September 25, 2023

Inspired by her Kenyan mother and Mexican grandmother, entrepreneur Charlette Lopez has built her uniquely-flavored, organic fruit jam business, JIKONIKWENU, with the mentorship and support of other small business owners. In this week’s Her Story, Charlotte shares what she has learned along the way about the importance of hiring when you need help, being clear and honest about where you are at in your business journey so you can receive the help you need, and about her commitment to giving back through donating 10% of her profits to building a school in Kenya.


Shaquanda Reese, founder of Burst Beans Coffee

 I decided to create uniquely blended Mexican and Kenyan flavors to distinguish myself in the market.

Why did you start your business? What motivated or inspired you?

I started this business because of my mother and my paternal grandmother. My mother is a Kenyan who used to do training workshops with farmers and teach them how to make organic fruit jams as well as hot sauces. My paternal grandmother is Mexican and taught me how to make hot sauces using Oaxacan ingredients. I decided to create uniquely blended Mexican and Kenyan flavors to distinguish myself in the market. My competitors use additives and sugar, which I do not use.

Burst Beans Coffee products


What has been the most challenging thing about getting your business up and running?

Money is still a big challenge. I have poured a lot of money into the business and I have never paid myself. Everything that I make goes back into growing the business. Whenever I feel like quitting, I remind myself of how far I have come. I am faithful and confident that I have the resilience and determination to make it in the food industry.

What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of owning your own business?

The most rewarding part of owning the business is being able to make a difference in Africa. I am actively involved with Uncle Joe's Kitchen which provides key resources to orphans in South Africa, Gambia and Kenya. I am able to be part of a team that provides essential support such as clothes, school supplies, school fees, and shelter.

Can you identify a moment in your business that was pivotal in your success? Have you had an “AHA!” moment(s)?

My AHA moment was when I realized that I was not making more money doing it alone and that I needed a bigger team to help me drive this business. Nothing made me realize this more than when product orders and vending opportunities started to increase.

How long have you been in business and has your business changed since you started it?

JIKONIKWENU LLC has been in business for two years. We started solely as a e-commerce enterprise, but now, we are also doing direct services, and have pending independent retail contracts.

Do you have a mentor, formal or informal? What role have they played for you?

I do not have a mentor but I am surrounded by amazing business women. I have taken a lot of business coaching classes that have allowed me to grow as an entrepreneur.

I write about 5 goals each day in my journal on what I need to accomplish and improve for my business. I also take time to celebrate myself when one goal is accomplished. This helps me see how far I have grown and discover the areas that I still need to work on.

What communities have been important for you as you grew/developed your business?

I am part of a group of three women entrepreneurs who confide in each other. We have helped build each other up. I have also joined business organizations where I am surrounded by like minded entrepreneurs such as Naturally New York and Women Owned. Additionally, I am a board president for C. Neptune Darby Consulting Services Inc where I am able to use my passion in business and advocating for wellness and mental health in the workplace.

Do you have items, photos or mementos on your desk that inspire you each day? What are they?

I write about 5 goals each day in my journal on what I need to accomplish and improve for my business. I also take time to celebrate myself when one goal is accomplished. This helps me see how far I have grown and discover the areas that I still need to work on.

Do you have any advice for other women who are getting started in business?

Do your research, find a business mentor, surround yourself with other like-minded business owners. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

If a journalist were to write a headline about you/your business, what would it be?

An African-Latina, finds her path to become an American Business Woman.

Are there any apps or business services that you just can’t live without that you would like to give a shout-out to?

Shout out to "It's Nola." Their CEO has not only been supportive of my business, she has been an inspiration for me to not give up and continue to push for success!

Is there a non-profit or other social/mission-oriented business that your business supports? Can you tell us about this?

I am currently in the process of establishing a school and foundation in Uyoma, Kenya, as a tribute to my beloved mother, Elizabeth Odhiambo. Therefore, 10% proceeds of my business goes to the school project in Kenya. I am committed to empowering and uplifting communities through education.


Thank you, Charlette, for sharing your advice and journey with the WMarketplace!

SHOP JIKONIKWENU



Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit ThWMarketplace provides to sellers.

Her Story: Charlette Lopez of Jikonikwenu