The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC CDFI Advisory Group:
Seasoned Delicious Foods is much more than a brand of tasty gourmet locally-made sauces. Housed in the impressive 10,000 square foot Evolution Center in Lake Katrine, New York, (just outside Kingston), Tamika and Martin Dunkley have also quickly expanded their presence and built a restaurant, market and community development hub that is empowering aspiring entrepreneurs, and providing for those in need, all while cooking up great food that tastes like the Dunkley’s family, culture, and the Hudson Valley too.
In addition to all she does as CEO of the female-owned company with three food brands, Tamika Dunkley is now also one of the integral members of the seven-person Advisory Group for HVADC’s Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) program. This CDFI program takes a role in generating economic growth and providing opportunity in the Hudson Valley’s most distressed communities. Tamika’s perspective and community involvement ensures that the important directed funding and Business Technical Assistance provided by CDFI gets to the small businesses which need it most.
“HVADC is so pleased to be able to partner with Tamika as a member of our CDFI Advisory Group.” Said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC Deputy Director. “The Business Technical Assistance and funding access we are able to provide together represents and exciting investment in the growth and success of amazing businesses and will be a vital community resources in the Hudson Valley.”
In 2016, the Dunkleys started a catering business and soon developed a line of sauces that capture the flavor of Martin’s Jamaican heritage. It was an instant hit and the business quickly outgrew the couple’s original location in midtown Kingston.
In January of 2020, just months before the start of the pandemic, Tamika retired from her job as a full time Registered Nurse and dietician, to commit to growing Seasoned Delicious Foods. The line of Caribbean spice blends and sauces soon expanded to add the Above Earth Foods and Afya Power Foods brands, helping to differentiate the products for market diversification. Above Earth is a line of gourmet finishing products like spreads, oils and preserves, and Afya offers a line of healthful snacks and beverages.
Tamika says her husband’s 14 Karrot Hot Sauce (a traditional Jamaican recipe), which started the business, is near and dear to her heart and remains a standout but she is also proud of their line of salt free seasonings. As a nurse she was always seeing patents struggle to cut salt from their diet because their food tasted bland. Seasoned Delicious Food’s salt free seasonings are packed with flavor but no sodium. Their packaged products are also Vegan and GMO free to fit a range of diets.
With Seasoned Delicious Foods now their full time jobs, the Dunkleys took the plunge to scale up their business and formalize the community development programs that have become a growing part of their mission. The need for these services increased dramatically during the pandemic and over the past two years they have been providing food and services for their community, including recently bringing 850 thanksgiving dinners to families in temporary housing throughout the area.
“I heard a little girl actually say, ‘look mom, we get to have turkey like everyone else’,” Tamika recalled. “It’s still hard to get the message out about what we do to the people who need help the most, but there’s nothing like good food and good music to get people to show up to the center.”
At the Evolution Center, the Dunkleys are providing workspace for entrepreneurs of color from underserved communities in and around Kingston. The center runs regular classes and events to build money management skills and provide networking opportunities. They also run literacy and financial training for the local BIPOC community, through their established nonprofit arm.
“Mary Ann and I reconnected last year around social justice work,” Tamika Dunkley commented. “With nonprofits it truly takes a village and HVADC is very good with state and federal grants.”
Tamika said moving to the Evolution Center has been amazing and they are planning the instillation of a co-packing facility so they will be able to package their own line, as well as products from other small local brands. The rippling impact of the Dunkleys’ diverse programming is immense and shows the power of dedicated community investment.
“The Dunkleys use their resources to help and feed their community every day,” said Johnson. “ Tamika’s business savvy and philanthropic resourcefulness is a gift to the CDFI board.”
Additional information about the Business Technical Assistance provided through HVADC CDFI program may be found at https://www.hvadc.org/iww and funding, at https://www.hvadc.org/hvadc-agribusiness-loan-fund-program.