An Entrepreneurial Attitude at Whole Foods


The African American Scholars Alliance group at Whole Foods Market

Sarah Lemley, Staff Reporter

On March 12, Albemarle’s African American Scholars Alliance went to Whole Foods Market to learn about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and meet fellow individuals who have successfully started a business here in Charlottesville.

“We’re just trying to expose them to different things so once they get to the point of applying to college, they have a better idea of different areas that they would like to major in, and they’ve talked to different people that are actually in the fields that they’re interested in so they can make a better decision on their majors,” explained Wendell Green, fellow teacher at AHS and co-advisor to the group along with Wes Bellamy.

Kara Dawson, a demo specialist at Whole Foods Market Charlottesville, and Green, were able to organize a field trip to teach the group about what kind of work goes into being an entrepreneur.

“I was invited to accept an award on behalf of 100 Black Men of Virginia back in November. While I was there, I was seated at a table with Coach Green,” Dawson said. She noticed that there were a number of professors, doctors, and lawyers in the program, and then thought about the young men who wanted to be entrepreneurs. “You know we have a lot of local vendors in the store, we should let them know what’s going on so they can be successful someday if that’s what they want to do. I just feel so good that this is happening, and that it’s going so well.”

Dawson was able to organize a buffet of locally made food ranging from salad dressing to barbeque sauce and marinara sauce.

“It was literally just planning out the menu, making sure I had enough local products featured. It was getting local products, getting the food to go with it, and just cooking.”

Dawson was also able to organize two speakers to come and talk to the students in the African Americans Scholars Alliance and tell them what goes into to being your own boss.

“I’m here to share my experience of opening up a company and all the highs and lows and how wonderful it is to be an entrepreneur and to start a business in a community like Charlottesville,” entrepreneur Liz James explained. James successfully started her business, The Happy Tomato, at the city market, and is now FDA approved and selling her products at Whole Foods.

James was able to speak to the boys about being an entrepreneur and wants them to recognize that if you put your heart into something, that they can do anything.

“They can take this whole entrepreneurial spirit and bring it to other aspects in their life just as long as their heart is in it and you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything.”

Although a few amount of people are able to start a business selling food, some decide to work in the field of technology, like entrepreneur Jody Joy who created her business Living Mind.

“I am an entrepreneur in the field of information architecture and communications design,” she said. “I’m hoping that the boys learn that when you ask for help, when you look for help, that you’ll be able to find someone who will help you and that there are a lot of resources out there where you can go to find out information on something you’re interested in. You just have to open up to it and not hold yourself back or let anyone else hold you back by what they say or do.”

Other than eating locally made food, the boys were able to learn about starting a business and get more experience in that type of field.

“I think I learned how people get their product out, in whole foods especially, and how they promote it and wha process it takes for people to actually buy their product,” junior Jesus Lazo said. Lazo, who has been in the club for two years, was able to experience different opportunities like colleges and visiting Whole Foods in the perspective of a seller.

“Coming here today for me, was really fun. It shows that it’s really not that hard to be an entrepreneur and start your own business. It’s a long process to get stuff known in a store like Whole Foods,” junior Nehemiah Lesesane said. This club has helped him learn to dress to impress, among other things. “It’s very hard for young African Americans to get into colleges and you need clubs like this to figure out and this program really helps you.”

“I  learned how to start a successful business and how to be an entrepreneur,” freshman Josh Beidler said. Beidler, who is a new member of the club, joined to improve his future and start planning ahead.

“I knew that the 100 Black Men would have a positive influence on my life and how I would present myself all through high school,” senior Myles Francisco said. “I learned that it’s good to have a plan, have a goal, always have a goal. Make sure you do what you know and love what you do.”

“If you love what you do you never work a day in your life,” Dawson said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, even though you know what you want to do. Your passion for it and doing that hard work seems arduous if its not something you have the love for.”