WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
A few years ago, Jovani Prince got tired of leaving his fate in the hands of others.
"Being African American, I got tired of being the first one to be fired and the last one to be hired," Prince says. "I wanted to do something that no one could take away from me."
Around the same time, he visited his mother in California and drove home with a bag of the crackers she's been making for years. He and his wife couldn't stop eating them.
"The light bulb went off," Prince says.
He reformulated the flour to make it gluten-free and started a company called the Cracker King. He boot-strapped the business, selling his crackers by the bag at farmers markets and in a small number of stores.
Prince says he was confident that he made the best gluten-free cracker in the world, but people were passing by his bags, which feature him and his family on the front.
Then, George Floyd was murdered.
"People all of a sudden wanted to support black businesses," Prince says. They saw the picture on his product and snapped it up. More people tasted them, and a lot more people started buying them. "They tried them and went crazy," Prince says.
Now, he can barely keep up with demand. He recently got a business development loan from New Seasons, and he's going to be in Whole Foods this month.
Prince still mourns for Floyd, but he's thankful that more people are now willing to give Black businesses like his a try.
WW talked to Prince about growing a business during a pandemic.