PHILLYiHUB SPOTLIGHT: Cezzie's Chews - Mt. Airy

When did you complete PhillyiHub?
January 2021

Your name?
Shalana Upchurch-Quarles

Your business name?
Cezzie’s Chews

Tell us about your business.
Cezzie’s Chews vends for awareness of Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait, while bridging the gap with marginalized food and beverage business. What started as a vending machine company, quickly changed into something else. We began getting Office Pantry Orders, Corporate Lunch Requests, and Specialty Boxes.

While going through that interesting journey, we noticed that there are very little people of color present in the food & beverage industry. One night became days of researching, reading, social media stalking, and then an AHA! moment… “Where were they at?” I was frequenting every store, especially in the Pacific Northwest, you could think of that would supply my side of the same industry. I had to search and when I found them they weren’t in a position to offer me the same deals as their mainstream counterparts for wholesale purchasing. This made me want to create a place were we can ALL snack and drink together.

We will continue to give passion to our other accounts but becoming a source for various Black-owned food and beverage products while bringing awareness to Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait has become a mission for us. Many of the items promote positive eating habits, togetherness, and wholesomeness. With over 600 companies (and counting), we want people to be aware of them, request them in their areas neighborhoods, and share the brands they like.

She’s the boss: Shalana of Cezzie’s Chews

How did you hear about PhillyiHub? What inspired you to sign up?
I heard about PhillyiHub by chance. What inspired me after I heard about it was it was a cohort of entrepreneurs in different industries and stages of business. I thought this could be helpful because I don’t have only one business and they all aren’t in the same stages plus my support system isn’t built of entrepreneurs. The resource and guidance that PhillyiHub provided was priceless.

At what stage would you say your business was at pre-PhillyiHub?
Idea Phase

At what stage would you describe your business now?
Development Phase

How did the PhillyiHub impact your business concept?
The PhillyiHub made a tremendous impact on the development of this business concept and my others. Cezzie’s Chews had a business idea of most average vending machine companies in the building. All I could see was an oversized gumball machine in King Of Prussia with our logo on it and then in major destination malls similar. That wasn’t it… but that was, kind of. Then I membered to “be a solution” from our cohort, specifically to my community.

We have so many issues, I knew I could help if it was to educate others on opening and running this type of business, or helping to franchise, or anything in-between. It just seemed like I could do something more and bringing awareness to marginalized food and beverage companies came to me. These are established companies that not many know exist and I have a way to sell and bring awareness to them. PhillyIHub ultimately reminded me to be a solution which aided to the entire redevelopment of my brand and mission.

Please share a few sentences about the steps you’ve taken on your business since completing the PhillyiHub and where you are now.
Cezzie’s Chews was just a twinkle in my eye initially so everything [within business development] has been done since PhillyiHub. Everything from incorporation, business bank account, market research, creating corporate relationships, marketing schemes, and brand development.

Please share any other outcomes that make you proud.
I’m just proud to be a part of our class. It was an amazing and empowering experience. I was sad when it was over. I really would like to still have monthly online meet up or something (informal). There were some amazing people and ideas in the cohort.

Where can we find more information about your business?
Cezzie’s Chews on Instagram and Facebook

What advice do you have for incoming PhillyiHub students?
Embrace it all! Take tons of notes. On the first day write down everybody’s name and their business(es). Do the homework. Take detailed notes on processes and tips. Enjoy and embrace your session, it will be impactful.

Do you have any other programs or resources you’d like to share?
I offer myself as a resource for PhillyiHub communication, cohort, or virtual event, if needed

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