In the Spotlight: Olayinka Credle plans beauty business now, politics later

ASSETS client and winner of the third annual Great Social Enterprise Pitch, Melanin Essentials, are making news!

Melanin Essentials cofounder Olayinka Credle (L) and Saba Adana Williams are shown testing the products they will be selling.
Melanin Essentials cofounder Olayinka Credle (L) and Saba Adana Williams are shown testing the products they will be selling.

A few weeks ago, New York native Olayinka Credle and her longtime friend Saba Adana won Lancaster’s third annual Great Social Enterprise Pitch.

Now the 24-year-old Willow Street resident is doing final testing for Melanin Essentials, the business they plan to launch on Nov. 25 selling chemical-free beauty products for women of color.


Their business model is designed to employ single mothers at $15 an hour.

Family: Husband Milan Credle, a teacher’s assistant and musician, daughters Jade and Joelle.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in sociology with a minor in government and political affairs, and I’m pursuing a master’s degree in public policy from Liberty University online.

Job history: I worked as a payroll administrative assistant in my undergrad years until I was appointed to be the student trustee at Millersville by Gov. (Tom) Corbett, and I did that until I graduated. Then I moved to Washington, D.C., right after graduation in May of 2014 to work for Congressman Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh.

I got married in December 2014 and moved back to Lancaster in March of 2015, which is when my co-founder and I started working on the planning and development for our business.

Business partner: We met 10 years ago and have been best friends ever since. We met freshman year of high school. That was at Sci Tech, a cyber charter school in Harrisburg. We instantly clicked and became best friends. Since then, we graduated from the same high school, graduated from the same college and married our husbands, who are also best friends.

Unfulfilled ambition: I want to end up back in politics, probably in the second half of my adult career. Right now I’m starting a business with a goal of using it and growing it to help the community. Eventually I want to get to the point where I’m not the manager of the business, I just own it. My goal is to end up in Congress.

Pivotal decision: Getting to know and love Jesus and surrendering my life to him, freshman year of September 2010, my first year of college. My life has never been the same since then.

People would be surprised that: I write: blogging, short stories, songs, poetry. If I had to keep one skill for the rest of my life — politics, business, anything — it would be writing. It’s a sense of peace and joy for me.

One thing I’d change about myself: I’m always late or just on time.

I watch: Anything Marvel; my husband has me addicted to shows like “The Flash,” “Arrow,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Luke Cage.” And I love documentaries.

3 women who inspire each other enter culinary partnership, will train refugees

We are so happy for these wonderful female entrepreneurs and our client, Upohar! We wish you all the success in the world!

Last weekend, three women moved blenders and bananas, cooking equipment, chopping blocks and big containers of vegetable oil into a commercial kitchen in a little mint-green building on West James Street in Lancaster city.

On Tuesday, they took their new food truck out for a spin near Franklin & Marshall College. In just two hours, they had sold out of all the international dishes they had prepared.

From left, Christina Maldonado-Coffey, N. Dianne Gadbois and Srirupa Dasgupta have a new catering kitchen on West James Street that will support their new partnership: Upohar -- Global Flavors Catering.
From left, Christina Maldonado-Coffey, N. Dianne Gadbois and Srirupa Dasgupta have a new catering kitchen on West James Street that will support their new partnership: Upohar — Global Flavors Catering.

It was the end of three separate culinary journeys, and the beginning of a new, shared path.

Christina Maldonado-Coffey, owner of Catering by Christina; N. Dianne Gadbois, owner of The Global Kitchen catering; and Srirupa Dasgupta, catering under the name of her former restaurant, Upohar, have joined forces. Their new food business will produce global fare while helping refugee women change their lives.

“We’re still in the process of putting the pieces together, but it will be one company, with three business partners,” Dasgupta says. “The company is Upohar-Global Flavors Catering.”

The different business lines are the new Global Flavors Catering; the Catering by Christina stand (soon to be renamed Christina’s Criollo) at Lancaster Central Market; and Upohar Catering. Dasgupta is in negotiations for a downtown Lancaster location at which to reopen her Upohar restaurant, which closed in Manheim Township in the spring.

“The new food truck supports all,” Dasgupta says. “It is a mobile retail outlet while the restaurant is being built, and it also supports our Global Flavors Catering.”

A lot of change has occurred in the lives of these three women recently. And the inspiration they draw from one other provides the energy driving the new venture.

