(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth article in a series on Cohort 3 of the “100Knoxville” program, an initiative that aims to help Black-owned businesses grow by $10,000,000 in five years. Look for more stories in upcoming issues of teknovation.biz.)
By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA
At the height of the pandemic, Andrew Osakue was serving as a Senior Pastor in Monroe County. After hearing about the increased rate of crime and murder in Knoxville, he and his wife went to visit Ridgebrook Apartments in Mechanicsville where a majority of the residents were single mothers.
According to management, the number of people using and selling drugs was higher than ever before. The leadership team at Ridgebrook requested Osakue and his wife to come work in the community without any salary. Shortly after, Osakue’s wife looked at him with tears in her eyes and said, “How can we not go?”
In January 2021, the couple decided to walk away from 100 percent of their income and benefits to plant a church in Ridgebrook Apartments called Church at Ridgebrook.
Osakue said he knew right away he didn’t want to run a needs-based ministry. By only giving the community different resources through outside volunteers, people often become dependent on outside services, handicapping growth in that community. Instead, Church At Ridgebrook and the Soul Good restaurant (which the couple later helped open in April 2021) were meant to be asset-based opportunities.
“This community is gifted, it is made in the image of God, it has all the gifts and talents and resources already here,” Osakue said. “We just have to come alongside those gifts and resource those.”
The idea for the Soul Good restaurant first started when Ridgebrook residents told Osakue they were tired of looking at their apartments everyday and wanted to work. Many of the single mothers in the apartment complex enjoyed cooking, and so the restaurant was born.
Now celebrating its first anniversary, Osakue said he plans to turn the restaurant over to one of the single mothers to run as her own business. This lines up with the mission of Soul Good, “To elevate leadership and entrepreneurship in our community through Kingdom partnerships.”
“Our greatest hope was to create a space for our mothers to use their gifts and their talents and to be able to now see that they can be the change that they want to see in their communities,” Osakue said.
Soul Good recently expanded their vision by acquiring their first food truck which now touches lives at the University of Tennessee on a regular basis.
Outside of community members becoming thriving leaders, Osakue said Soul Good is built on the prayer of Jesus in John 17 – “That we might all be one so the world will know we were sent by him.”
He added the restaurant and food truck is a place where those who serve, such as teachers, doctors, firefighters, and more, can “have a place of peace and rest.” Most of all, Soul Good is a place where people from all walks of life can come together and enjoy good food.
A little more than a year after starting Soul Good, Osakue said he is hearing from people who came out of drug addiction and joblessness to find work and hope at the restaurant.
“That’s the dream,” he said. “One mother, one child, one person at a time thriving to transform their community.”
Programs like 100Knoxville are important to the community because many Black business owners don’t have economic resources around them to pull from. Osakue said that the majority of African American families live within a six- to 10-mile radius of East Knoxville. The average household income is less than $15,000 per year.
“When you put those numbers together, the reason why 100Knoxville is important to Black-owned businesses, specifically those in the community is that you don’t necessarily have the resources or connections to be able to add greater value to your business,” he said.