In 2014, Andre Hopwood founded Conscious Kitchen, a Black-owned business. Hopwood was born and raised in Long Beach, Calif. He played basketball nearly his whole life, which lead him to be a student at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
However, before completing his studies at Jackson State University, he realized that he had a different calling. "I went back home and joined a culinary arts program," he said.
After realizing his passion and talent for cooking, Hopwood knew that his determination could take him far in life.
"I've been cooking for years. I decided to try to utilize some of my experiences to make an actual source of income on the side on weekends. I started cooking dinners for families and friends and selling them," Hopwood said. "That transpired into delivering to businesses which went to more and more businesses. Then it got to a point to where I was looking for a space to cater out of."
Once he realized his true potential of a business owner, he knew that he needed a brand.
"The name came from the idea of people wanting to be more conscious about what they eat," Hopwood said. "We want to meet people where they are on a dietary level because not everyone wants to be vegan."
His very first location in Cincinnati was on Clifton Avenue. He then jumped on the opportunity to move to Short Vine, where he is located today.
Throughout the pandemic's hard times, Hopwood has remained positive and has kept his head held high.
"I have a lot of gratitude to be able to keep my doors open, especially at a time where in Cincinnati, a lot of restaurants are closing than opening," Hopwood said. "The pandemic hit and everything kind of slowed up, but we have a great clientele. Our guest is our family."
Hopwood is beyond proud and thankful for his achievements as a Black business owner. However, there were many concepts that society and the educational system didn't teach him along the way. One thing he wasn't taught was all the resources needed to succeed.
"A lot of the times growing up, wealth building and things like that aren't taught in the Black households as much as they should be taught," he said. "A lot of the times, especially coming from the inner cities, we've rented properties and have worked for other people. We weren't taught how to utilize the system to become entrepreneurs."
To be a successful entrepreneur, it’s crucial to understand credit, credibility, loans, grants and grant application. Although Hopwood learned these skills on his own, he doesn’t want other Black business owners to struggle from a lack of knowing how to achieve their goals.
“Most Black owned businesses start off with not a lot of capital,” Hopwood said. “We literally make the money on a day to day base in order to pay for our bills and pay our payroll. When normally what you would want to do is have a stash of cash or capital that you can be able to operate off of while you build your business. So, you can focus on expanding and growing your concept. It’s a big advantage if you’re able to do that, but if not, it’s not impossible, but it is a struggle and takes a lot of work to meet all of the tax requirements, payroll and maintain your bills as well. As well as grow your business while the money is coming in.”
In the future, Hopwood sees Conscious Kitchen possibly branching out.
“Our concept that we’ve created is a concept that can be placed anywhere in the country,” Hopwood said. “Even though we are a Black owned business, we try to ensure that everyone can see the diversity and the reflection of the community that we are in.”