
Black women struggle to fund startups
By Farran Powell @CNNMoney November 10, 2014: 4:51 PM ET
Charmaine DaCosta started bottling Limation this year, which she distributes around New York City.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
From the trunk of her Toyota Corolla, 53-year-old Charmaine DaCosta delivers her Jamaican limeade to grocery stores and delis in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
"I do my own delivery, make the product and I [watch] over every process," DaCosta said of her beverage company Limation. "All the financial responsibility falls squarely on me."
DaCosta is one of many minority female entrepreneurs driving the market -- it's the fastest growing demographic launching businesses. And in fact, minority women lead over 25% of the 8 million female-owned businesses in the United States, according to the Center for American Progress.
The challenge for most African-American women isn't the entrepreneurial spirit, it's having sufficient access to funding and venture capital, according to CAP, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
"It's been very difficult because I have no cash," DaCosta said. The Jamaican-born Harlem resident created a business plan for her beverage line two years ago, but it wasn't until she won $5,000 from a business competition last year that she began to forge ahead.
The seed money covered insurance and part of the trademarking, but "it was gone in a blink of eye," DaCosta said.
DaCosta used to make batches of the limeade for friends and family. She decided to bottle it after being downsized from her office job at a local nonprofit. Using her own cash and that of several individual investors, she launched the beverage line in New York City in June.
"I really have to make my own good luck story," she said.
DaCosta plans to forgo a traditional bank loan and sell her Harlem apartment in order to fund distribution in the Tri-State area.
NEWDtv: GoCarib Interview with Charmaine Dacosta