Closing the Racial and Wealth Gap Through Food

Mackenzie Loy, A13, is helping grow businesses owned by women, minority, and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs—one catered lunch at a time

We don’t often think of ordering food for a catered office lunch as an opportunity to close the racial and gender wealth gap. But Homemade in DC, a new startup by Mackenzie Loy, A13, is providing businesses the chance to do just that in a very intentional way.

Loy has long wanted to create a successful social enterprise that marries her belief that everyone deserves a great meal with her commitment to help more people from diverse backgrounds achieve financial independence. 

“Food is incredibly important in my family and Asian-American culture, as it is in most cultures. It’s how we show love, build bonds, and sustain ourselves,” she says. “And I see all of these food entrepreneurs who are creating amazing products and I want to help accelerate these businesses into something that has a lasting impact beyond the food.”

Loy’s great-grandmother used to make and sell lunches to workers in Hawaii, and she herself briefly baked and sold cinnamon rolls out of her apartment after college—but soon saw that was not her path. “I realized baking for a living sounds wonderful but is incredibly hard work that requires meticulous consistency,” she laughs.

And so she returned to school, completing her master’s in public policy and an MBA at Georgetown University last May. Now she’s back working out of her apartment—but this time she’s raising dough of another kind.

As founder and CEO of Homemade in DC, Loy is connecting a growing list of more than 50 commercial customers to unique catered meals and food gift boxes made by more than 35 women, minority, and LGBTQ+ food entrepreneurs—many of whom are located in food deserts in Washington DC’s Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth wards.

This summer, a Tufts-funded Tisch Summer Fellows intern will join Loy in her efforts—a connection facilitated by Tisch College of Civic Life Dean Dayna Cunningham, who met Loy at a Tufts alumni event in DC.

Loy also recently founded The New Majority, another social enterprise startup that aims to make it easier for everyday investors who are women and people of color to invest directly in founders who look like them. “I’m a big believer in market-based solutions to solve societal problems,” Loy says. “My goal is to make entrepreneurship of all kinds more equitable for people of color as a path to closing the wealth gap.”

A Cottage Industry

Homemade in DC was initially funded by revenue, an investment through DC’s Inclusive Innovation Equity Impact Fund, a first-place cash prize from Georgetown University’s Bark Tank Pitch Competition, and a grant as part of Loy’s current Halcyon fellowship.

Its partnering food entrepreneurs are building businesses within commercial kitchens and in their own home kitchens, regulated by cottage food laws in DC. That includes people like Maggie Kamara of District Chop Bar, who specializes in unique Afro-Caribbean flavors. Or Ije Obidegwu of Pies on the Side, whose rum cake and Oreo chocolate chip cookies are favorites on the menu. “Our emphasis is on providing delicious food that you might not have had before,” Loy says.

Clients include corporations such as law firms and tech companies with a strong local presence in DC, as well as local universities and nonprofits. When they place a food order, they receive appetizers, main dishes, and desserts from two to four entrepreneurs—as well as photos and stories to highlight the people behind the food.

“Having a lunch that’s more than just a sandwich or pizza creates an opportunity for colleagues, clients, students, and more to really see each other, and talk to each other and appreciate the food,” Loy says. “Having something unique that has a story is what allows people to pause and appreciate the food and maybe discover something more about each other.”

Growing Together

Loy’s goal is to create a pipeline of higher volume orders and more consistent sales for each entrepreneur, which will help them develop businesses that will survive, thrive, and potentially scale, she says.

The entrepreneurs’ and Loy’s businesses are growing together. Homemade in DC became profitable this past year, along with at least one of its partner entrepreneurs—Blue’s Coffee & Tea Co, a family-owned, Black-owned company. And recently, the startup filled an order for 150 bibimbap bowls through its partner, BangBop—the largest that BangBop had ever done. Orders like these help entrepreneurs stay in business during the slow months of February and March, Loy says.

Loy hopes to continue scaling up this hyperlocal business model through a marketplace platform that supports Homemade hubs in other cities, such as Kansas City and Somerville, Mass. “The food entrepreneurs I work with are incredibly hardworking, and this is not unique to this group,” Loy says. “With Homemade, I’m trying to ensure that after years and years of hard work, there is something to pass on and something to show for all of that hard work.”

She adds, “I believe this effort can ultimately help create thriving local communities through food, relationships, and constant reinvestment in each other.”

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