With food-filled holidays ahead of us, let’s take a moment to celebrate the women who might just be responsible for some of the meals on our tables.
From addressing food insecurity during the pandemic, to providing employment to refugees, to starting a business at almost 50, to sending out delicious bundt cakes all over the country, women have mastered the art of culinary entrepreneurship.
Below, read about 10 women food entrepreneurs we think are worth knowing about.
1. Karen Washington, Rise & Root Farm
Washington lives by the belief that nutritious food is a human right. This belief led her to co-found Rise & Root Farm, located in Orange County, New York, and also led her to win a James Beard award recognizing culinary professionals and earn a mention in Ebony magazine’s “Power 100.” She has dedicated decades to providing low-income communities with a source of produce, all while encouraging Black representation in farming.
2. Sumiya Khan, Sanctuary Kitchen
A daughter of Indian immigrants, Khan wanted to create a safe space for immigrants and refugees — and provide them with a means of employment. That’s why she co-founded Sanctuary Kitchen at CitySeed, where immigrants and refugees from across the world, from Mexico to Afghanistan, come together to host cooking classes and supper clubs. Events are ticketed (ranging from $20 to $60) and all proceeds support wages for the workers.
3. Tatiana Garcia-Granados, The Common Market
Garcia-Granados was shocked to see how many people in her Philadelphia Strawberry Mansion neighborhood had health-related diseases. After digging to the root of the problem — lack of access to nutritious food — Garcia-Granados and her husband founded The Common Market, a nonprofit that connects local farms to public schools, hospitals and workplaces. The NGO currently functions in the mid-Atlantic region, Georgia and Texas.
4. Deepti Sharma, FoodtoEat
Sharma, a first-generation Indian American, is helping New York-based immigrant women and minority restaurant owners expand their businesses with catering opportunities. FoodtoEat started off as a platform where people could order from small businesses, but with the number of restaurant owners of color in the city, it soon flourished into a full-fledged catering business. Sharma also addressed the city’s food insecurity problem during the pandemic by partnering with nonprofits to deliver free meals to those in need, and also raised $130,000 to buy meals from restaurants to donate to domestic violence shelters.
5. Janie Clapp, Janie’s Cakes
Clapp’s chocolate-sauce and Italian-buttercream-filled bundt cakes have earned local fame in Tyler, Texas, over the three decades since Janie’s Cakes was founded in 1987, but now the bakery is trucking its cakes — which are made with farm fresh eggs and real cane sugar — all across the country. Clapp’s daughter, Katherine Crow, became a business partner 12 years ago to carry on her mother’s legacy.
6. Leslie Polizzotto, The Doughnut Project
Polizzotto is the rare case of an attorney-turned-baker. She’s also a classic example of the cliche phrase “it’s never too late.” In her late 40s, Polizzotto decided to ditch insurance coverage litigation and pursue what she really loved: making (and eating) doughnuts. She founded The Doughnut Project, which has been located in New York City’s West Village since 2015.
7. Paty Funegra, La Cocina VA
Funegra founded La Cocina Virginia, a social enterprise helping unemployed Latinx immigrants secure jobs in the food industry by teaching them food and language skills. In 2019, she was able to raise $2 million to turn her basement-run business into the Zero Barriers Training and Entrepreneurship Center with a state-of-the-art kitchen incubator and equipment to secure the futures of immigrants.
8. Marit Molin, Hamptons Community Outreach
Molin founded Hamptons Community Outreach as a summer camp for lower-income kids in Long Island, New York. But in the wake of the pandemic, Molin expanded her business to become a meal-delivery service. She raised $200,000 in 12 weeks to feed the Shinnecock Reservation community in Southampton, most importantly the elderly and those with special needs.
9. Monica Martinez, Don Bugito
With the effects of climate change only worsening, alternative food options have to be looked into. And Martinez is on top of the game — she founded Don Bugito, a company that makes snacks purely from bugs. Growing up in Mexico, insects were seen as power food and a large part of her culture.
10. Melanie Moss, Mini Melanie
Moss started off spending her spare time as an event chef, but she knew her love of food was strong enough to become her full-time hustle. Now she’s best known for her intricately designed truffles, which taste like cake but look like jewels. She founded her Brooklyn-based confectionary, Mini Melanie, in 2014, and has gained an exclusive following, with Dior and Louis Vuitton among her clients.