Changemakers Can Leap Back into Action With Sullivan’s Summer Leadership Workshops in May

With an end to the pandemic in sight at last, college changemakers are ready to leap back into action, and the Sullivan Foundation will help them get started with a 10-day summer workshop series this May.

Sullivan’s Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action will be held May 18-28 in Greenville, S.C. College credit can be earned through OM Study USA. The program costs $1,500, which covers lodging, food and adventures in Greenville and in Asheville, N.C.

Click here to learn more and sign up for the Summer Workshops for Leadership and Transformative Action.

The workshops are designed for all majors and for recent graduates. They will offer learning outcomes that stimulate deep reflection and transform the educational experience. Students will gain knowledge in cutting-edge concepts to develop their leadership skills and create transformative action plans that pull together converging concepts and practices to provide innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The program’s workshops include:

Workshop 1
Foundations of Leadership: Approaches, Applications and Self-Development

Through self-assessment questionnaires, students will gain an awareness of their own leadership philosophy, traits, skills and behaviors. Real-world observation exercises will help them better understand the fundamental methods practiced in organizations, while reflection and action activities will give them an understanding of and appreciation for the unique dimensions of their own leadership style.

Workshop II
Community Engagement and Problem Analysis

Students will identify a community-based problem, link it to a broader issue and draft a strategy for addressing the problem through a project. They’ll learn how to develop a public narrative, build asset and power maps, forge partnerships and draft a project plan for use back on campus to practice their community-engaged leadership skills.

Workshop III
Business Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking

Students will learn about organizational structures while gaining an understanding of internal processes that affect the function of organizations. They will also come away with an understanding of ideas, skills and strategies for effective changemaking in the 21st century.

To round out their summer adventure, students will go on excursions to Asheville, N.C., for whitewater rafting on the French Broad River, a tour of the Biltmore and a mountaintop zipline tour while also exploring downtown Asheville and Greenville.

Purpose-Driven VEDGEco Is First National Wholesaler of Plant-Based Foods

By Tracy Morin
Editor, PizzaVegan.com

We know that necessity is the mother of invention—and that’s certainly true for VEDGEco, the United States’ first nationwide wholesaler of 100% plant-based foods, headquartered in Kailua, Hawaii. The company was born when Trevor Hitch, founder and CEO, was working for a Hawaiian food company and witnessed how difficult it was for independent plant-based food brands to gain traction through national food distributors. “At the same time, I saw how challenging it was for independent restaurants to get access to quality plant-based products,” Hitch recalls. “That was my aha moment—I realized there was a need that wasn’t being met. That’s when VEDGEco was born.”

For Hitch, who has personally been 100% plant-based for more than 19 years (and in the food industry for more than a decade), VEDGEco began as a passion project and organically grew into something much bigger. Today, the company offers a carefully curated selection of versatile plant-based products in foam-free, recyclable and compostable packaging, to create as little environmental impact as possible. Meanwhile, as VEDGEco foods are available to consumers, restaurants and other foodservice industry businesses across the United States, Hitch asserts that his company is “on a mission to enable freedom of food choice at mealtime.”

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Plant-Based, Purpose-Driven
Hitch notes that VEDGEco has been a purpose-driven business from the beginning. “We prioritize people, animals and the planet over profit,” he says. “We are especially focused on making it easier for independent restaurants to add plant-based options to their menus. This approach not only brings in new customers; it helps their bottom line as well.” (See the below sidebar for some eye-opening stats on how plant-based is growing worldwide.)

VEDGEco stocks a range of 100% plant-based alternatives to foods like meats, cheeses, seafood, eggs and butter, and all products are available to restaurants and consumers. Its VEDGEco Plus program, designed specifically for wholesale and foodservice partners, offers volume discounts and free shipping on case packs. “Since we launched nationally, we’ve seen exponential growth, with extremely high numbers of repeat customers,” Hitch says. “Many of our independent restaurant customers have told us that the response to new plant-based dishes on their menus has been very positive and resulted in increased sales and foot traffic.”

In the pizza world specifically, several of VEDGEco’s pizzeria customers have increased their plant-based cheese orders week over week due to the positive response from their guests. “Another restaurant customer told us that the response to plant-based dishes has been so good, they have now added plant-based versions of every animal-based dish on their menu,” Hitch reports. “Now, plant-based items make up the majority of their sales!”

this is a photo of a vegetarian pizza made with seitan-based sausage crumbles available through VEDGEco, a national wholesaler of plant-based foods for the restaurant industry

This pizza features seitan-based sausage crumbles from Blackbird Foods, one of VEDGEco’s wholesale partners. (Photo by Blackbird Foods)

Taste-Tested, Vegan-Approved
Hitch explains that VEDGEco chooses to carry brands based on the quality of their products and consumer demand—and everything the company carries must pass a vigorous taste test conducted by its staff. Some current best sellers include BE-Hive Plant-Based Pepperoni, Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds, Blackbird Sausage Crumbles, All Vegetarian Drumsticks, ForA:Butter plant-based butter, All Vegetarian Vegan Bacon, JUST Egg, Impossible Burgers, and Plant Ranch Carne Asada.

