The BMCC #FuturePanther Blog

Easing Homesickness One Snack at a Time

Black male smiles and holds up a package of banana chips

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.

"The love and appreciation for learning I see in others [at BMCC] makes me feel really good. And the way the country is right now, you’ve got to show more love than hate.." -- Raheem Wallace

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.

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19 thoughts on “Easing Homesickness One Snack at a Time

  1. Onica Taylor-Parks

    Go Raheem, the sky is just the begin. I believe that you have great potential and you are an inspiration to other. When you need Accounting advice, check me😀

  2. Sean Daniel

    Well done Raheem. I always knew you had it in you to be. Someone great and awesome in the earth. Go strong my brother, you have my full support.

  3. Nurse

    Rhyeem Wallace, I see you have maintained your spirit to strive, to excel, to always be working at something, now look at you, and so much more to go. Give God thanks and keep going in His Grace. Excellence Always! Keep the W.H.S. Spirit and flag flying high. Great going dear!! Proud of you!!

  4. Aston Cooke

    Well done. The entrepreneurial spirit has always been with you. You are always crating products for people. I still have my JYT button and calendar.

  5. Vinessa

    This indeed is a journey and as a young person like myself with a story I must say well done, keep fighting the fight and never give up on what you want. I can say this has been motivation to me.

  6. Shada miller

    Yes bro,from day one we all saw that gift in you,i wish you all the best and continue to make it big . You was always a person that i look up to now seeing you doing good warms my heart 😘😘😘😘love and love alone raheem ..

  7. Wirtoyo

    Salute and proud of your struggle, you already have tremendous potential to become a successful entrepreneur. Maybe Jamaica needs young people like you to build the country’s economy.

    Best regards from Wirtoyo

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