By Chelsea Matzen / Vice President, NGA Foundation
Diversity and inclusion is one of the NGA Foundation’s five programmatic pillars and one that will be important to the long-term success of the independent grocery industry. For an industry that can boast its position at the heart of the community, its reflection of that community – through hiring, management opportunities and product offerings – is essential.
Initiatives such as Women Grocers of America and its related share groups for established and rising female executives, and scholarships awarding students of diverse backgrounds are key components of the Foundation’s mission.
Our latest initiative aims to expand outreach to grocers who are Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), those owners, operators and executives among grocery retailers, wholesalers and suppliers who have compelling stories and advice to share about their entrepreneurial successes and the challenges of the grocery business.
To broaden its inclusion of these entrepreneurs and to serve as inspiration for others, the National Grocers Association and NGA Foundation recently hosted a virtual roundtable to explore their stories as well as their vision for the future of the food industry.
Moderated by food retail technology expert Joy Nicholas, the online panel discussion included KaTina Holliday, founder and owner of Freshly’s Market in Aberdeen, Miss.; Antonio Roberts, produce specialist with Kansas City-based Associated Wholesale Grocers; Dami Odetola, vice president of National Cooperative Bank, a longtime provider of financial services to independent grocers; and Percy Miller, aka Master P, an entrepreneurial businessman, philanthropist, music mogul, producer and entertainer, whose business ventures include Broadus Foods, a partnership with Snoop Dogg to manufacture and market breakfast food products.
This event was truly inspirational, to say the least. With well over 100 people registered to participate in this online gathering, the response was enthusiastic and downright joyful, with the chat thread peppered with exclamations of “Yes!”, “Exactly!” and “Right on!” amid the many questions posed to the panelists.
And all brought messages of inspiration.
Already an entrepreneur as well as a nurse, Holiday-Wiseman found herself pulled into the grocery industry after the supermarket tenant for the shopping center she built in her Mississippi hometown pulled out of the deal. Unfazed, she launched the health-focused Freshly’s Market and credits her distributor, Mitchell Grocery, as well as NGA for their guidance.
“Start with why you want to do it,” Holiday-Wiseman advises those looking to get into grocery.
“Line up your passion and purpose. Understand your target market.”
Roberts embraces his “passion for people” and his role in produce at AWG. “I’m helping families understand fresh eating,” he says. “It has to be about more than making money.”
As a banker, Odetola helps provide not only financing but business guidance to would-be grocery operators. His advice? “The journey will be long and tough. Communicate. Ask questions. Take advantage of all resources at your disposal.”
Despite his fame, Miller said he refused to create just a celebrity-based brand because it’s so much more than that – it’s inspiration for all would-be Black entrepreneurs that they can do it, too. “We need to know that we can build great brands, build generational wealth and open doors for new minority-owned companies,” he declares. “We’re showing our culture that we can.”
And by upholding the Foundation’s pillar of diversity and inclusion, we’re showing our industry that we truly can be the heart of the community.
This is just the beginning – the next step is a BIPOC “meet-up” at the 2024 NGA Show, March 10-12 in Las Vegas, with events beyond in the planning stages.
Meanwhile, to view a recording of the complete roundtable, click here.