In the United States, a food desert is defined as an area within a certain distance (usually greater than 1 mile) from a large grocery store that provides fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods. Income levels determine access for individuals living in a food desert. This is called food insecurity, which can lead to under-nutrition or obesity even if an individual consumes enough calories. For example, an individual living in a food desert may opt for cheaper junk foods as a source of energy rather than purchasing healthier options.
TaMeka Bland, the founder of Limitless, saw that businesses in West Louisville, Kentucky, didn't have the infrastructure to deliver food to underserved communities. Simultaneously, residents didn't have access to fresh produce or farmer's market. They would have to travel far or cross over the bridge to Indiana to obtain healthy necessities for their families. This inspired her to create Limitless, a tech delivery app that helps residents access nutritious food options like groceries while also assisting businesses in growing their customer base.
Living in a city with limited access to healthy and nutritious food options leaves many feeling hungry for the future, for hope, and possibilities. With Limitless, TaMeka hopes to change that, starting in her backyard.
What fears did you have along the journey?
TaMeka received many rejections. She said, "Initially, it was the nos. Many businesses and companies I had reached out to initially didn't quite believe in what I was doing. Oh, it's not going to work. You know, you got these other companies that are doing it also, and how are you going to set yourself apart?" She became discouraged quite quickly.
Ultimately TaMeka stayed connected to her purpose and knew that Limitless would positively transform her community. Being a former hair stylist turned tech founder was an adjustment for her to learn the coding language. But being in business wasn't new as TaMeka owned a hair salon, sold hair products, and she and her husband owned a clothing store. She used everything she's learned in business to launch and sustain Limitless.
So tell us about any major setbacks and how you recovered.
TaMeka's biggest challenges have been in staffing. She's had a hard time retaining talent. The cycle of onboarding and training new staff became challenging to sustain. Therefore, she had to learn every aspect of the business herself. She also said, "Of course, you know, everybody struggles with the financing part of it, but through grants and a lot of resources that I've been tapping into, we've been able to sustain more than I thought we would."
What's the biggest risk you've taken?
TaMeka left being a hairstylist to concentrate on Limitless fully. She said, "Just going for it all and just jumping and having faith in God, which is never really a risk."
What are you most proud of when it comes to Limitless?
TaMeka said, "I have an app on the Apple store, guys! I am proud of that. I'm also proud of the fact that I know that it's going to bring change. It's going to help out the community, even if it's just a 1% population, we've helped somebody, you know, whether we put food on someone's table, or if we've gotten them, the fresh vegetables and fruits that they need. My goal is to just make one household happy at a time by being able to offer them something that they did not have access to."
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
TaMeka had completed two pitch competitions before this. She was part of an incubator that helped her to prepare her pitch. This time, she decided to show her personality and be more of herself.
The BGV pitch allowed her to receive further feedback on her deck and watch other people pitch. She said, "So all those preparations and practices led me to apply for Black Girl Ventures. I was like, okay. So I was first placed in one and second placed in another. I think I might have it. So let me just apply and see. And then when I was chosen, I was like, you've got to be kidding me. Look at God. You know, he definitely knows where I need to be going.
Overall it was one of the best experiences of my life. And I felt like, yeah, I was in a national competition. So Louisville was hyping me up, and it was just amazing. The overall experience is something that I suggest every Black girl do."
Pitching is one aspect of the competition. The other pivotal part is crowdfunding. TaMeka reached out to her network and boosted her pitch on her Facebook business page. When she noticed she wasn't in the lead, she began texting people and asking them to share it with their networks.
Her advice to those looking to pitch is, "Be yourself. Be original, and make sure you bring your A-game and do your research. Make sure that your slides are—I wouldn't say perfect because mines weren't. I actually redid my pitch deck after the competition.
Make sure you know what you're talking about because when they ask you those questions, you have to be ready. That made me nervous when the judges asked certain questions; I had to be ready for it. And just be prepared, you know, as long as you're prepared, do your best, and give your all, you're a winner, regardless."
TaMeka used the pitch funds for marketing. She wants Limitless to receive more exposure so it can grow.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
TaMeka said, "Sometimes you believe your people are your number one supporters when they're not. I have many people rooting for Limitless and me to succeed. To help the community more, I've been in touch with major organizations like Kroger and Dare To Care and farmers and everybody to help market for Limitless. So it's really more of who you know and who knows who for you to have some of that support.
And then I believe, once more people actually see it rather than just hearing about it, they support you more. They want to see something in motion, and that's where I was at in the beginning, but since the pitch competition, it's put me out there a little bit more now.
I've had people reach out to me through LinkedIn and different platforms like, hey, we're interested, we would love to support, how can we support? So I have some upcoming meetings for that. That has helped out tremendously."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
After running several businesses, TaMeka believes all entrepreneurs need to adopt a level of patience. She said, "You can't expect anything to come overnight. And sometimes, we tend to try to rush our success, whether it be a milestone or a small goal that we're trying to reach. So I've learned that throughout it all, each lesson is a blessing, and you have to be patient with whatever's to come because it's not going to come overnight. It's all a work in process."
