Luquana McGriff: NYCHA Resident & Food Entrepreneur

Luquana McGriff: NYCHA Resident & Food Entrepreneur

Red Hook Houses West resident Luquana McGriff dreams of one day opening a baked goods storefront for her business, A Cake Baked in Brooklyn, and in October 2018 she had an opportunity to help her prepare when she became the first NYCHA resident to operate the new food service kiosk in the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Building 77. (Watch a new video with Ms. McGriff talking about her business here.)

The Brooklyn Navy Yard kiosk program provides entrepreneurs with a prime location in the Food Manufacturing Hub of the newly renovated Building 77, located on the ground floor and open to the public. McGriff sold her specialty baked goods, including cakes, cupcakes, and cakes in a jar.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Ms. McGriff said. “I’m from Brooklyn, and I remember passing through the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a kid. It’s wild that today it’s redesigned and my business is there. I get to open and close the kiosk, meet with my customers, and get feedback from them. I’ve done pop-up shops before, but those last for one day or a weekend; to be at the same spot every day is more responsibility and preparation for my own store.”

The food kiosk program is a partnership between Brooklyn Navy Yard, NYCHA’s Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES), the Fund for Public Housing, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and Start Small Think Big.

Entrepreneurs in the food kiosk program rotate every two months, and each offer a different food option during their time managing the kiosk. Following Ms. McGriff was Pomonok Houses resident Brandi Covington of Cooking With Corey.

Entrepreneurs who operate the food kiosk must be graduates of NYCHA’s Food Business Pathways (FBP) program, which provides NYCHA public housing residents and Section 8 voucher holders with a free, 10-week business training to help them launch or grow their food businesses. McGriff graduated from FBP in 2015 and launched her business in January 2016.

“Our Food Business Pathway graduates have already demonstrated incredible entrepreneurial and culinary skills, and we’re proud to see those talents showcased at the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” said Sideya Sherman, NYCHA Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships. (Hear from another FBP graduate and food entrepreneur here.)

FBP is a collaboration between REES, the NYC Department of Small Business Services, Citi Community Development, Hot Bread Kitchen, Start Small Think Big, other kitchen incubators, and REES partners across the city.

Ms. McGriff and future food kiosk operators will continue to receive the business training, mentoring, and support they received in FBP thanks to Start Small Think Big, a non-profit organization that helps under-resourced entrepreneurs build businesses in underserved areas.

“I’m the only person in my business, but it’s so amazing to have all the support from so many people and organizations, helping me with what I should do for my business,” Ms. McGriff said. “I plan on absorbing everything I can, all the knowledge I can, while I’m running the kiosk.”

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