Woman in white

Several years ago, Maldonado-Coffey was worried about losing her factory job during a layoff scare. So she took a tour of the Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts at the YTI Career Institute in Lancaster.

There she saw Gadbois, an instructor at the school, in her white chef’s coat. “She was assertive,” Maldonado-Coffey recalls. “I just felt a sense of empowerment when I saw her. I said, ‘I want to be her!’ ”

Maldonado-Coffey eventually graduated from the culinary school, having had Gadbois as a marketing teacher. Maldonado-Coffey opened Catering by Christina and a stand of the same name at the city market.

Though its name will change to Christina’s Criollo, the stand still will feature the Puerto Rican-style food for which Maldonado-Coffey is known.

Her own business

Meanwhile, Gadbois, who had experience as a chef and restaurant manager for prestigious hotel restaurants in Boston, quit her job at the culinary school and started her own catering company.

The idea “had been in the back of my head for the longest time,” Gadbois says. “I’d spent my career working for other people.”

When Gadbois started The Global Kitchen earlier this year, she signed up to cook at East Side Community Kitchen — a shared kitchen space for local food businesses. There, she discovered her former student, Maldonado-Coffey, cooking for her own catering company.

That’s when Maldonado-Coffey told Gadbois how she’d been inspired by the sight of her during that culinary school tour years earlier.

“And I said to her, ‘Oh my gosh,’ ” Gadbois says. “Because now I want to be you! I want to start my own business and be successful.”

The student who inspired the teacher now advised her on how to run her new business.

Maldonado-Coffey and Gadbois eventually catered a private dinner together. “It was like we’d been working together for 20 years,” Gadbois recalls.

In June, the two women catered a luncheon for Martha Stewart, who was at Shadowlight Group, a Leola-based photo and video soundstage, to film promotional spots for her cabinetry line.

Once again, the two women loved working side by side.

Hiring refugees

Dasgupta was working in the Franklin & Marshall College communications office when in 2011 she started Upohar — which means “gift” in Bengali — as a catering company that would employ refugees. The cuisine reflected the countries from which the refugees came: Iraq, Nepal, Congo and beyond.

“When I started Upohar, I started working at East Side Community Kitchen, where Christina was,” Dasgupta says. “I had no background in food service, so I would be picking her brain. … Christina was my adviser.”

Upohar became a bricks-and-mortar restaurant on West Roseville Road in 2014, but closed for lack of steady customers in March of this year.

For about three years, Dasgupta had been trying to get Maldonado-Coffey to be her manager or work with her in some other capacity.

“She brushed me off every single time.”

Vision for the future

 After she closed the restaurant, Dasgupta started planning for Upohar’s “third iteration.”

“The point of Upohar is not just to be another restaurant or catering company, but it is to be a vehicle to provide jobs and economic development to this group of disadvantaged people (refugee women),” Dasgupta says.

“I was talking to Christina, and said, ‘Here’s my big vision. Here’s how this can work with all these different revenue streams,’ ” Dasgupta says. “Instead of hiring employees to be full time and permanent, to hire them as apprentices and train them and then place them in other jobs. We can be the transitional employer.”

Dasgupta told Maldonado-Coffey she needed two qualified managers to train these refugee apprentices.

Maldonado-Coffey was ready to take her business in a different direction, so she finally said yes in August, agreeing to become Dasgupta’s partner.

“You’re an amazing woman,” Maldonado-Coffey tells Dasgupta, wiping away tears. “You do so much for others, and I wanted to be part of that. Some way, somehow. It became about how I could help other people, not just make money.”

Gadbois was across the table at East Side, listening to the two women talking about their new project, and she started thinking about what was missing in her new business.

“The best thing about my job at YTI,” Gadbois says, “was helping people who never had what I was fortunate to have. … Many of my students came from disadvantaged backgrounds, and they desperately wanted to get out of that.”

She loved helping them do that through her teaching. She missed that aspect of her job. When Dasgupta asked her if she might want to be part of the new business, Gadbois realized she had the chance “to go into business with two amazing women, help people and still cook the food I like to cook.”

She became the third Upohar partner in September.

The three moved their operations from East Side to the new Upohar catering kitchen last Saturday.

Three in one

Now, Maldonado-Coffey and Gadbois will run the catering kitchen —producing international cuisine including Puerto Rican and both vegetarian and nonvegetarian global fare. They’ll take turns doing catering gigs and going out with the food truck.