And, to the joy of pizza lovers everywhere, VEDGEco offers a build-your-own pizza starter kit so that customers can customize the contents to their needs. “The future is plant-based, and pizza is no exception,” Hitch says. “Two of our most popular vegan products are BE-Hive Plant-Based Pepperoni and BE-Hive Garlic Chz Shreds [a garlic-flavored vegan mozzarella]. This dairy- and nut-free plant-based cheese alternative is packed with flavor that takes your pizza or Italian meal to the next level.”

Related: GreenToGo makes it easier for restaurants to kick the styrofoam habit

As for the future of the plant-based/vegan movements, Hitch predicts continued growth. “Over the past few years, plant-based eating has exploded with demand and become more and more mainstream in many parts of the country,” he concludes. “People are opening up to the realities of the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat, and there’s a growing awareness about the horrors of factory farming and inhumane treatment of animals.

“All of these factors are contributing to more plant-based offerings, innovative products, and a growing demand for delicious plant-based dishes in restaurants. There is no limit to how much innovation we are going to see in the plant-based food industry—the future really is limitless.”

VEDGEco even offers plant-based foods for pets, such as these healthy treats from the Louisville Vegan Jerky Co.

Key Stats: The Growth of Plant-Based

● The plant-based alternatives (to conventional animal foods) retail market is now worth more than $3.7 billion.

● According to Meticulous Research, the plant-based food market is expected to reach $74.2 billion by 2027.

● According to The Good Food Institute, adding plant-based entrées can provide an important point of differentiation for restaurants by adding interest to the menu, allowing for innovation, and aligning the restaurant brand with customer values around health and environmental sustainability.

● A 2018 study from Foodable Labs found that in just 12 months, restaurant owners experienced a 13% growth in business when adding vegan options.

Related: How restaurants can help reduce food waste

Eco-Conscious Shipping
VEDGEco prioritizes running a sustainable wholesale operation, so the company ships its plant-based products in foam-free, recyclable and compostable packaging to minimize environmental impact. “It’s also very important that our brand partners share the same level of respect for our planet as we do, and that’s why we only sell 100% plant-based brands,” Hitch adds. “We’re also continuously opening up additional distribution centers across the United States to minimize our product’s time in transit and further reduce our carbon footprint.” Finally, the company enforces a $100 order minimum, ensuring the boxes are fully packed to reduce split shipments and stay ice-cold during transit.

This article has been reprinted with permission from PizzaVegan.com, a national website providing news and information about the vegan and vegetarian pizza movement. View the original article here.

Rapper J.I.D. and MOD Pizza Join Forces to Help People Struggling in the Pandemic

She lost her job, her health insurance and her car during the pandemic. But when it looked like things couldn’t get much worse, a young woman in Decatur, Georgia, got an uplifting surprise from MOD Pizza, a leading social impact company and one of the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chains, and Grammy-nominated rapper J.I.D., becoming the first beneficiary of the fast-casual pizza chain’s new Random Acts of MODness initiative.

In a video released by MOD Pizza (see below), J.I.D. is shown meeting with the unnamed woman at a MOD store for a pie and a chat. He then led her outside, where he presented her with a brand-new four-door sedan bedecked with a giant red bow.

Related: How Malawi’s Pizza is leading the social enterprise movement in the pizza restaurant segment

The giveaway was part of the launch of Random Acts of MODness, MOD’s year-long campaign to grant wishes to individuals or organizations in need across the United States. J.I.D will help MOD grant additional wishes via Twitter, the company said.

Beginning on March 25, Twitter users anywhere in the United States are invited to tweet their wish or a wish for someone else to @MODPizza with the hashtag #RandomActsofMODness. MOD and J.I.D are looking for large or small ways to help—whether paying a utility bill, purchasing clothes for a job interview, providing a bus pass to get to work or a gift for a special birthday. Nothing is off limits, the company said, and there are no strings attached.

As the year continues, MOD Pizza said it will look for ways to fulfill more Random Acts of MODness on social media.

“It’s been a tough year and we know folks are struggling,” J.I.D. said. “So I’m excited to partner with MOD to spread some love in our local communities. We all need a little help from time to time, so hit us up!”

Ally Svenson, MOD’s co-founder and chief purpose officer, added, “We’re so inspired by the impact that a kind gesture can have on someone’s life and the ripple effect that this can create. We call it ‘Spreading MODness.’ J.I.D is helping us spread more MODness and positively impact more lives, and for this we are so grateful!”

