When This Couple Couldn’t Find Black-Owned Restaurants, They Started EatOkra, A Business Directory For Black-Owned Businesses
Okra is often used as a binder in stews and soups, making the meal more hearty and satisfying. Over time, the vegetable has become a staple in soul food, not only because of its convenience, but also for sustenance.
It’s a meaningful metaphor that entrepreneur couple Anthony and Janique Edwards used to power EatOkra, their mobile directory for black-owned stores and restaurants.
Launched in 2016, the Edwards found themselves creating a solution to a need they recognized when they moved to Brooklyn shortly before.
“We moved into an apartment that didn’t have any appliances, and the ones we had coming were out of stock, so Anthony and I ate out a lot,” Janique explained, also pointing out that they wanted patronize black businesses but they were hard to find. After pitching the idea of launching an app that serves as a guide for those looking for black-owned food brands by her husband, the couple set the wheels in motion.
“Neither of us had entrepreneurial experience, but we knew this was something we were called upon to do,” said Anthony, who works as a software developer, and Janique is an analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. .
For months, Anthony said he spent around 20-30 hours a week building the app on top of his full-time job.
“It took about seven months to get the first version out, and then as soon as we released it out into the world, into the wild, we started getting immediate responses, which kind of gave us this, like, “Oh, okay, so there are more people trying to seek out and find and support black businesses too. So we kept iterating, and now we’re today’s EatOkra platform.
To date, the app enjoys an online community of over 350,000 users and enjoys a 5-star rating in the Apple App Store.
They were also recipients of the App Store 2021 award which recognizes the best apps that tap into their personal passions, discover creative outlets, connect with new people and experiences, and just have fun.
“It feels good to know that we’re respected and that people know what we’re doing,” Anthony said. “They only give this award to one of 15 people, 15 companies, and we won in the ‘connection’ category, which is the essence of our mission. Okra is used to help supplement meals , thicken them, and connect the ingredients. That’s what we’re doing: connecting people through food.