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Race in America: Entrepreneurship with Cheetie Kumar & Tristan Walker

Entrepreneurs and investors behind minority-owned small businesses talk about rebuilding after the pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 2 (Video: The Washington Post)
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Minority-owned businesses have long faced systemic barriers that have been underlined amidst the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over racial injustice. Tristan Walker, CEO & founder of Walker & Company Brands, and Cheetie Kumar, a North Carolina restaurant owner and chef, each share their journeys as entrepreneurs, how they have used their platforms to affect change and how technology has opened up new ways to reach customers and create community during the pandemic.

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“The investor class… they do not reflect that growing diversity. So it was difficult to raise money from folks that really didn’t understand the consumer need… There’s an emerging investor class that understands these things a little bit more authentically.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“The thing that I’ve been inspired by… over the last 18 months… is that I think there’s more acknowledgment of the trauma Black people have had to face over the last few hundred years. But acknowledgment isn’t enough… You have to really model the way.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“There’s no security. We’re used to living with that level of no safety net… as small business owners, but now it really feels like a train is coming right behind you and you better outrun it all the time.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
“Hopefully in the last year we’re starting to see that racial identity and roles are not boxes… As long as we keep everybody in a box, we’re never going to get out of this kind of dark time… Food is an olive branch, it’s a way of inviting a willing participant into that conversation.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Cheetie Kumar

Cheetie is a self-taught cook who studied recipes while pursuing a career as a guitarist in The Cherry Valence and more recently Birds of Avalon, alongside her husband and business partner, Paul Siler. Time on tour and as the owner of the music venue Kings and adjoining cocktail bar, Neptunes Parlour, taught her the value of the independent, artistic spirit that is the backbone of the downtown Raleigh community which she considers home.

Upon moving to North Carolina, she embraced the area’s culture of readily available renowned agriculture, and incorporated these seasonally evolving foods to fit her multi-cultural menus at Garland. Cheetie’s cooking is created in a refined and thoughtful way, filled with imagination and rebellion. It is unassumingly delicious. Her food may seem “foreign” but is rather an interpretation of local ingredients made through the eyes of someone who grew up in India, New York City and the South.

She was profiled in the New York Times in October, 2018 and Southern Living in September, 2019, the Wall Street Journal in 2020 among other national publications. She has been nominated semifinalist for James Beard Award’s “Best Chef: Southeast” consecutively from 2017-2020 and is a finalist in 2020.

Tristan Walker

Tristan Walker is CEO and founder of Walker & Company Brands, a company at the forefront of making health and beauty simple for people of color. Prior to his founding Walker & Company (acquired by Procter & Gamble, December 2018) he was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to his time at Andreessen Horowitz, he was the Director of Business Development for Foursquare, where he oversaw strategic partnerships and monetization. In this role, Tristan managed integrations with large brands and media entities including American Express, The New York Times, CNN, MTV, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Starbucks. In 2019, he was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 “World’s Greatest Leaders.” Walker has also been named a USA Today Person of the Year, Ebony Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People, Vanity Fair’s “Next Establishment,” Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40,” AdAge “Creative 50,” The Hollywood Reporter’s “Digital Power 50,” and Black Enterprise’s “40 Next.” Tristanis a member, Board of Directors of Footlocker, Inc and Shake Shack, holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stony Brook University, where he graduated as valedictorian, and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He currently lives with his wife, Amoy, and two sons, Avery and August, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Content from YouTube

The following content is produced and paid for by a Washington Post Live event sponsor. The Washington Post newsroom is not involved in the production of this content.

(Video: Washington Post Live)

Minority Entrepreneurship and the Creator Economy

In a segment sponsored by YouTube, Brittany Luse, an award-winning journalist, on-air host, cultural critic and producer will speak with YouTube creator Randy Lau, of Made With Lau, about how he went from out of work during the pandemic to building a successful business on the platform, while preserving his family heritage. Learn how YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported 394K FTE jobs in the US in 2020, how creators actually earn a living and hear Randy’s advice for minority entrepreneurs looking to build a business.

Randy Lau, Content Creator at Made With Lau

Randy Lau is an entrepreneur, content creator, and a proud son of two Chinese immigrants. He is the creative behind Made With Lau, a Chinese family recipe channel / blog highlighting his dad’s Chinese recipes and celebrating their Chinese heritage. Launched in September 2020 during the height of the pandemic, Made With Lau is among the fastest growing food channels on YouTube, amassing over 500K+ subscribers and 2.5M+ monthly views on YouTube. The Lau family was recognized by YouTube as a Creator on the Rise, featured in The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy (a podcast by YouTube, in partnership with National Public Media) and The United States of YouTube (a documentary series featuring select YouTube creators), and is highlighted as a creator in the iOS and Android YouTube App Store listings. Their family recipes have also been featured in the TODAY Show, BuzzFeed, TheKitchn, among others.

Moderated by Brittany Luse

Brittany Luse is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, cultural critic, producer, and podcast editor. She currently co-hosts For Colored Nerds, a weekly Black culture podcast, in partnership with Stitcher Media, and recently hosted The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy, a podcast by YouTube, in partnership with National Public Media. Before that, Brittany co-hosted and executive produced The Nod with Brittany and Eric, a daily streaming show. She also hosted and produced The Nod and Sampler podcasts at Gimlet Media. Brittany has edited several episodes of NPR’s Planet Money. Her culture writing has appeared at Vulture, Refinery29, and Harper’s Bazaar. Brittany and her work have been profiled by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, NPR, Essence Magazine, and Teen Vogue, among others.