In His Blood
Though Calvin Andrews grew up in Oakland, he inherited his love of soul food from his Texan mother, Lena. From early on in his life, Calvin knew food entrepreneurship was something he could do and succeed at.
When I’d go places to eat, I would be like, ‘wow, I know I can cook better than this.’ So Lena’s was born and we’ve been rolling ever since.
But, even though he had the talent, Calvin was sorely lacking in capital. He wouldn’t be able to finish building up the locale and buy the necessary equipment without a loan – but no banks were eager to provide it. Then he approached Main Street Launch, who gave him an initial loan to open the restaurant.
I don’t even think we could have opened the business without their support, their help, their assistance, and their resources.
Giving Back in More Ways than One
Lena’s Soul Food now employs 51 people and has gross annual sales of over $1 million. But it has become more than a restaurant – it is a pillar in its community. Calvin makes a point of hiring young people looking for work experience as well as formerly incarcerated folks in need of opportunities.
And Calvin knows there’s a lot more he can do aside from creating jobs. Every night, Lena’s staff take the unsold food of the day and give it away to people in need, many of whom are unhoused.
Calvin’s sense of community has not gone unnoticed. Recently, the City of Oakland gave Lena’s Soul Food the “Small Business of the Year Award.”
The City Councilman who gave this award, he said, “Your business alone is a destination point that people from all over, not just Oakland, come for. And they get to see a shining star in East Oakland.”