Total loan: $4,000


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Lufkin, TX, United States / Food

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A loan helped a Black business owner expand his BBQ and soul food business.

Willie's story

When I was a child, my grandfather owned a soul food restaurant in Houston called "The Lunchbox" for over 50 years. I remember the oxtails, candied yams, greens and how they made an impact on the community. It was as the ability to cook was my grandfather's gift to the world; I wanted to have that kind of influence when I grew up. So, I stayed with him in the kitchen and learned how to cook and knew that I would have my own restaurant one day. As life happened, I was caught up in the street life. I became heavily involved in dealing drugs and served over 6 years in prison. While incarcerated, I ran the kitchen. The warden told me that I needed to earn a culinary arts degree, so I went to school while in prison and earned it. When released, I thought I would have an opportunity to be a chef at an established restaurant, but unfortunately, that was not the case. After applying to several large restaurants, I found that there were no opportunities for felons in my industry. My experience was very disheartening and I was tempted to go back to my old life. I chose a different path. I began to pull my bbq pit from the back of my truck until I was able to afford to rent a storefront. I was borderline homeless and barely making it when a local pastor helped me get my bank account open and helped me to seed my business. What keeps me going is my love for the craft of cooking and my being allergic to being broke. The same drive, motivation, and determination I had in my illegal business is what I use to drive me in my passion for serving great food.