Ten-dollar Uber or Lyft rides to get to a grocery store with nutritious vegetarian offerings helped inspire a D.C. woman to launch her own business. Now, the effort has won $150,000 in a nationwide grant competition.
Market7 founder Mary Blackford is the grand prize winner of the Essence-Pine-Sol Build Your Legacy contest for Black-owned, women-owned businesses. Market7 references Ward 7, which covers northeast and southeast D.C.
“Market7 is a community-based Market Place,” Blackford explained. “We’ve been doing alternative pop-up markets in our community to help alleviate some of the issues that we’re having with food access.”
Blackford, 31, saw an example of how it might work when she was a teenager visiting Ghana and teaching entrepreneurship.
“In the community that I was in, in Takoradi, they had their own centralized grocery markets and community markets, where people came together, entrepreneurs of many kinds and farmers, and sold all sorts of things: food; things for your hair, skin and nails; things for your home,” Blackford recalls. “And I said, we can do something very similar and adopt this idea of cooperative economics utilizing our urban and farming communities.”
Market7 has been setting up in parking lots and at community centers the last three years. Its diverse offerings include food, lifestyle products and home items.
It has been working with 60 Black-owned businesses.
Blackford said the prize money is going into a 7,000-square-foot food hall that will also house training partners. It is being built in Ward 7 at 3451 Benning Road NE near the Anacostia Freeway.
“Part of our work is economic stability. I always say that our work sits at the intersection of sustainable health and sustainable economics, always trying to find ways to one, make our community healthy, but then also how do we build healthy businesses and making sure they have all the resources they need to be sustainable in our communities.”
Market7 is always looking for partners to help give local businesses more knowledge.
“If you are a training partner, teach entrepreneurship, finance, or marketing — any sort of technical assistance — please reach out to us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org),” or through the Market7
website, Blackford said.