In a feature story earlier this year, PMQ Pizza Magazine, the trade publication for the pizza restaurant industry, asked MOD Pizza co-founder Scott Svenson if he considered his company to be a social enterprise. “I guess the answer would be yes,” Svenson said. “When we started MOD, we referred to it as a crazy social experiment that would combine the best of a for-profit business with the heart of a nonprofit, whereby the more successful we were, the better and bigger social impact we would make.”

During the pandemic, MOD has reinforced its commitment to making an impact on the communities it serves. For example, MOD said it has delivered 180,000 meals to kids and families impacted by COVID-19 and fighting food insecurity in partnership with the anti-hunger nonprofit Generosity Feeds. MOD also aided 46 local and regional food banks and backpack programs to help tackle hunger in local communities during the annual Spreading MODness week.

MOD Pizza this year partnered with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) on the HOPES Program (Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)Entering Society), which creates job opportunities and training for young people re-entering society after serving prison sentences. HOPES is a collaboration between businesses, state restaurant associations and community-based organizations that provides pathways to success for justice-involved individuals looking for a new start. The partnership launched in March in Chicago-area MOD Pizza locations, with plans for a nationwide rollout later this year.

MOD Pizza has also made a commitment to hire people with autism and other differing abilities who otherwise have trouble finding employment.

J.I.D. was born and raised in East Atlanta, where he grew up on his parents’ collection of classic funk/soul LPs. He broke onto the scene with his 2015 EP, DiCaprio, which saw him collaborating with hip-hop duo EarthGang, whom he’d previously joined on a 2014 tour that included Bas and Ab-Soul. During that tour, he was spotted by J. Cole who signed J.I.D to his Interscope Records venture, Dreamville Records.

Soon after signing to Dreamville, J.I.D made his major-label debut with the widely celebrated album, The Never Story (2017)The effort was closely followed by the critically acclaimed DiCaprio 2 (2018), which received major looks from Rolling Stone, Billboard, NPR and more. In 2019, J.I.D continued his momentum with contributions on Dreamville’s platinum-certified compilation, Revenge of the Dreamers III, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and received multiple Grammy nominations, including Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance.

Elon University Social Entrepreneurs Help Black-Owned Businesses Find New Customers

By Patrick Wright, Elon University

Go to college. Graduate. Find your dream job. That’s how things are supposed to work, right? But what if you reached what you thought was your goal and turned it down with no alternative in sight? Now, that takes boldness.

Doug Spencer Jr., a 2016 graduate of Sullivan Foundation partner school Elon University and a former Elon Youth Trustee from Washington, D.C., had already enrolled in his dream law school when a summer job at a law firm changed his mind.

“It didn’t fit—it didn’t feel right to me,” Spencer said. “I called [the law school] and told them, ‘Thank you, but I’m not coming.’”

Related: This Black-owned food delivery company helps make Black-owned restaurants more competitive

“I definitely wasn’t skipping through a field of daisies either,” added Danielle Deavens, a 2016 Elon graduate who majored in print and online journalism. She’d landed a job at Food Network Magazine after graduation and realized her dreams were somewhere else.

The search for a dream isn’t the only thing connecting Deavens and Spencer. They’ve dated since they met as first-year students at an Elon soccer game in 2012. Eight and half years later, they’re taking on a bold new business venture together—one meant to support and celebrate Black-owned businesses.

“You usually don’t work with the person that you spend the rest of your life with, and so being able to do both is at times hard, but it’s mostly the best job ever,” Deavens said.

Products from Black-owned businesses are prepared for shipping at Bold Xchange.

Together, the couple launched Bold Xchange, an online retail shop that markets products exclusively sourced from Black-owned businesses, in February 2020. Bold Xchange offers a convenient way to find Black-owned businesses across the country and promises fast shipping, no hidden fees, vetted products and thoughtfully crafted rewards.

Deavens and Spencer research and acquire products from brand partners, market them and handle fulfillment of every order themselves. It’s no simple task, but the opportunity to help good businesses break down barriers far outweighs the work required, the couple said.

“You’re reminded every day about how meaningful this is because you’re working with people who are also nourishing their baby,” Spencer said. “Their business is something they’ve put so much time into.”

Bold Xchange’s work with Black-owned businesses has already earned the company national attention. Since the online shop’s official launch in 2020, Bold Xchange has been featured by TODAY.com and partnered with Home Depot to curate a Black History Month box, containing Black-owned products, to be shipped to customers and influencers.

Related: This Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient beat breast cancer and helps other Black women do the same

Deavens and Spencer also recently received a $50,000, equity-free Arch Grant to relocate Bold Xchange to St. Louis, Missouri, and use warehouse space there to grow their business further.

The most meaningful aspect of their first year of business, however, has been the opportunity to help Black-owned businesses thrive, even amid a global pandemic. “It’s so rewarding to talk to brand partners who say, ‘I had a banner year, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys,’” said Deavens. “That’s the dream—that you help somebody have a really great year.”

