Black Korean woman creates allergen-free snack company
by Stacy Jackson
November 21, 2023
She overcame financing hurdles to create the company that was inspired by her daughter, who was diagnosed with severe food allergies.
Denise Woodard, founder of Partake Foods, is an example for other women of color who want to start and grow a business.
A black Korean-American entrepreneur overcame the obstacles he faced in venture capitalism to create a snack for people with food allergies. Its snack company, Partake Foods, is a leading brand of highly sought-after consumer packaged goods (CPG), according to Forbes.
According to the outlet, Woodard’s daughter, who was diagnosed with a severe food allergy in the summer of 2016, was the inspiration for the company.
“At the time, my eight-year-old daughter was turning 1 and had recently been diagnosed with allergies to nuts, eggs, corn and bananas,” she said. “I was anxious, afraid and frustrated with the options available. I felt like there were some gaps in terms of taste and nutritional perspective.
Woodard was national sales director for emerging and venture brands at The Coca-Cola Company. She started Partake Foods while working full-time. She left Coca-Cola in August 2017.
Partake Foods has grown significantly since then, going from having products in 50 stores to having more than 12,000 stores across the United States. Outlets include: Target and Walmart. Partake Foods has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s, DoubleTree by Hilton and American Airlines.
“I’ve been told ‘no’ a lot along the way. Funding has been a huge challenge. I’ve been very intentional in how and who I’ve raised capital from, as well as in the composition of our board,” Woodard said.
The business owner added: “Our investor base is predominantly people of color… We have raised over $20 million in outside capital.”
Investors include Marcy Venture Partners’ Jay-Z, Bobby Wagner and Rihanna.
Partake Foods maintains a healthy culture for its customers and employees. The company employs 17 employees remotely and continues to uphold its values of elite customer and employee experiences by offering weekly 15-minute meetings for employees to discuss personal and professional matters and weekly 15-minute coffee chats.
The company also focuses on mentoring and combating food insecurity.
When Woodard launched the company, she acknowledged gaps in her industry knowledge. She had to do her own research and reach out to others for resources and help. She attributes her success to mentorship and advocacy.
“I don’t think we would be here today if people weren’t willing to help me,” in the “Owning Your Niche” episode of black project‘s Sisters Inc. On December 22, 2021.
Woodard said the company wants to create an inclusive and just future. Partake Foods has launched a fellowship program to help increase diversity in the food industry while “working to eliminate childhood food insecurity.”