This story was originally published on centrocommunity.org.
Wanda Blake’s cooking apprenticeship started in her mother’s kitchen. It then continued in the kitchens of great aunts, aunties, grandmas, and cousins. In 1981, Wanda attended City College of San Francisco to study hotel and restaurant management. In 2015, she launched Wanda’s Cooking as a pop-up restaurant event in Oakland and San Francisco, California. The reason? She is passionate about providing for her community through food and culture.
Wanda’s pop-up events provided a food service experience that gathered people around a family memory or a new food experience. The business’ first pop-up, “Sunday Supper”, was in memory of Sunday dinners at grandma’s house. Wanda’s Cooking is a family of passionate chefs and friends who have touched people in the Bay Area and beyond. It is the result of hard work, dedication to others, and perseverance. “I launched Wanda’s Cooking because it gives me the opportunity to express my culture through food,” said Wanda, “as well as being able to provide jobs to my own community.”
In 2018, Wanda recognized her business needed a better foundation in order to be able to, eventually, scale it. Wanda started Centro’s Basic Entrepreneurship Program in April 2019. She learned how to establish the business’ foundational needs (mission, vision, marketing plan). “Centro provides entrepreneurs with the basic tools in a unique way that is easy to complete a business plan,” said Wanda. “Centro’s Business Planning App guided me through every step that my business needed in order to scale it.” Centro’s trainers further supported Wanda throughout each class, and her advisor did outside of class.
From pop-up to pantry
Throughout Centro’s Basic Entrepreneurship Program, Wanda identified her target market, established a mission, vision, marketing plan, and projected potential earnings. Six months after graduating from Centro, Wanda’s Cooking launched a pantry on her website. There, Wanda sells ‘Pepper Chowchow’ – a traditional Southern condiment made from sweet and hot seasonal peppers. Wanda’s Cooking has shipped Pepper Chowchow as far south as Tasmania, Australia and as far north as Juno, Alaska.
Today, Wanda feels empowered with how her business is performing. “It is growing at a steady pace that allows me to keep learning from other entrepreneurs, my community and my own mistakes,” said Wanda. “Having established my business plan clearly has left me with a peace of mind, I did not have before.”
Within the next year, Wanda hopes to scale her business by having her products tested and approved for retail shelf storage throughout the state. Potentially the nation, too. As a result, she plans on securing a retail space to produce, manufacture and sell her products in one place. “Thanks to Centro, I am aware that in order to grow as an entrepreneur, I have to stay open to feedback and constructive criticism, one never stops learning”.