The sights, smells and flavors of food truck courts first captured local foodies’ imaginations last summer. Though those locations may be temporary, a coalition of area food truck and food cart entrepreneurs are seeking a new measure of permanence that also aims to give back to young, as-yet-untapped entrepreneurial talents among Richmond’s youth.
Transcending rivalries and market competition, RVA Street Foodies formed late last year, recognizing strength in numbers for micro-entrepreneurs, and that the Richmond community is better served when competition is healthy and constructive.
“The premise is to have a uniting body for the food vendors, to work on behalf of the food vendors,” says Paul Cassimus, one of more than a dozen vendors that comprise the new RVA Street Foodies coalition that will provide the public with, among other things, a single point of contact with the area’s food trucks, allowing them to more easily do event planning and catering that includes multiple street vendor businesses.
“”We realize by working together as vendors with our supporting organizations we can make each event better for all vendors and engaging for all customers,” Cassimus says.
Perhaps equally important to the consolidation of certain marketing and contracting services is a strong social entrepreneurship component that is at the heart of the RVA Street Foodies mission.
“We wanted to be more legacy focused, so we have taken up the cause of youth entrepreneurship,” says Malcolm Andress, another Foodie member, who leveraged his own long and strong relationships with the Richmond Technical Center to forge a partnership with Richmond Public Schools that has important implications for area young adults.
“Our goal will be to mentor youth and graduates from the Technical Center and grow them, either into our businesses or into their own independent businesses,” says Andress, who says immersion mentoring and training will provide students with hands-on experience in business ethic and small-business economics. “In this way, we’ll be able to expand our RVA Street Foodies courts and give back to Richmond.”
The partnership also will provide the Richmond Technical Center with opportunity to give training in other specialized areas of business. Eventually, says Andress, students will maintain the Foodies call center.
The new organization partners closely with GrowRVA, a past organizer of food court events, and is an unique approach to ensuring sustainability. The new organization ensures the food cart and truck vendors will ultimately have greater hands-on ability to steer the development of street food culture in Richmond.
“We saw that being unified was the best way to go about it — to focus our efforts,” says Cassimus, explaining that RVA Street Foodies is structured as an umbrella organization which small businesses will be able to interface with in order to leverage the benefits available to larger companies, like affordable health benefits for employees, discounted event insurance, bulk buying power and — eventually — perhaps even shared kitchen and storage space.
And the advice and mentorship program, while focusing on young entrepreneurs, is not limited to school-age kids, says Andress. “Through mentoring we can enhance each others’ businesses and help new mobile vending businesses learn the ropes through an RVA Street Foodies Court.”
Contact: Malcolm Andress – 640-5628
Paul Cassimus – 475-9026