Bold Xchange was born out of a series of seemingly unrelated events. When Spencer passed on law school, he published a post about the difficult decision for a friend’s blog. His story garnered a great deal of attention and encouraged others to reach out to him for advice in making their own bold moves. That interest inspired Deavens and Spencer to start a blog of their own, “The Curatours,” which focused on young Black people doing notable work.

this is a photo of Danielle Deavens, co-founder of Bold Xchange and a social entrepreneur who helps black-owned businesses

Danielle Deavens

Around that time, Deavens was checking off presents from her Christmas list when a friend told her about a Black-owned formal-wear company that would be a great place to buy a pocket square for her father. Deavens enjoyed the shopping experience so much that she decided to buy all of her family’s presents that year from Black-owned businesses, but she was surprised by how difficult it was to find businesses to support.

Soon after, Deavens and Spencer launched Bold Xchange, combining their passion for sharing stories of Black excellence with their goal of supporting Black business owners.

“It was kind of born out of knowing these great Black-owned businesses existed, knowing it was a personal connection that led me to them, and wanting it to be a more accessible and simple experience,” Deavens said. “It all kind of started there.”

Related: Elon University student’s clothing brand combines positive message with entrepreneurship

The summer of 2020 gave the couple’s work new meaning, as cries for social justice rang out across the nation. In the weeks following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—and the nationwide protests that followed—Bold Xchange saw a spike in visitors looking for ways to support Black-owned businesses. With the increased interest, the shop frequently ran out of inventory, and Deavens and Spencer even struggled to keep a supply of shipping boxes in stock.

But the success of their business wasn’t front of mind at that moment. Their focus was on making a statement. “We want to be a part of convincing people that this is something they should care about forever,” Spencer said. “So for both of us, it’s like, yes, we’re supporting these entrepreneurs, but how do we engage with people who are now paying attention and help them understand that this isn’t a fad, it isn’t fleeting?”

Doug Spencer co-founded Bold Xchange to create new opportunities for black-owned companies

Doug Spencer

Deavens and Spencer are continuing on with that message in mind, as they form strong personal connections with the Black business owners who help make Bold Xchange a success. They’ve spent time learning about their stories, their concerns and their dreams, and the couple hopes to see brand partners reach their personal and business goals through Bold Xchange.

“I think there are these headlines around what supporting Black entrepreneurship means, and those are really important, but we’ve gotten to see the human element behind that and the actual impact that we can make in real people’s lives,” Deavens said.

Just like the brand partners they support, Deavens and Spencer have learned that stepping out on faith isn’t always easy. And it doesn’t always work the first time—just ask them about the 2018 beta version of Bold Xchange. Two years later, however, they’re running a successful business together and looking to expand their operation. And all it took was a little boldness—boldness that doesn’t stop here.

“If we’ve done this in one year, where will we be in five? Where will we be in 10?” Deavens said. “We have really lofty goals for Bold Xchange, so to be able to start to see even some of those come true is incredible.”

This story has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Elon University website.

The Citadel Alumnus, Former Miss USA Lu Parker Spreads Kindness Through Entrepreneurship

Lu Parker, a 1993 alumnus of The Citadel Graduate College, former Miss USA and popular TV news anchor in Los Angeles, doesn’t dawdle in the slow lane. She’s flying along numerous professional pathways, and, while she’s navigating, she’s deliberate about conveying one key message: Be kind.

“The best is when someone sees my t-shirt or hoodie while I’m wearing it and stops me to say, ‘I love your shirt!’ or ‘What a great message!’ When that happens, it makes me realize that I am doing the right thing. It’s working,” Parker shared in a recent interview with The Citadel, a Sullivan Foundation partner school.

Related: Dr. Sarah Imam of The Citadel teaches the human side of medicine

As a journalist with two decades of experience (including with WCSC-TV in Charleston, S.C.) and multiple Emmy awards, Parker anchors four hours of news daily for KTLA in Los Angeles. Additionally, she is an inspirational speaker, an author and the founder of Be Kind & Co., which recently launched a line of apparel.

Prior to her career in broadcasting, Parker was a ninth-grade English literature teacher. In 1994, while she was a teacher, Parker captured both the Miss South Carolina USA and Miss USA titles, going on to place fourth in the Miss Universe Pageant.

But, before all of that, Parker graduated from The Citadel Graduate College in 1993 with a Master of Arts in Education, after earning a BA in English Literature from the College of Charleston.

According to its website, Be Kind & Co. “focuses on kindness through acts, community events, health and fitness, animal welfare, food and beverage, travel and so much more. We love all things kind and are spreading a message that kindness is strength.”

After the launch of the Be Kind & Co. apparel line, The Citadel Graduate College reached out to Parker to ask her to share some reflections. This is what she said.

Q: What is your goal for Be Kind & Co.?

