One of the roles we value most at the Westside Future Fund is fostering and supporting sustainable economic development in our community. This month, we’re proud to introduce you to entrepreneur Keitra Bates and her new social enterprise, Marddy’s, a food incubator committed to preserving the local culinary culture of the Westside.
Keitra was one of eight fellows selected for the Center for Civic Innovation’s Westside Innovation Lab. Through the Fellowship, Keitra was able to receive business training, mentorship, and early stage capital. Now, six months later, with her building purchased and renovations and repairs underway, Keitra is edging closer to the “sweet smell of success.”
In the Q&A below, Keitra shares her story of taking her love of homemade sweet potato pie (and the extraordinary home cooks who prepare them) and turning it into an enterprise that will support her community for years to come.
1. How long has your business been located on the Westside? Marddy’s represents small business owners who have been operating on the Westside for years.
2. Where did the concept of Marddy’s come from?
Marddy’s really started with my love of a local homemade sweet potato pie. Not only is it not sold in stores, in fact, you have to be in the right place at the right time to get one. Consider yourself a true Westsider if you happen to be in one of the small local shops on the Westside when the Pie Man comes through.
Because of all of the development and interest in the Westside neighborhoods, I started to wonder what would happen to the home cooks if the small shops close. I asked the shopkeepers if they were experiencing new customers and growth from the new investments in the neighborhood, and it was a resounding no. Most of the small businesses were feeling a reverse effect of development. Higher rent and fewer customers.
Marddy’s is a business that is being created out of love, necessity and a need to save the culinary traditions of the Westside. A culture should not be erased in the name of progress. At Marddy’s, local home cooks are provided with business development classes to ensure that they remain part of the quickly revitalizing economy of the Westside. Our marketplace preserves the food loved by locals while offering newcomers a place to discover the flavor of the neighborhood.
3. What do you enjoy most about being a Westside business owner? I enjoy the people and the support of the community. I enjoy being part of history.
4. As a business owner, what has been your impression to date of the Westside revitalization efforts?
Change for a lot of people is scary and unwelcomed. I am hopeful that in the midst of development that the current residents of the Westside will be able to benefit from revitalization and their history and traditions will remain and be celebrated.
5. Are you also a resident of the community?
I have lived on the Westside of Atlanta for about eight years.
6. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs possibly looking to start a business in the community?
These days’ customers are really looking for companies with integrity. Socially conscious companies that are looking to embrace and serve both current residents and the newcomers will have the greatest success.
7. What do you see as one of the community’s greatest assets? The people are the community’s greatest asset.
8. What role do you feel entrepreneurs and business owners play in the overall revitalization efforts of the Westside? I feel like there is a big chance to get it right and an equal chance to get it wrong. If a business is coming into the community and doesn’t understand what is really happening and only sees the surface, there is a huge chance they are going to get it wrong. If they are trying to be a part of what already exists, they will get honesty and help from the people that live here who will help them navigate while creating their business. That will lead to their ultimate success;\ if they have a respect for the people here and understand their needs.
Want to support Keitra and her vision for Marddy’s? Visit http://villagemicrofund.com/marddys/ for more information on the start-up and to make a tax-deductible donation.