There were moments when TaMeka had to push back the launch of Limitless. Even after spending money on marketing, she thought of several ways she could have spent that money. Not everything TaMeka did on her journey worked out as planned in her mind. But that didn't stop her from moving forward. The outcome doesn't always reveal itself at the moment.
What is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
TaMeka immediately said, "Growth and learning. You can not learn too much. You have to continue to educate yourself. Whether business or financing, it's all a part of growth.
And if you can't grow as an individual, you will not be successful. You know, ultimately, life's challenges get in the way sometimes of us running a business, but you have to learn how to separate the two. You just have to learn how to be a good person wholeheartedly because it will help you succeed in life."
The no's that you experience as an entrepreneur may set you back but for TaMeka, the no's push her forward. She said, "I don't let a lot of things bother me anymore. I could say in my thirties, I probably did, but as I got older, it's like, okay, whatever, it is what it is, I'm going to do this anyway.
I've programmed myself to where, if I say, I'm going to do it, then I'm going to do it. I'm going to get to the finish line. If it fails, at least I made it there to execute my plan and goals, dreams, hopes, and visions. It's perseverance, consistency, all that comes with being an entrepreneur."
How do you measure success?
Success ebbs and flows. TaMeka said, "You could have it one day, and then it's gone the next." She measures success by progress. A good day for her is a day when she reaches some of her goals and milestones. She focuses on momentum.
What's the most exciting part of your business?
TaMeka enjoys meeting new people. To fulfill her mission with Limitless, she has to have businesses on the app. That requires relationship building. By doing this, she gets a bird's eye view of people's personal stories. She said, "You hear where they came from, which motivates me because I feel like if I win, they win. We're cross-promoting and marketing one another. So we'll all be able to feed our families at the end of the day. Whether it's just a corner store or a restaurant, the relationship that I've gotten throughout this process with many of these business owners has been helpful.
We share information. We have different resources that we can offer each other. So just communicating with the business owners and knowing what their customer needs. It makes me smile—I'm very proud of that."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
TaMeka hopes to see Limitless cross the $3.5 million thresholds. At that point, they would have added B2B services supporting restaurant owners and other small business owners with pick up and drop off for large quantity orders. She hopes to add medical transportation for the elderly similar to Uber. With Limitless' success, TaMeka plans to reach back to help someone else who's also on a similar path.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
TaMeka excitedly said, "I think we are killing it right now. I mean, we are the future. We are doing so many different things and making great strides, doing well in the community, and just being positive—we're encouraging one another. It's inspiring for these young Black and Brown girls to just let them know that if I could do it, you can do it regardless of what it is. Just do it. It never hurts to try, but I feel like that again; we're the future.
So we will be who they didn't want us to be. So, yeah, we're going to take over, like how when Michelle Obama went into office."
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
TaMeka does have a therapist that she meets with regularly. She engages in group work that gives her a chance to share things that have been bottled up inside of her and helps her to think clearly and stay focused. She then has a business coach that helps keep her level-headed. TaMeka prays and meditates. She doesn't work out as much as she would like, and as an over thinker, she knows that would be useful. Her thoughts can often get in her way, but she uses her breath to breathe through some of her challenges.
TaMeka, most importantly, focuses on doing one thing at a time and taps into her happy place. Lastly, her family is a tremendous support. She leans into her support network, asking for prayers and encouragement. This combination helps her to manage her stress levels.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"The gift of life is more than the gift itself." Pablo Picasso
"Instead of trying to build a brick wall, lay a brick every day eventually, you'll look, and you'll have a brick wall." Nipsey Hustle
What is a book that you would recommend?
Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop
Entrepreneur Mindsets and Habits: To Gain Financial Freedom and Live Your Dreams by James Moore
Podcast episode: You're a Badass by Jen Sincero
Million Dollaz Worth Of Game by Barstool Sports
What's your favorite business hack or app you can't live without?
Name one food item you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for Limitless?
TaMeka is focusing on her launch and getting Limitless into the marketplace. She'll focus on marketing campaigns and hopes to have 500 deliveries within the first few months. When Limitless hires more people, they can grow faster, but TaMeka is patient with the growth process. Once it's up and running, she can set bigger milestones.
Any last words…
TaMeka said, "I just want to thank the platform, BGV, for the amazing opportunity to pitch. It was, again, one of the best things that I've ever experienced in my life, nationally, and that was exciting. Now, I'm going to take my show on the road, but it gave me a lot of confidence in what I'm doing.
It gave me a lot of confidence to push this thing because it's not that I lack the confidence, but from a broader perspective. So for me to have showcased it basically to the world to see, it gave me more confidence in knowing that I got this. Anything that you do and you give your all to. You will succeed.
And I really appreciate them for the opportunity. I hadn't even heard of them before applying. So now that I'm more aware, I'll also make my fellow Black and Brown girls aware. I believe some of them have started following them as well. And I tell them about the pitch competitions, and hey, just go on there and take a look at some of those pitches, not just mine, but you'll learn a lot, just listening to other people pitch, and you'll also learn a lot throughout this program."