“Once we have our foundation stable, we’ll start employing (refugees) again, through Church World Service,” Dasgupta says. Maldonado-Coffey and Gadbois will train the refugees as apprentices, until they’re ready to be placed in permanent jobs outside Upohar.

“None of this would be possible if any of us was by herself,” Dasgupta says. “Because we are together, we have the capacity to support these revenue streams.”

Gadbois adds, “The three of us together are significantly more than us separately.”

Lancaster County painting contractor earns B Corp certification

Huge congrats to our client, Two Dudes Painting Company, for earning their B Corp Certification!

A Lancaster County painting contractor received global recognition this week for using its for-profit business to make a positive social impact on its community.

Two Dudes Painting is now a certified B Corporation. It is a certification given by nonprofit organization B Lab to recognize companies around the world for using business to solve social and environmental problems.

Two Dudes started the application process about six months ago, which included going through rigorous analysis of its policies and procedures, according to Peter Barber, founder and owner of Two Dudes.

Not only did the company have to inform B Lab that it offers health insurance to all of its employees, it also had to provide to B Lab its employee census showing the percentage of employees actually enrolled in health insurance, as well as the percentage Two Dudes is paying towards that insurance, Barber said.

Two Dudes Painting Company, founded in 1989, used the occasion of the Business Expo to announce the Lancaster-based company's new status as a Certified B Corporation. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)
Two Dudes Painting Company, founded in 1989, used the occasion of the Business Expo to announce the Lancaster-based company’s new status as a Certified B Corporation. – (Photo / Amy Spangler)

Barber said B Corp certification is rare in the construction industry. Most people don’t think of construction when they think of B Corp companies. More common are businesses in consumer products, such as food and cosmetics.

Although B Lab recognizes businesses in about 130 different industries, Two Dudes is the fi­rst painting contractor to earn the certification, a news release said.

B Lab’s website lists only nine other construction companies, mostly builders, as certified B Corps.

Two Dudes sought B Corp certification to show that any industry can make a positive social and environmental impact.

For example, the company supports fundraisers in Lancaster to fight racism and violence against women, to name a few. It has also helped to preserve historic buildings in the city and has undertaken numerous public mural projects, a news release said.

Founded nearly 30 years ago, Two Dudes employs 40 people at a 13,000-square-foot headquarters on Poplar Street in downtown Lancaster.

The Stroopie Co., which is a cookie bakery in Lancaster that employs refugees, and graphic design firm Modo Design Group in Lancaster City, are the only other B Corp companies in the county. There are 56 in Pennsylvania overall.

There are a little more than 1,800 B Corps worldwide.

Working toward an earth-friendly economic prosperity

Jessica King is executive director of Assets, an organization that seeks to create economic opportunity and cultivate entrepreneurial leadership in order to alleviate poverty and build vibrant, sustainable communities.
Jessica King is executive director of Assets, an organization that seeks to create economic opportunity and cultivate entrepreneurial leadership in order to alleviate poverty and build vibrant, sustainable communities.

Average growth of the U.S. gross domestic product in recent years has been 1 percent to 3 percent. Our glory days were more like 4 percent to 6 percent. Our economy — the vitality of our communities — depends on growth.

Or does it?

Some climate research clearly shows that the world cannot sustain current levels of consumption and waste. An average American uses 35 times the resources as an average Indian and 53 times more than someone from China.

 The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world population but uses 25 percent of its oil and 23 percent of its coal. If everyone lived like we did, it would take five Earths to sustain us, according to research by the Sierra Club recently published in the Scientific American.

With these natural limits in mind, we’ve been asking ourselves if the work we’re doing at Assets to help create greater economic opportunity for low-income individuals is simply just helping to create more capacity for consumption that our planet can’t sustain.

Our hierarchy of needs in the short term means that income for those living in poverty trumps the impact on our collective ecology. This social and economic impact also has been our priority at Assets.

But in the longer term — perhaps even sooner — realities of current environmental degradation will be a game changer for 21st-century capitalism with increased volatility, resource scarcity and accounting for externalized costs for things such as carbon emissions.

Triple bottom lines

For Assets, examining and improving the social and environmental impact of business on the natural world has driven our interest in social enterprise and support for businesses seeking to improve their ‘triple bottom lines’ of people, planet and profit.

Many participants in our recent Great Social Enterprise Pitch, including the first-place winner, incorporated not just a financial bottom line, but social and environmental bottom lines, as well.

