Partner Fund Recipients

Some of our favorite agents of change

There’s no better way to tell you about the New Seasons Partner Fund loan program than by sharing first-hand experiences from our amazing group of loan recipients. Click-through to read a bit more about some of their journeys, and how they used their loans to elevate and strengthen their businesses.

Mama Pauline and Affouet Price, Hibisbloom (2022), transitioned packaging from glass bottles to aluminum cans for a lighter footprint and increased production to expand their West African beverages to more stores in the Pacific Northwest.

Kristin Franger, Blue Bus Cultured Foods (2021), installed a new walk-in cooler at the Blue Bus production space. Now they can purchase more produce from local farms and store more finished inventory.

Katelyn Williams, Kate’s Ice Cream (2021), purchased a few new pieces of large equipment in order to ramp up ice cream production.

George Domurot, Ranger Chocolate Co. (2021), purchased an optical sorter for his cocoa beans, and he’s also using the funding to start co-packing for several local producers.

Tracy Bell, Traiel’s Spices (2021), used the funds to improve his website and SEO, build an e-commerce site, and redesign his product labels.

German Ochoa, Go North Imports (2020), used the loan funds for new equipment that allowed him to automate production and meet demand for is WOPPA! Alfajores sandwich cookies.

Neil Anderson Jr., No Mess Chef (2020), is using his Partner Fund loan to purchase ingredients and packaging for his products as well as to fuel continued expansion.

Rosalind and Clayton McCallard, Snackrilege Foods (2020), purchased more commercial kitchen equipment for their 100% vegan commissary kitchen.

Azeh Sammour, Azeh Kitchen (2019), used her funds to purchase a new falafel machine and increase production. Sammour’s Middle Eastern food products are currently in the deli department of all New Seasons Markets.

Jovani Prince, The Cracker King (2019), upgraded his packaging to lower production costs. He also purchased more ingredients in bulk, increased his company’s web presence, and kept his staff employed during COVID-19.

Elsy Dinvil, Creole Me Up (2019), purchased a commercial grade food processor, and rented for production kitchen time and space at fellow Partner Fund recipient’s kitchen — Snackrilege Foods.

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Creole Me Up | The Cracker King | Azeh’s Kitchen

Elsy Dinvil of Creole Me Up (2019 New Seasons Partner Fund Loan recipient)

Maker of Pickleez, her Haitian condiment product

New Seasons Market grocery store Partner Fund recipient Elsy with Creole Kitchen and her product Pickleez

When I applied for the New Seasons Partner Fund loan and was approved, I thought, Oh my goodness my persistence has finally paid off! I didn’t know when or if that breakthrough was ever going to happen. For years, I battled a digestive illness and was just trying to make ends meet in Portland. I became homeless not once but four times. Four times!

This loan for my business, and for my homeland’s Haitian condiment Pickleez, is like someone coming in and saying, We are here to lift you up and help you move forward. It’s not just the financial aspect of it — that I can cook, work on my products and make this business live. It’s the direct feedback of, You can do it! You are worth it.

It’s one thing to wake up day after day and do what you have to do business-wise. It’s another thing entirely when every day you face very real financial challenges. When you cannot pay your rent, when you’re being kicked out of your apartment. That’s been me. This loan is confirmation that they see potential in me and in my efforts. So, yes, it’s money but it’s also much more than money. For me, it’s New Seasons Market saying, We are here to support you and your dreams, all of your work and all of your effort. I’m so grateful.

I’m going to shop for a simple printer now thanks to the New Seasons Partner Fund loan. I’ve never had money to print my Pickleez product labels. If you can believe it, I’ve been handwriting them since day one for the farmers markets and that takes a lot of time. I’m also going to buy a lot more jars. I’ll finally have more than enough money to pay for my commercial kitchen fees and also buy a machine to shred cabbage instead of doing it all by hand. Now that Pickleez will be on New Seasons Market shelves, I’ll also need to purchase bar codes.

Oh, and I’ve been squeezing all of my limes by hand for my Pickleez and it requires so many limes! The day I got the loan I went out right away and bought a citrus squeezer machine. That was my very first purchase. Now I press a button and in minutes that’s all done. I know that these are all very, very simple things that you might think someone in my position would be able to afford but until this loan I really couldn’t.

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Jovani Prince of The Cracker King (2019 New Seasons Partner Fund Loan recipient)

Maker of gluten-free crackers

New Seasons Market grocery store Partner Fund recipient Jovani Prince with The Cracker King

The New Seasons Partner Fund loan is an amazing thing. I’m blessed to have New Seasons Market believe in me enough to back me. This is the first time my business has actually been taken seriously. It’s enabled me to hire more staff so we can ramp up. We can finally have packaging that doesn’t require stickering. That will reduce a lot of labor.

Before we were just trying to get by. I’d spend $100 dollars here, $100 dollars there. We were bootstrapping everything just to keep the business alive. Now, thanks to the loan, I can go out and buy a bunch of flour and really cut my costs. We’ll actually see a profit — actually grow! It’s a huge opportunity to get out and play with the big boys. Finally. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that New Seasons Market believes in me and what I’m doing.

Over the years I’ve really struggled with my business. I’ve cried about it so many times. I’ve said, I honestly don’t know if I can do this. I couldn’t find someone to back me or believe in me for years. The crackers were selling but no one ever wanted to help and invest.

One thing that kept me going was reaching out to Famous Amos himself, Wally Amos. I asked him, How did you do this? He actually responded. He said, Jovani, never use your color or your background — being an African American man — as an excuse. Let it give you power and don’t let anyone drag you down. Most importantly though, don’t ever give up. When Famous Amos told me that I took it to heart. That was two years ago. A lot of the power that’s kept me going since then comes from remembering his words.

So, I put my head up and my chest out and I carried on. I thought, if he can do it and if Killer Dave can do it, I can too. I just need some people to take me seriously. New Seasons Market did exactly that.

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Azeh Sammour of Azeh Kitchen (2019 New Seasons Partner Fund Loan recipient)

New Seasons Market grocery store Partner Fund recipient Azeh Sammour with Azeh Kitchen

Maker of Middle Eastern foods

We are so happy that we got a New Seasons Partner Fund loan for our falafel machine in 2019 because it just wasn’t possible for us to keep making them without it. When the loan came through and New Seasons Market helped us, well, it was just such a relief. Everything works so perfectly now.

We were in a little bit of a business rut and having some difficulties. We were asked to do falafel a couple of years ago for New Seasons Market, but my husband got sick and that got put on hold for away. After he passed away, we had some financial issues and so we were approached about the loan for a falafel machine. When they told us about it, it was such a huge relief.

It was pretty simple. They explained the terms of the loan and we had a few interviews about what we intended to do with the money from the loan. We had to figure out revenue from the machine and how we would pay it off, how long it would take. We were also figuring out pricing for the falafel at the same time.

This loan process would have been a lot more difficult to do with another company. We would have had a hard time getting approved because we were in a business and financial rut. At that point, we just made enough to pay our bills. There was very little profit. We would have needed more proof of profit for a loan.

We received our New Seasons Partner Fund loan in November of 2019. The process was fairly quick — New Seasons Market contacted us in mid-September. We got the machine in November and it’s been so great with it!

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