Please introduce yourself.
My name is Amanda Stephenson, owner of The Fresh Food Factory Market and a proud DC resident.
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
I think it was always imposed on me—I was taught that ownership is key. What we had we owned, and my father was an entrepreneur, a farmer.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
In Anacostia, I saw that residents had a life expectancy of 15–16 years less than those west of the Anacostia River. I saw the parallels between them and my father, who had a life expectancy of six months to a year when he received the terminal prognosis of cancer, which changed how he ate and what he grew. So I started this as an incubator market to sell local, healthy, and ethnic foods as medicine, but also as a way for the community to gain income.
When did you start your company?
I started The Fresh Food Factory Market in 2019.
What is your company’s mission?
The company’s mission is to offer and expand creative food hubs for people who have been marginalized, as well as create a healthy and worthy community around that.
What makes the products you sell unique?
We make sure we’re not just offering food for the community, but food that’s well thought-out, healthy, ethnically infused, and made by the community. I believe a lot of the foods you find here you won’t find on shelves of your major grocery chains, corner stores, or anywhere in the area.
Describe your company’s success. Are there any pivotal moments?
Being a Black woman from humble means, I am able to make an impact in my community when opportunity is not usually given to people who look like me. In addition to that, we had the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Secretary Walsh, come by last year because of our on-the-job training. And also getting funds from the government to now expand to multiple locations, that’s a huge milestone.
Why Anacostia? You also said you were expanding; what is going to help you choose future locations?
My friends and I have children who are around the same age. And we’re all singing the same story: we love Anacostia, but we want something better, so I created the market. These are communities where it’s needed most. The majority of the people here are African Americans who have been separated from opportunity, so I want to be able to provide that through food.
What does your business do to help your neighborhood and community?
What we do is provide job opportunities, training, and food access; we also address food security by providing a wealth of training around culinary arts and nutrition. Also, we have EBT and a weekly food distribution to eliminate food waste and ensure that people have healthy foods, no matter their income.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Virginia.
What’s a fun fact or a unique thing about your business?
I think what makes us unique is the intersection of housing, food, income, and health care, as well as our approach to addressing those as health disparities. We are also directly under a housing complex, so residents can walk downstairs, order food, and buy groceries. We are also one of the only incubator markets in the District of Columbia.
How would you define your business in three words?
Inclusive. Favored. Innovative.
What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas! When my family gets together, I’m bringing food from The Fresh Food Factory Market for them to have healthier options.
What would you recommend that people buy from the Market?
Fonio flour or teff flour. We also have bagged jollof rice, injera chips, lentil dip, and great seasonings; the people who make them are from DC or Baltimore.
What’s the best thing a customer has ever said to you?
I think the outcomes from when they’ve consumed certain products, and they say they’ve seen a difference. To me, that’s rewarding.