Graduates of Harlem Local Vendor Program Top List of Whole Foods Harlem Vendors

Bashar Makhay
November 16, 2017

On July 21 at 9:00 a.m, the 39,000-squarefoot Whole Foods Harlem store located on West 125th Street opened its doors to the community with items from 11 local businesses and entrepreneurs—all graduates of the Harlem Local Vendor Program—selected to have their products featured on the shelves. The Harlem Local Vendor Program—a partnership between the Columbia- Harlem Small Business Development Center, Whole Foods Market, Hot Bread Kitchen Incubates, Harlem Park to Park, and others—hopes to develop economic stability and job creation in Upper Manhattan.

The program is designed to help manufacturers of locally made consumer goods increase their business acumen and capacity so that they may contract with more and larger retailers. Most of the business owners are minorities and women with college or advanced degrees, and all of the selected vendors will create economic impact in Harlem. Three cohorts, totaling more than 60 business owners, have finished the program, which includes selling at local events and markets, business education and counseling, and, at the end, showing their products at a vendor fair. Last year, buyers from FreshDirect, Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market, Columbia Dining, Macy’s, Dell Computers, and Bed Bath & Beyond attended the vendor fair. Whole Foods is contracting with 20 graduates of the program for the Harlem store, Columbia Dining is contracted with five graduates, and other graduates have contracts with FreshDirect and Macy’s.

Whole Foods has reported that its first week of sales in Harlem doubled projections and subsequent weekly sales have trended 30–40 percent higher than anticipated. Whole Foods attributes much of this success to the community support of local vendors. Graduates of the Harlem Local Vendor Program at Whole Foods have outperformed other local vendor programs across the nation with more reorders coming from Whole Foods, trying to keep stock on the shelf.

A fourth cohort has graduated from their five-week intensive small business education program at Columbia Business School. Over the course of the program, participants met weekly, developed peer networks, explored scalable models for production with minimal waste and high efficiency, and were expected to complete a Business Model Canvas by the end. This year, an additional 28 participants graduated the program in July, and will all be eligible to participate in Shop Harlem Live Harlem events as well as the Harlem Vendor Fair in December 2017.

To learn more about the Harlem Local Vendor Program or to apply to be a vendor, visit https://harlemparktopark. org. Applications are being accepted this fall for the next cohort of vendors, who will begin the program in January 2018.

Vendors from second cohort graduate from Harlem Local Vendor Program, receiving professional guidance regarding best practices and guidelines for vendor suppliers.