Responding to a fundamental calling, Denise Woodard became a visionary in a $2 billion industry.

Her Calling

Woodard was looking to find a solution to help her daughter who had various food allergies, as previously reported by AFROTECH™. She was searching for snacks that would help her daughter but ultimately started creating her own recipe for cookies made without wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, sesame and shellfish — launching vegan company Partake Foods in 2016.

Woodard saw great promise in her products and believed others would too. She received checks up to $10,000 from family and friends through a Kickstarter campaign to scale the business into Whole Foods and Wegmans, she told Forbes.

“I was cobbling together $5,000 and $10,000 checks to keep the lights on, from anyone who would listen,” she told Forbes. “The dribs and drabs were not enough, so I sold my engagement ring. But we were seeing traction, which led us to raise our first institutional round.”

A Disruptor

Today, Woodard’s act of love has led her to become a disruptor in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. She is the first Black woman to raise $1 million publicly for a CPG food startup, according to The New York & New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council. Among her investors, are Jay-Z and his Marcy Venture Partners, which participated in a 2019 funding round, and H.E.R. one year later.

“Partake has the ingredients to build a mass market brand: compelling values, a great tasting product, and a tenacious and experienced operator,” Marcy Venture Partners Co-Founder and Managing Director, Larry Marcus, said in a 2019 statement, per AFROTECH™. “We are honored to back Denise and the team and help grow their business.”

H.E.R. commented in 2020:

“I love the story and inclusive values behind the brand. I am excited to partner with Partake, and help to grow and support their business.”

To date, Partake has raised $30.5 million in funding over eight rounds, according to data from Crunchbase.

“We have seen all of this business success. When I look at myself and the news of announcing that a woman of color has raised venture money, I feel hopeful and proud. I think of my daughter, and I hope that this inspires her and other brown girls to follow their dreams and lead,” she told Forbes.

Diversifying The Food And Beverage Sector

As Woodard’s company has scaled impressively since its start, she is committed to both its continued growth and serving as a catalyst for diversity and inclusion in the industry. She is working to create more access to the food and beverage industry for students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through Black Futures in Food & Beverage. The program offers an annual fellowship, providing mentorship opportunities with the aim of internship and job placement, per the company website.

AFROTECH™ Future 50

We are thrilled to acknowledge Woodard as a Visionary Founder as a part of our 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50.

AFROTECH™ Future 50 honors Dynamic Investors, Future Makers, Corporate Catalysts, Changemakers, and Visionary Founders like Woodard, who are actively shaping the future.

To check out the full list, click here.