There is no doubt that South LA is considered a food desert. Nestled within an international metropolis, the majority of the residents in my community have had little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables and our eating habits have changed based on these circumstances.
Naturally, when I first had the idea of opening a salad business in South LA, I was met with a lot of skepticism. I was told that people in South LA “don’t eat salads” and therefore, my business would not be successful. I know now with experience, that this is far from the truth. I would defy the naysayers, becoming the first black-owned salad company in Los Angeles.
Toss It Up started as just an idea to make a change in the community while I was working full-time as a bus driver. I told my coworkers that I was starting a salad company, and one of them suggested I bring my salads to work. “We’ll support you!” they said. As it tends to do, word spread, and soon, I was selling salads not just to co-workers but also to community members willing to meet me during my bus routes. When the demand got too high to handle, I began to look for pop-up events using social media to help grow the new business.
Toss It Up is on a mission to change the eating habits of South LA residents little by little. Our goal is to make South LA healthy again, and we are doing this by catering to everyday locals and meeting them where they are: on social media.
My COO, Matthew N. Crawford, realized that traditional media outlets are not typically where people from my community go to learn about what’s happening in their own backyard. Instead, we go on Facebook and are active on Group pages with thousands of other South LA locals to learn from each other in real-time.
Facebook Groups, for example, provide us with a platform to connect with local community members. We were able to share the Toss it Up story with over 12,000 Black and immigrant families living south of the I-10 freeway through the Buy And Sell Stuff In Los Angeles group. I told them that there was healthy eating around the corner, shared event information for our community pop-ups, and most importantly, pictures of the salads. This strategy was both affordable and effective.
We’ve grown a following for this salad business in South LA and now have over 5,000 people seeing our products when they open social media, and we did that with little to no money using digital tools that every business has at their disposal.
Today, about 30% of my sales come in through our Instagram page in addition to customers reaching out on direct messenger to request the ordering link. For me, social media marketing is about testing what sticks and using what works to keep getting bigger. From tagging the ‘South Los Angeles’ location in every post, and using as many hashtags as possible (28-30) to allow new customers to find us on the Instagram Explore Page, I am doing everything I can to become a company you, and everyone can be proud of while providing more healthy options in South LA.
I hope the story of Toss it Up inspires other Black business owners to embrace digital tools to grow their brands. Social media has been a game changer for my business, and it can be for yours too.
CEO/Founder of Toss It Up
Toss It Up is working to launch our first brick-and-mortar located in South LA by the end of this Summer. In the meantime, we serve the community at local farmer’s markets like the one happening the first and third Saturdays of every month in Compton, and ‘Saladbowl Sunday” every Sunday at the Wellington Farmers Market in Midtown.