Parker: We strive to help all people better understand and embrace the power of kindness. My goal is to use Be Kind & Co. as a way to share content, experiences and merchandise that inspires all of us to be a bit more kind each day. I truly believe that each kind act, even if small, helps to collectively heal the world.

In 2021, we launched our BKC Apparel line, and we are thrilled to be seeing so many people wearing our merchandise around the country, including in South Carolina. We like to say it’s “Merchandise with a Message.” We share small sayings like, “Be a Kind Human,” “Born Kind,” Be Kind Y’all” and “Never Underestimate the Power of a Kind Woman.”

this photo shows former Miss USA Lu Parker wearing a t-shirt from Be Kind & Co. and holding an acoustic guitar

Q: Why did you create Be Kind & Co.?

Parker: The original concept of Be Kind & Co. was created after I experienced an unfortunate situation where I was attempting to be kind to someone and it backfired on me. At the time, the experience made me seriously question kindness. I questioned my urge to help people and literally almost gave up on being kind ever again. But, eventually, I came to my senses and realized that kindness is a gift that I cherish. Be Kind & Co. was originally a blog, but now it’s more of a life-style media company that shares content, offers merchandise with messaging and creates a space where people can share insights into the power of kindness.

I am also in the early stages of writing a book about my experiences and how I handled it. I am also looking forward to traveling again to speak around the country at conventions and venues on “How Kindness Creates Success.”

Related: Small acts of kindness create big impact with Furman University’s Heller Service Corps

Q: Why did you pursue a Masters of Education, and why did you select The Citadel Graduate College?

Parker: I was already interested in English literature and hoped to one day teach on a college level. My mom suggested that I apply to The Citadel because I was living in Charleston at the time and she said the program had a great reputation.

I have fond memories of attending the Citadel Graduate College. My professors were helpful, and the process was a smooth experience. I believe that anytime you set a goal in life, personally or professionally, you must complete each small task while staying focused on the future goal. Studying at The Citadel allowed me to further my education so I could eventually teach high school. I did teach high school at North Charleston High School after graduating from The Citadel.

Q: What is your greatest achievement to date?

Parker: I would say I have been very fortunate in my life and had the opportunity to experience a lot of wonderful moments, including attending college, winning Miss USA, winning Emmys, traveling the world, working in TV news, meeting celebrities, going to Hollywood events, and even writing a book … But I still don’t consider those accomplishments. They were all wonderful experiences. To answer your question about my greatest achievement to date, I would say it’s the fact that I have never given up on the belief that kindness can create huge change. Kindness can save a life. Kindness can shift the world. Kindness is strength. It’s a daily practice that I hope I can continue to share through my writings, my company and my voice.

this photo shows news anchor Lu Parker wearing a hoodie that promotes kindness

Q: What would you say to young women considering various careers about innovating their own pathways or even multiple careers?

Parker: I am a huge believer that life is better when you love what you do. I always suggest to young women and men to find a career or a path to that career that lights a fire inside of you. I love my job as a TV news anchor because I am able to combine my love of writing, reading and interacting with people. It’s the same with my company, Be Kind & Co. Creating a company takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work. It’s challenging and can be overwhelming, but when you feel good about what you are doing, then it’s worth it. I also totally believe that it’s never too late to change your profession or start a company, non-profit or passion project. It may require you to work after your “real” job, but, again, when the passion is there, it won’t always feel like work. It’s a joy.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to add that I one-hundred-percent believe that when women support each other’s success, we all succeed.  There is so much success available out in the world. Let’s help each other along the path and celebrate each other! That’s true kindness!

This story has been edited and condensed from the original version appearing on The Citadel’s website.

 

Shake Shack Starts Testing Sustainable, Biodegradable Straws and Cutlery

In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, popular burger chain Shake Shack has begun testing biodegradable straws and cutlery at six locations in California, New York and Florida.

The company has teamed up with Restore Foodware, headquartered in Huntington Beach, Calif., on the pilot program. Launched in 2020, Restore describes itself as the world’s first natural and regenerative foodware brand “on a mission to help end the flow of plastic into the ocean.”

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Restore’s sustainable straws and cutlery are an alternative to single-use plastics, the scourge of the planet’s oceans and waterways. Restore replaces plastic with ocean-friendly AirCarbon, a natural, carbon-negative material that feels like plastic but degrades naturally if it ends up in the environment, according to a press release from Shake Shack.

AirCarbon contains no synthetic plastics, PLA or synthetic glues. It requires no food crops for production and is home-compostable, soil-degradable and marine-degradable.

As Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) reports, AirCarbon is also called PHB). It’s a molecule manufactured by nearly all living organisms. It melts like plastic but will break down in the environment like leaves and stems. PHB is obtained from oceanic microorganisms and cultivated in a stainless steel tank, then filtered, powdered and turned into pellets that can be melted and shaped into foodware utensils. These utensils will degrade naturally, unlike plastic utensils and straws, which have a much longer lifespan.

this is a photo of a biodegradable straw from Restore Foodware, a sustainable alternative to plastic straws

Restore Foodware’s biodegradable straws offer a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic.

