LISC DC sat down with Kevon King of The Village Cafe to talk about the new cafe coming to the Union Market area. The Village’s mission is to create economic opportunity through food and entrepreneurial and social innovation. LISC DC supported The Village through a one-for-one match on their Kiva fundraising campaign, and we are happy to report that they are fully funded!
What are your backgrounds and how did you bring your talents into creating this idea?
We’ve known each other pretty much all my life. We always had a business mindset and have wanted to start something together. We’ve all experienced a lack of food access, having to walk a long time to a grocery store, just to get food that might not even be fresh. We’ve all experienced having to travel an hour to get to our high school. and hours just to get to work.
Why did you center on the cafe idea and not some other kind of business?
The cafe started as the village itself. It’s really a concept of bringing entrepreneurs in the community together in a way that helps them survive and thrive. Mohamed and Ryan both worked here [at Union Market] for a while in high school, and Ryan worked with a nonprofit called Brainfood. Being entrepreneurs hunting for opportunity, we thought about making this type of concept. We also want to take it to Southeast where the people in the community that have food businesses can come and have an affordable storefront and be able to collaborate. We will not only be able to house them, but we wil also create an incubator program where we can teach people how to maintain and start up their businesses so that they can eventually expand beyond The Village. Being 21, 22 years old, and relatively inexperienced, we didn’t really even know where to start, so we took this idea to some of our connections here at Union Market. With the café, we’ll be able to host products from those entrepreneurs to give them an additional storefront or even a new storefront to have their products seen and branded. We can even bring the business owners in to showcase for themselves and tell their stories.
How are you going to decide which other entrepreneurs you want to feature in the shop?
We’ll make sure that we’re partnering with local forces like DC Urban Greens, Candy Schibli [of Southeastern Roastery], and Good Thoughts Tea Company in Ward 7. We started off making sure we’re actually sourcing our food from entrepreneurs in the area and partnering with businesses to rotate their products.
Who do you plan to hire to work at The Village?
We’re actually looking into the Career Connections program with the Department of Employee Services, which provides youth in DC in underserved areas with jobs. We also plan on bringing kids from different schools and community centers in to teach them about customer service skills and how to make coffee and prep food. We want to bring them in and teach them about business in general.
In addition to Kiva, what have been some of your early support systems and backers? Who else has been instrumental in helping you bring your vision to life?
Our developer, EDENS. They’ve been big for us in understanding that we are young entrepreneurs and that we are growing. Another source that’s been helpful is the Howard School of Business. Family and friends of course, too.
What are some of your short term and long–term goals?
In the short term, we want to have our systems fully running in place, bring entrepreneurs in, showcasing them, and having them be successful. A long-term goal is being able to establish the concept of what The Village is, to bring entrepreneurs together and have them be successful. We want to take the cafe to Southeast, because that’s where we’re from. Even before we get there, we want to establish our footing by having pop ups and establishing food drives to help the food access problem. We want to work with local kids and give them the keys and tools to successfully start their own business and maintain their business. Our overall mission is to create The Village culinary incubator and an innovative space.