our team

Meet Our Leadership

We are proud of our committed and passionate staff driven by our common mission to create build the culinary industry among marginalized businesses.

Our History

In 2020, amid a global pandemic, Black Restaurant Weeks LLC established Feed the Soul Foundation. The idea to establish Feed the Soul Foundation occurred as Black Restaurant Weeks, LLC traveled to various cities and noticed the systemic challenges of marginalized culinary businesses. Feed the Soul Foundation expands Black Restaurant Week’s mission by providing resources to culinary industry entrepreneurs across the US from the Black, LatinX, Indigenous, disabled, formerly incarcerated, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized communities. In order to ensure success of their non-profit, Black Restaurant Weeks, LLC identified their Co-Executive Directors to lead the national non-profit, Jonathan Howard and Dr. Asheli S. Atkins.
Unlike many emerging non-profit organizations, Feed the Soul caught the eye of Maker’s Mark, a global titan in the beverage industry. With the support of Maker’s Mark, Feed the Soul launched the first of many programs, the Restaurant Business Development Fund (RBDF). The investment from Maker’s Mark was followed by countless other corporations including Grubhub and Kendra Scott. Feed the Soul Foundation emerged to level the playing field and close the gaps that exist between the amazing culinary concepts of business owners and the path to healthy, sustainable business models for those concepts.

Dr. Asheli Atkins, PhD

Executive Director

Dr. Asheli S. Atkins is a sociologist with over 13 years of outstanding professional research, teaching, and entrepreneurial experience. She received her BA in Communications from Prairie View A&M University, and she received her MBA from Texas Women’s University. Passionate for the successful development and sustainability of marginalized businesses, Dr. Atkins currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of the Feed the Soul Foundation.
e: aatkins@feedthesoulfou.org
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Dr. Asheli S. Atkins is a sociologist with over 13 years of outstanding professional research, teaching, and entrepreneurial experience. She received her BA in Communications from Prairie View A&M University, and she received her MBA from Texas Women’s University. Passionate for the successful development and sustainability of marginalized businesses, Dr. Atkins currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of the Feed the Soul Foundation.

Feed The Soul Foundation is the national non-profit arm of Black Restaurant Week, LLC; the foundation focuses on providing marginalized entrepreneurs in the culinary industry with business development resources. Through the support of corporate sponsors such as Grubhub and Maker’s Mark, the foundation provides Black, Indigenous, and Latinx culinary businesses with resources including grants and access to industry experts and national consultants. Her passion for supporting small, marginalized businesses is not a recent development, however.

Dr. Atkins received her Ph.D. in race & ethnic relations and organizational theory from Texas A&M University. Her research and professional work focused on assisting marginalized small business owners—with specific attention to Black entrepreneurs—in the development of sustainable businesses regardless of the industry type through the development of a multidisciplinary framework that examines the entrepreneurial strategies utilized to navigate barriers in the market. Additionally, she analyzed the freelancing industry as a racialized and gendered organization.

Her entrepreneurial endeavors, though fulfilling, do not compare to the gratification she gains through teaching undergraduate students as a Sociology Lecturer at Prairie View A&M University. Dr. Atkins has a passion for teaching and guiding youth of color through her professional work. She has had the pleasure of working at Prairie View A&M University’s Undergraduate Medical Academy as Program Coordinator. During her time there, she instructed weekly Leadership & Ethic Seminars while assisting in the development and matriculation of hard-working pre-medical, pre-dental, and pre-veterinary undergraduate students for over 5 years.

Board of Directors

Falayn Ferrell, Chair

Managing Partner, Black Restaurant Weeks, LLC
Founder, FADE Media

Maria Cruz-Garcia, Treasurer

Owner
MCG Solutions

Justin Nicks, Board Member

Sr. Commercial Director, Anheuser-Busch

Courtney Taylor, Vice Chair

Senior VP of Community Development, Veritex Community Bank

Warren Luckett, Board Member

Founder, Black Restaurant Weeks, LLC
CFO, Branwar Wines

Julian Boyd, Board Member

President, Boyd Franchising LLC

Derek Robinson, Secretary

Managing Partner, Black Restaurant Weeks, LLC
Founder, FADE Media

Karina Fernandez, Board Member

Founder, Fernandez International Consulting Group Committee, Latin Restaurant Weeks

Our Core Values

What we believe in

Community

Serving as a liaison for the marginalized culinary industry, through financial assistance and business training and development, we feed those who feed the community.

Collaboration

Through the identification of industry experts and the support of major corporations, Feed the Soul humbly understands we can not level the playing within the industry without a collaborative mindset.

Compassion

With an understanding of the systemic barriers that face marginalized groups, the ever changing climate of the culinary industry, and the current public health disaster, compassion is at the heart of every program and initiative we develop.

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