Black Korean Woman Creates Allergen-Free Snacks Company

Black Korean Woman Creates Allergen-Free Snacks Company

She overcame funding obstacles to create the company that was inspired by her daughter, who was diagnosed with severe food allergies.

Partake Foods founder Denise Woodard is an example for other women of color who want to start and grow a business. 

The Black Korean-American entrepreneur overcame obstacles in venture capitalism to create a snack for people with food allergies. Her snack company, Partake Foods, is a leading brand in the highly sought-after consumer packaged goods (CPG), according to Forbes.

According to the outlet, Woodard’s daughter, who was diagnosed with severe food allergies in the summer of 2016, was the inspiration behind the company.

“At the time, my now eight-year-old daughter was one and had been recently diagnosed with allergies to tree nuts, eggs, corn, and bananas,” she said. “I was anxious, scared, and frustrated with the existing options. I felt there were some gaps from a taste and nutritional perspective.”

Woodard was a national sales director for Venturing and Emerging Brands at the Coca-Cola Company. She began establishing Partake Foods while working full-time. She left Coca-Cola in August 2017. 

Partake Foods has grown significantly since then, going from having products in 50 stores to more than 12,000 stores across the U.S. Among the outlets: Target and Walmart. Partake Foods has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s, DoubleTree by Hilton, and American Airlines.

“I’ve been told ‘no’ a lot along the way. So funding has been a big challenge,” Woodard said “I’ve been very deliberate in how I’ve raised capital and who I’ve raised capital from, as well as in the composition of our board of directors.”

The business owner added, “Our investor base is predominantly people of color…We’ve raised over $20 million of outside capital.” 

Investors include Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners, Bobby Wagner, and Rihanna.

Partake Foods maintains a healthy culture for its customers and employees. The company has 17 remote employees and continues to uphold its values for elite customer and employee experiences by offering 15-minute weekly meetings for employees to discuss personal and professional matters and 15-minute weekly coffee chats. 

The company is also focused on mentorship and combating food insecurity.

When Woodard launched the company, she admitted there were gaps in her industry knowledge. She had to do her own research and reach out to others for resources and help. She credits her success to mentorship and advocacy.

“I don’t think we’d be here today if people hadn’t been willing to help me,” in the “Owning Your Niche” episode of BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s Sisters Inc. on December 22, 2021.

Woodard said the company wants to create an inclusive and equitable future. Partake Foods launched a fellowship program to help increase diversity in the food industry while “working to eradicate childhood food insecurity.”