1. Hi Denise! Nice to meet you, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Denise Woodard, the founder and CEO of Partake Foods. I’m originally from Fayetteville, NC, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill (Go, Tarheels!), spent nearly a decade in corporate America at companies like Coca-Cola and now live in NYC with my husband, Jeremy, and our nearly 7 year old daughter, Vivi.
2. When did you start building the Partake brand and what inspired you to create the company?
I created Partake Foods in 2016 shortly after my daughter, Vivi, was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. When searching for great tasting, high-quality snacks that she could safely enjoy, I came up way short. So, I left my career at Coca-Cola and launched Partake in 2017.
3. Where does the name “Partake’ come from?
As I thought of what I wanted Partake to be and looked at other allergy-friendly offerings, I saw that they all talked about what they excluded. I thought ahead, in my mind, to Vivi’s struggles socially while navigating her food allergies at birthday parties, play dates, and holidays. Wanting to create something that was truly inclusive, it wasn’t enough that these products be safe for her. I really wanted those without food allergies to enjoy them, too. Wanting people, regardless of their food allergies and dietary restrictions, to “partake” was the goal from the beginning.
4. What would you say the Brand Mission is? How are you applying it to your day to day operations?
Our mission at Partake is simple—we make snacking and sharing deliciously worry-free.
When I originally started Partake, I knew we could be a champion for food inclusivity by creating delicious foods that were allergy-friendly, not just “allergy-friendly foods.” As we’ve grown, I’ve quickly seen the importance and ability for us to lift as we climb. We’re doing this primarily in two ways: fighting food insecurity in the U.S. and opening doors for HBCU students interested in careers in the CPG food & beverage industry.
Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children across the country, and (according to foodallergy.org) Black children are at a significantly higher risk of developing these allergies. We are passionate about getting safe food into the hands of food insecure families, so a portion of our proceeds go to organizations, like No Kid Hungry, to provide access to the food, education and advocacy these families deserve.
5. What has been the most challenging as an entrepreneur entering the Food & Beverage industry?
I bootstrapped Partake for the first 2 years, emptying my 401k, selling my engagement ring, and selling cookies from my car to NYC-area grocers. I heard 86 “no's” when raising my seed round of fundraising before hearing “yes” from Marcy Venture Partners (co-founded by JAY-Z). CPG food & beverage has challenges to overcome at every turn! But there is no challenge that outweighs the benefit of knowing we’re creating products I’m proud to feed my own family and share with the world.
6. It’s incredible to see that you started the Black Futures in Food & Beverage fellowship program, can you tell us more about that?
Thank you! As a Black & Asian American woman, I am committed to raising awareness of Black and female entrepreneurship and increasing opportunities for underrepresented people seeking careers in the food and beverage industry. In 2020, I founded Black Futures in Food & Beverage, an annual fellowship program that mentors HBCU students and helps them secure internships and jobs at the program’s end.
7. What is your personal favorite from the collection why?
The product I’m most excited about right now is our brand new Pancake & Waffle Mixes—available in Classic & Confetti flavors. Like all Partake products, they’re certified gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and top 9 allergen-free. The best news is that you just need to add water to make pancakes and water + oil for waffles. So, you can make a stack of pancakes or waffles anytime in minutes! Vivi asks for these pancakes every morning.
This mix is also very versatile and can be made into a variety of other things like muffins, cupcakes and cake. We have more recipes on our website.
8. Talk to us about your branding, if you could describe the aesthetic in three words what would it be?
We hope our brand showcases our values of: inclusivity, quality, accessibility, and opportunity. (Sorry, couldn’t choose just 3!)
9. What’s next for Partake, can you give us a sneak peak into new flavors or products?
Our 2022 goals center on more products, more stores, and more impact. So, stay tuned!