Evidence shows that this is good business: companies that measure and manage their social and environmental impact are more resilient, more profitable and can better attract and retain talent.

For business and economic development groups, a well-rounded approach means encouraging investments in innovation and assets for the common good in a country where we have more shopping malls than high schools.

This could look like accessible health care, renewable energy, education of all kinds, especially science, technology, engineering and math. It also could include libraries, local markets, green spaces, agriculture with minimal inputs, the sharing economy and efficient — even regenerative — building modalities.

The good news is that smart, dedicated people have been working on this for some time and are making progress.

I recently was at a retreat center in New York’s Hudson Valley that built the country’s first ‘living building’ just 10 years ago.

The building cleans the center’s up to 52,000 gallons of daily waste water, including raw sewage, with a series of pools, microscopic algae, fungi, bacteria, plants and snails that digest the waste, clean the water and discharge it back into the aquifer cleaner from which it came, using no chemicals, powered entirely by solar energy.

They estimate that they could build the center today for 25 percent of the original cost because of innovations and efficiencies. The cost to operate it is virtually nothing.

Internationally, Germany has tripled its renewable electricity production in a decade from 9 percent to 27 percent and has a goal to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022 and its coal sourcing soon after.

Denmark has a plan to become to 100 percent renewable by 2050. The U.S., meanwhile, has about 13 percent in renewable electricity sources. These kind of innovations create excellent jobs and sustainable, economic growth.

To be prosperous can be defined as being successful or thriving, often equated with financial gain. But our world cannot sustain the American version of prosperity.

A new prosperity

Whether or not we realize it, we need to prepare for changes in what prosperity looks like and how we get there.

As Professor David Orr says, “The skills, aptitudes and attitudes necessary to industrialize the earth are not necessarily the same as those that will be needed to heal the Earth or to build durable economies and good communities.”

According to the University of California Berkeley, after basic food, shelter and safety needs are met, true prosperity or thriving comes from connection to others, awe of the natural world or something greater than ourselves, connection to our own purpose and generosity.

These don’t tend to yield a financial return. In fact, most are free.

We can be prosperous without traditional economic growth, but we need to build new business models, new consumption patterns and a deeper awareness about what prosperity really looks like.

• Jessica King is executive director of Assets, an organization that seeks to create economic opportunity and cultivate entrepreneurial leadership in order to alleviate poverty and build vibrant, sustainable communities.

Melanin Essentials takes top prize in Great Social Enterprise Pitch

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Saba Adana and Olayinka Credle have felt the frustration of being unable to find quality hair products designed for them, and seen the struggles of single mothers striving to provide for their families.

On Friday, their plan to address both of those concerns by making chemical-free beauty products for women of color took first prize in Lancaster’s third annual Great Social Enterprise Pitch, winning $7,500 and free business services.

“We are going to hire and pay single mothers thriving wages of $15 an hour,” said Saba Adana, describing the business they’re going to call Melanin Essentials. “If we sell 1,760 products a month, we will be able to hire two full-time single moms.”

Lancaster County Community Foundation and Assets Lancaster organize the program to encourage social enterprises — organizations that perform a social good while also making a profit.

Their leaders said Friday that the five finalists, as well as about two dozen others who participated in the nine-month program, illustrate that well.

Olayinka Credle and Saba Adana pitch an ethically-made personal care and beauty products, Melanin Essentials, at The Great Social Enterprise Pitch on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.

Each made a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges and a live audience of about 350 people, and each elicited a roar of support from the crowd.

Then, while the judges deliberated, Matt Stinchcomb shared his vision for social enterprise, which he believes has power to change the world.

A former vice president at Etsy, the massive online marketplace for unique goods, he now serves as executive director of the the Good Work Institute, which advances that vision.

“We need to instill different notions of what it means to be successful, about how businesses think about everyone in a community,” he said. “Success is shared.”

Then the judges announced the rankings, with each finalist winning a cash prize and free business services.

Luis Miranda won second with BootCamp900, which offers fitness training in low-income communities and has been running a 60-minute weight training program in southeast Lancaster city. He also won the audience vote.

LaShonda Whitaker won third with 5 Loaves Food Co., a company that supplies locally sourced healthful food to childcare centers.

Kristin Snyder won fourth, with Sophie Stargazer Boutique, which features brands committed to ethical sourcing and production.

Heather and Michelle Long won fifth with WIN Workplace Solutions, a temporary, portable space that employers can offer to breast-feeding women.