My name is Raheem Wallace, and I am the founder and CEO of Caribbean Lunch Pan, a company that ships packages of tropical snacks to people all over the world craving a taste of their Caribbean home.
Oh, and I’m also a full time community college student.
I’m passionate about what I do ─ helping others and growing myself. But it wasn’t an easy journey to get where I am now.
I grew up in Jamaica, and my family was not wealthy. So, I had to get creative to earn money. I sold snacks to friends at Waterford High School and later at Edna Manley College to make lunch money. I organized events like fish fry dinners and poetry readings or plays to sell tickets to. I feel like I had that entrepreneurial spirit from a young age.
At first, I didn’t apply it to business, but to the arts. I’ve always been the creative type — I love writing and performing. And creative people feel like they should be artists, right? In 2015, I earned a scholarship to come to New York City to study dance at the Peridance Capezio Center. I completed their program and was certified a Dance Specialist. I took dance performance gigs where I could find them. Often, I had to carefully budget the money from the last job so I could pay rent and eat until the next job came up. Eventually, dance just couldn’t pay the bills.
On the verge of being homeless, I started getting help from an organization called The Door, which provides support services to adolescents and young adults. They gave me groceries, health care, and school counseling.
I knew I had to change my story, and school was the way I chose to do it. Especially as a black person, I wanted to go to school and get a proper education. After getting into BMCC, all I had to do was chose a major: It was business or bust. I had my sights set on a steady cash flow.
The Door got me started, and my teachers were really supportive, but knew it was ultimately up to me to succeed. The key for me was a positive mindset. I sit at the front of the classroom because I don’t want to see who’s leaving, who’s checking out. I don’t want to be distracted by them. I always feel like I have a chance to prove something — to myself as well as to others.
Some things are easy to learn and some aren’t. Classes that only have exams to earn grades are hard for me. I’m not the kind of person who can just go to class and take in all the information right away; I have to go to the library or the park or the bridge to study. I have to go home and review a lot and hit the books.
It’s really paying off. It’s how I was able to found my company.
When I am stressed, eating Caribbean snacks from home makes me feel better. My friends ask me all the time to share my snacks. One day, the light bulb just turned on, and I thought, I could sell these!
Using the fundamentals I’d learned in my first two semesters, I networked through friends to set up suppliers and find clients to sell to first. This December, my company will be one year old. I’ve shipped snacks to 34 countries and made more than $15,000 in revenue. As I learn new things, I’ll keep making my business better.
While I’m not giving up on my snack business, I’ve got other business ideas I want to pursue, too. Marketing is one of my favorite subjects at BMCC, and I’ve started a company called Line Marketing to offer my insights to others. Right now, I’m hosting workshops at my apartment to help people I know develop product ideas and start making websites. No one is paying me yet, but maybe someday…
My ultimate goal is to merge my artistic lifestyle and my business lifestyle together to create a media marketing firm. I love acting and performing still, and I think it would be awesome to bring acting and dancing and marketing together in a studio.
My advice to you is if you have an idea, go for it! Find out if it’s realistic. Share your idea with other people to get their feedback. Start figuring out what it will take you to do it. Also, (shameless plug) you can come to my marketing workshops. I’d love to help you out!
The contents of this article were dictated in an interview by Raheem Wallace and edited for clarity and brevity by Olivia Harris.
More Like This
- First Stop, BMCC: Next Stop, Paris!
Rosa is a world explorer and book lover. From BMCC to Hunter College, she’s learning to lead confidently …
- How BMCC Prepared Me to Take On Baruch
Meet Aliza, a Human Resources Management major at Baruch College. Before becoming a Bearcat, she studied business as …
- BMCC helped me find my passion, and got me into Columbia!
This is Paige. Today, she studies Art History at Columbia University, but at first she was a Liberal Arts …
- Entrepreneurship: A big word that holds even bigger career possibilities
At its core, entrepreneurship is the process of turning any idea into reality. Do you want to start …
- After 30 Years in Business, I’m Finally Figuring Out the Right Way to Do It
Starting your own small business is really easy — you can do it in ten minutes on the internet — …