On top of the $2,000 reward, an additional donor matched the grant for a total of $4,000 after hearing Claudia Lewis’ story.
ATLANTA — The Jamaican Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta (Jamcham) is investing in the future of female entrepreneurs to increase access and remove the stigmatization of what women in business look like.
On Nov. 5, Jamcham’s PowHer Summit took steps to help bridge the gender investment gap by awarding one female entrepreneur who survived either breast cancer or domestic violence a $2,000 grant to put towards growing their business.
“There are not a lot of resources that are available to women who are survivors,” PowHer Committee Chairwoman Dr. Joan Wright-Good said. “There are resources, grants and scholarships available to women, you know, there are several grant opportunities, but when it comes on to surviving a challenge such as domestic violence or cancer, there are not many that are geared towards that.”
The recipient of the grant was the founder of the authentic Jamaican meal prep and catering service Island Breeze Cuisine, Claudia Lewis. On top of the $2,000 reward, an additional donor matched the grant for a total of $4,000 after hearing her story.
As a single mother of seven, Lewis built her business from the ground up, but before she became a businesswoman, she told 11Alive she was in a domestic violence relationship that she was desperate to escape.
“It was really, really bad. It was a toxic situation. And I figured the only way I can get out of this is if I can do something to generate some more income to be able to get away from this situation,” Lewis said.
She first started cooking as a way to provide food for her family, but once it turned into a passion, it not only became an outlet but also a way out toward a better life.
“I was motivated to start that as a means of a way to survive,” she said.
Lewis started serving her food creations to her coworkers and soon found her unique style of cooking was something she could share with more than just those close to her.
“I was like, you know what? I can actually do a business out of this. I can reach more people,” she explained. “There’s a lot of people that don’t have the means to be able to travel, to enjoy a lot of different cultures… so they’ll never get to experience something that’s real and authentic and that’s what I strive for in my business.”
Over the years, Island Breeze Cuisine has grown to establish a loyal clientele but now, Lewis said she’s looking toward the future to be able to expand her marketing and hopefully one day build a brick-and-mortar restaurant. First, she wants to use her grant to buy a food truck to reach more customers and focus on encouraging and inspiring her kids and others not only with her food but with her story.
“I would say to anyone that’s been a victim of any kind of abuse, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, we all go through things in life, keep your head up like there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “If you have something that you’re passionate about, just find what that passion is and go ahead and work hard at producing something from it so that way you can live and let your purpose be known.”