The new sustainable, ocean-friendly straws and cutlery are being tested at Shake Shack locations in West Hollywood and Long Beach, Calif.; Madison Square Park and West Village in New York; and Miami Beach, Fla. Another Shake Shack restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif., will begin testing the biodegradable utensils in the spring.

Related: Is your used pizza box recyclable? Here’s how to find out.

“As of now, we’re focused on the pilot,” Jeffrey Amoscato, Shake Shack’s senior vice president for supply chain and menu innovation, told NRN. “We look forward to hearing guest response and feedback.”

Shake Shack has also announced plans to start using recyclable aluminum bottles instead of plastic bottles at select locations on the West Coast starting in April.

The AirCarbon pilot program is part of Shake Shack’s “Stand for Something Good” initiative that focuses on responsible sourcing of ingredients and community outreach and give-back.

This Black-Owned Food Delivery Company Helps Make Black-Owned Restaurants More Competitive

Just one day after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, twin brothers David and Aaron Cabello, sophomores at Shippensburg University at the time, decided to drop out of school and start a business that would support Black-owned companies in their native Philadelphia. That business turned out to be Black and Mobile, a food delivery platform exclusively for Black-owned restaurants.

“We wanted to help Black people and Black businesses,” David Cabello told Fortune in a recent article. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it, of course. We were 21 years old and broke. We just knew we wanted to help.”

Related: This Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient beat breast cancer and helps other Black women do the same

As the brothers worked on their plans, they took on food delivery jobs with third-party platforms like Postmates, Uber Eats and Caviar. When the latter company hired David but not Aaron, the twins worked out a novel solution so both of them could learn the business. “We just used the same account,” David said in the Fortune interview. “I would do a five-hour shift, take a break, charge my electric bike, and then Aaron would go out there for five hours. We were doing 10-, 11-hour days. I’m sure they probably thought, ‘How is he delivering for that long?’”

In one marathon session, the Cabello brothers earned $1,100 in 30 hours. “I was, like, if I can make this much money delivering food on a bicycle, how much can I make if I owned a company?” David recalled.

this photo shows David and Aaron Cabello, founders of Black and Mobile, a third-party food delivery company that supports black-owned restaurants

David and Aaron Cabello

As of February 2019, Black and Mobile was in business and on the road, delivering food from Black-owned restaurants to customers all around Philadelphia. Their goal was to provide needed exposure for under-represented businesses in urban communities and help them become more competitive.

“It was slow going at first,” David recalled in an article posted on the Onfleet website. “I got hit by a car. We grossed $25,000 the first year. I didn’t know what I was doing. I kept getting stuck on the complex logistics of delivery.”

Onfleet’s technology helped the brothers better solve their logistics problems. Ironically, the pandemic of 2020 helped accelerate Black and Mobile’s growth. “Everybody wanted delivery,” he said. “In April, we tripled our volume.”

The Black Lives Matter movement also sparked interest in his company. “We advertised mostly organically on Instagram. That blew up.”

According to the Fortune article, the larger food delivery platforms might deprioritize or even refuse to deliver in some neighborhoods. Their high fees and technology requirements also pose a challenge to undercapitalized Black-owned restaurants. Many third-party delivery companies gobble up to 30 percent of a restaurant’s order with fees and commissions.

Related: President Biden’s executive order will provide more federal aid for anti-hunger nonprofits

“You would think big national businesses would have good customer service and not have such high sign-up costs and commission fees,” Shon Emanuel, the owner of Supreme Oasis, a Black and Mobile restaurant partner in West Philly, told Fortune. “Black and Mobile has less and takes less.”

Black and Mobile charges its clients 20 percent from each order or 15 percent for partner restaurants that use its services exclusively. And Emanuel said his sales have shot up by 35 percent to 40 percent since he started working with Black and Mobile. “Once we got on their platform, people were telling us, ‘We didn’t know you were Black-owned—we didn’t even know you were opened’ … People want to support Black businesses, and with Black and Mobile, you can support two for one.”

Black and Mobile now employs 200 people, with operations in Philadelphia, Detroit and Atlanta. But opening the Atlanta operation last year did not go smoothly. A local development company botched Black and Mobile’s app for that region, missing the deadline for launch and turning in an app that didn’t work, Fortune reported. The problems cost the company around $300,000 and almost drove the Cabello brothers out of business.

this photo shows fried chicken and other soul food from D Cafe, a Black-owned restaurant benefiting from Black and Mobile's food delivery service in Atlanta

D Cafe, a Black-owned soul-food restaurant in Atlanta, is one of Black and Mobile’s partners.

