Making It: Eat Speak Love Supports Minority-Owned Businesses In Akron

Maker: Tiffany Roper, owner & CEO
Business: Eat Speak Love, a platform for elevating Akron’s women and minority-owned businesses toward a goal of economic equity

What is the premise behind Eat Speak Love?  

Eat Speak Love supports other women-owned and Black-owned businesses right here in our community, and we feature them in our subscription boxes and our events. Our subscription boxes are a fun way to get the brands that exist right here in our backyard out to the community. Our subscribers are really invested in what's new and what's going on right here in Akron, and so we bring them little treats and trinkets and samples of different products right here from our city. They try the product, they fall in love with it, and then our goal is to get them to support that business.

Eat Speak Love's "smallBIG Box" includes samples, treats, trinkets, and information from small businesses in the Akron area. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

You got the idea for Eat Speak Love in March of 2020, and it the initial thought didn’t include subscription boxes. How did the business model evolve?

When I was sent home, like most of us were from work, I decided that it was a great time to start a business. And my idea was so much bigger than just subscription boxes, it was really about having an in-person event space. But the pandemic persisted and it was never really the right time to launch that in 2020. So my mentor and I decided to pivot our idea into subscription boxes and that's how the smallBIG Box was born. And I worked with some of my cohorts from the MORTAR program at the Bounce Innovation Hub to highlight their products and feature them in my box right from the start.

Roper has a passion for small businesses, and for working together with them to help Akron's economy thrive. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

What all goes into one of your smallBIG Boxes, and how does the subscription work?

The smallBIG Box is a blind box that features product samples, promotional items, business cards and coupons from businesses that are home grown. And it could be really anything. We feature cafes, we feature body essential products, we feature different soaps, we feature teas and lots of treats. The subscription is an every-other-month subscription, and you'll get a box either shipped to you or you can come to our pickup parties, which are a huge, essential piece to the small business awareness. Our boxes can be picked up from a local business and at that pickup party, once you support that business by purchasing a product, you’ll receive a promotional item from us, and that was a really cool way for us to drive traffic into that business. So you never know what you're going to get in a subscription box, but it's always something worthwhile and it's just a fun way to bring awareness to what we're doing right here in our city.

Roper packs subscription boxes ahead of a pickup party. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

What does it feel like to know how much you’re helping all of these other small businesses in your community?

Word of mouth with small business is everything. And when people can follow your brand because they trust that you are bringing them something high-quality and that you care about the products that are featured inside, it makes me feel like this is what I was supposed to be doing with my life. It confirms for me that I've gone in the right direction because people are now seeking out Eat Speak Love to be a part of so many different things. And the explosion of this brand has been indescribable because it really started with just a small little dream and now it's expanded and it's been able to bring awareness to so many of the brands that we work with. And that's been incredibly meaningful.

I feel like confidence has to be a big part of jumping into something like this. Had you always felt confident that this idea would be successful?

I've always felt very confident in my own abilities with things that I can control. But when it comes to things that you just don't know -- you don't know if these products are going to sell, you don't know if your ideas are going to take off -- it's really the confidence piece that keeps you moving forward to say, ‘You know what, if I've done the best job that I can, if I've put my best foot forward, then I feel confident that things will just work out the way they're supposed to.’ I'm a big believer in karma and the energy you put out in the universe. I feel like it comes back to you tenfold. And that has definitely been a huge part of Eat Speak Love’s story, just doing the right thing and making decisions with integrity.

Roper with her husband, Kevin, at a summer pickup party. [Jean-Marie Papoi / Ideastream Public Media]

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