The Black Food and Dessert Expo that started in Philadelphia with 75 participants only two years ago will welcome over 1,000 people this year.
The culinary showcase, founded by Kupcake Bar CEO Aneesah Smith, will host its summer culinary showcase at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks.
While more than half of participating chefs are from Philly, “being able to move to the expo center just provides us with not only the square footage with this visibility but the ability to have more people, more spread out, and really have the space to showcase our businesses,” Smith said in a statement.
The expo will exclusively showcase Black and Brown-owned businesses that do not have a brick-and-mortar store or food truck, on Saturday, July 20 at the center on 100 Stanton Ave. in Exhibit Hall E.
“We’ve been working with chefs and bakers for about 17 months, so we have a network of over 100 chefs,” Smith said.
Zupenda Davis-Shine, showcase operations manager, said that in addition to this summer’s location making for a better experience, “developing appropriate marketing strategies and inviting a diverse roster of chefs, bakers and retail merchants” has helped grow the Expo’s network.
“There are a lot of logistics involved to make sure that all is in place for the expo to increase visibility for the vendors and satisfy that foodie craving and sweet tooth of the attendees,” Davis-Shine said.
Entrepreneurs from New York and Washington, D.C., will join those from Philadelphia to display their culinary talents, but Smith said she’s also aiming to create unity between black and brown business owners.
“We really want to foster collaboration and show that we all can win together because, sometimes in the small-business industry, there is lots of competition,” she said.
Davis-Shine said,“[Smith’s] concept of helping small businesses showcase their products and services is attractive to the attendees, community and other businesses.”
Along with events like the Black Food and Dessert Expo, Smith has worked in youth-advocacy programs such as Rainbow Connection’s annual conference. At Exton Elementary, she worked as an in-service diversity and inclusion training facilitator, and she spent five years directing LGBT Services at West Chester University. There, she said, she felt a push to work on intersectionality because “I’m not just queer, I’m queer and black [and] a woman.”
“I think a lot of times with social-justice issues, people really expect you to just fight for one,” she said, “but I want to collectively fight for them.”
For Smith, the showcase is one way to wage that battle, as it provides a platform for entrepreneurs of color.
“It is even more crucial to find ways for these communities to access resources that push their businesses to the next level,” she said, adding she works with business owners directly to prepare them for the level of exposure.
“We are really helping businesses learn the things they need to know in order to be successful. It’s always such an amazing event.” she said. “We just come together and support each other.”
For tickets, visit bit.lyBlackfoodanddessertexpo.