But a partnership with a new program developed by Pepsi saved the day. PepsiCo Global Foodservice has pledged $400 million to fighting both the impact of COVID-19 and racial inequality. Pepsi’s Dig In program is a “purposeful rallying cry to double down our support for Black-owned businesses, with a particular focus on restaurants,” Scott Finlow, global chief marketing officer of PepsiCo Foodservice, told Fortune. “It’s a program that’s holistic, sustained—vs. transactional—and focused on ensuring owners are equipped with technology and tools to make it through the pandemic and thrive.”

With support from Dig In-affiliated partners, Black and Mobile has been working to improve its Atlanta app. “It was the support we needed to keep going,” David said. “Fixing the tech side of it is our main focus. I think that’s all we’re missing at this point.”

Related: Past Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient helps prepare girls of color for careers in science

Technology is often a sticking point for Black-owned businesses, Finlow said. “There’s a capabilities gap [between white- and Black-owned businesses], which comes from access to and cost of capital. The structural disadvantage that goes back generations has led to Black restaurants being undercapitalized and not necessarily having some of the tools that let them invest in the tech that’s increasingly required to work in an off-premises world—which is make-or-break capability today.”

Even after the missteps in Atlanta, Black and Mobile still generated $500,000 in revenue in 2020, a 2,000 percent increase from the previous year, according to Fortune. “Our goal for this year: a million,” David said.

Alexis Taylor Discusses Systems Thinking and Changemaking in Feb. 25 Ignite Masterclass

Alexis Taylor, a global leader in activating and connecting entrepreneurial ecosystems for economic prosperity, returns as a guest speaker in the Sullivan Foundation’s next Ignite Masterclass, titled “How Systems Thinking Translates to Tangible Change.”

The virtual Ignite Masterclass, which is free and open to the public, will be held in two sessions on Thursday, Feb. 25. Session 1 starts at 10 a.m., and session 2 follows at 2 p.m. (ET). Click here to register for session 1 and click here to register for session 2.

Related: Learn more about Sullivan Foundation’s full Ignite Masterclass schedule for Spring 2021. 

Taylor is a member of the Austin, Texas hub of the Global Shapers Community, a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change. Born out of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community spans 430 city-based hubs in 150 countries. She is the former director for global engagement at the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and a past Ignite Retreat facilitator and mentor.

For the Feb. 25 Ignite Masterclass, Taylor will share her insights on systems thinking and changemaking. Creating tangible change on the ground requires a comprehensive systems view on the challenges you aim to solve. Based on her work around the world, Taylor will share how to approach systems thinking and apply it to a multitude of settings, from launching social ventures to engaging as a local activist.

Each Ignite Masterclass also features about a dozen coaches who will offer changemaking insights and help participants develop and implement their own ideas for action and personal improvement. Professors and their classes from across the Sullivan Foundation network of partner schools participate in the masterclasses as well.

In her role with GEN, Taylor advocated for ecosystem builders and “all those who empower the world’s doers, makers and dreamers,” according to the GEN website. The Global Entrepreneurship Network operates a platform of projects and programs in 170 countries aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere, to start and scale a business.

Prior to her work with GEN, Taylor was the CEO and president of Austin, Texas-based 3 Day Startup, a global entrepreneurship education program, which she helped scale to more than 500 programs and expanded to Australia, Southern Africa and the Middle East. Taylor has been recognized by the U.S. State Department and the World Economic Forum as a leader in empowering people and communities through entrepreneurship.

The Ignite Masterclasses boost students’ confidence in their ability to create positive change in their communities and have earned high praise from participants.

Aeden Rowell, a student at Sullivan Foundation partner school Brenau University, said a recent masterclass with Dustin Liu, UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations, served as “a good reminder that I can make an impact even though I’m just one person.”

Deanna Joseph, another Brenau University student, gave the Liu masterclass a top rating of 10 out of 10 and said the session taught her “that you don’t have to choose just one passion—pick multiple things that get you excited and motivated to make change.”

Alumnus of The Citadel Wins Acclaim from Oprah Winfrey for ICONI Line of Activewear

Working out at the gym makes you feel better about yourself. Doing it in gym clothes from ICONI, a new line of activewear for women, will make you feel even better because 10 percent of the black-owned social enterprise’s profits go to help provide clothing for kids in need and other good causes.

Founded by U.S. Air Force Capt. Angel Johnson, a Charleston, S.C. native and 2013 alumnus of Sullivan Foundation partner school The Citadel, ICONI was spotlighted in O: The Oprah Magazine last month and more recently in The Post and Courier, a Charleston, S.C. newspaper. According to ICONI’s website, the impact business has thus far donated $11,000 to nonprofit organizations that provide school clothes and accessories to hundreds of in-crisis and low-income children. ICONI also supports social-justice nonprofits, food pantries and shelters for victims of domestic violence.

Related: Elon University’s student’s clothing brand combines positive message with entrepreneurship

Johnson, now stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Denver, founded the brand after realizing that fellow gym-goers could sometimes see through her form-fitting workout attire—and that stuff was expensive, too.

“I was tired of spending $80 to $90 on leggings, then going to the gym and discovering that they were see-through,” Johnson told O Magazine. “That’s the most embarrassing thing…and so frustrating.”

Inspired in part by an Army officer with an entrepreneurial streak, Johnson made up her mind in September 2019 to launch her own line of clothing and started researching the industry. Not one to waste time, she designed her unique high-waisted, curve-hugging and flexible leggings, which are constructed with moisture-wicking, fast-drying fabrics, in October. By January 2020, her first products went on sale.

this is a photo of a model wearing activewear by ICONI

ICONI is an acronym for I Can Overcome, Nothing’s Impossible.

In addition to the leggings, the ICONI line now includes sports bras, tops, shorts, hoodies and more, typically priced between $25 and $50. ICONI also offers gym attire specifically designed for curvy and plus-sized body types.

And when new products come in, Johnson told The Post and Courier, “I have different people test them to make sure, no matter what size they are, they won’t be see-through.”

The products have earned acclaim from Oprah Winfrey herself, who added ICONI to her list of Oprah’s Favorite Things last October, less than a year after the brand had launched. When she found out about that, Johnson told O Magazine, “I was in the parking lot at work, just freaking out in my car.”

As an African-American and African history buff, Johnson wanted to incorporate West African elements into her brand. “The base of the logo is a ‘power’ button, and the Ghanaian symbol stands for strength and versatility,” she said. “I was looking at African countries and cities on a map, and when I saw Iconi, a town on Grande Comore Island in the Indian Ocean—just off the coast of Africa—I wondered if I could create an acronym that was motivational.”

She could and did: in addition to alluding to the town itself, ICONI stands for I Can Overcome, Nothing’s Impossible, her brand’s slogan.

Johnson also makes every effort to support fellow black-owned businesses. “From my clothing to the facial products, soaps and makeup that I use, I always try to support [them],” she told O Magazine.

ICONI took off rapidly as customers discovered her activewear on social media, Johnson said. “First, it was people I knew. Then, my customer base grew through word-of-mouth, Instagram and Facebook. From the beginning, I embraced them all. I responded to every single DM, and if someone sent me a photo of themselves wearing ICONI, I took the time to comment.”

She also pays heed to customer feedback as she works out new designs. Case in point: When she posted a design for a hoodie on Instagram Stories last year, her followers came through with useful recommendations, such as adding thumb holes, expanding the size and choosing colors.

And Johnson makes sure that anyone can wear her clothing, regardless of body shape, weight or even gender. “I want the brand to be inclusive, so I’m making sure all of our products are available in larger sizes and working on a men’s line, too. Those are the goals for 2021.”

Elon University Student’s Clothing Brand Combines Positive Message With Entrepreneurship

Faced with all the challenges and frustrations of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew Veilleux, a business analytics and finance double major at Sullivan Foundation partner school Elon University, needed something to do with his free time, so he decided to start a company.

Now, his student-owned clothing brand, Good to See You, has merchandise for sale online and in five stores across 11 locations.

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Veilleux, a senior, says the message and the company grew out of the social isolation so many have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The phrase, ‘It’s good to see you,’ means so much right now,” Veilleux said. “I love saying it! It’s a powerful message, especially because I enjoy seeing people back on campus. The words ‘good to see you” carry more meaning in a world that has been distant for so long.”

Good to See You founder Andrew Veilleux

The decision to launch the company began with extensive research to learn what it would take to sell the “good to see you” message. With the desire to share the message on a shirt, Andrew and his two roommates, Stephen Hawthorne and Sean Hess, dug in. They recruited a design major to create the first draft of the “good to see you” logo.

Developing the business allowed Veilleux to draw on his collective academic knowledge and classroom experiences to pitch merchandise to supply chains and build a website. But he and his roommates also gave much credit to the resources available on campus and the surrounding community.

They received guidance from Elon’s Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship to choose sales and marketing platforms, understand business costs, and make informed business decisions. The Student Government Association’s Acorn Fund provided financial support based on the company’s potential for positive impact beyond the classroom. They borrowed equipment from Elon’s Media Services Department to create their first promotional video.

Related: Leading CEOs propose roadmap to building a purpose-first economy

Additionally, they sought guidance from the Elon University Law School and worked with two Elon law students who shared legal advice and filed for the “good to see you” trademark. The legal service, offered for free to Elon students, helped them understand tax obligations, whether to form a limited liability corporation, how to gain capital, and work together to sell merchandise.

Through a network of friends and professionals, Veilleux said he now understands the importance of building capital and integrating merchandising with the supply chain in an agile, digital way. He plans to focus much of his time on getting “good to see you” merchandise for sale in a couple of stores up north.

Good to See You merchandise can be found online and in The Oak HouseMy Secret Closet, The Fountain Market in Clohan Hall, and BoHo Blu.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Elon University website.