Corey founded CORE Kitchen in downtown Oakland as a mission-oriented plant-based kitchen. When he needed to fulfill a new product order for retail partner Whole Foods, Opportunity Fund was there to help with a small business loan. Thanks to the working capital, the latest products from CORE Foods are coming to a grocery store near you.
Our customers inspire us every day, and we want to regularly share those stories to inspire you, too. Corey founded CORE Kitchen in downtown Oakland as a mission-oriented plant-based kitchen. When he needed to fulfill a new product order for retail partner Whole Foods, Opportunity Fund was there to help with a small business loan. Thanks to the working capital, the latest products from CORE Foods are coming to a grocery store near you.
Growth Based on Inclusion
Corey Rennell started CORE Kitchen in 2010 in downtown Oakland as a response to some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most pressing needs: access to healthy food and employment opportunities. A first-time entrepreneur, Corey used his history as a vegetarian and former employee at Whole Foods to build his dream business.
“We believe that every person has a right to healthy food,” he said.
CORE Kitchen serves vegan, organic, plant-based breakfast, lunch, and smoothies. Their positive impact goes beyond disruptive food systems. Corey hires formerly incarcerated people to work at CORE Kitchen.
“Oakland can be a very divided place on racial and economic lines,” Corey said. “We believe that we can rebuild our infrastructure by providing jobs for people in these communities.”
In 2015, CORE Kitchen expanded to CORE Foods, a line of perishable food bars sold in retail stores. A year later, they added oatmeal and granola. These products are available locally at stores like the Berkeley Bowl and Rainbow Grocery. CORE Foods went nationwide thanks to Corey’s partnership with Whole Foods’ local producer loan program.
“Whole Foods offered us a loan because they wanted to help us bring our items to their grocery store,” he said.
New Products, New Success
In 2017, the CORE Foods brand added a new product: a line of herbal, functional, sparkling health beverages sweetened with fruit juice. CORE Foods was thriving but lacked the capital necessary to fulfill the order of 100,000 bottles for the new contract with Whole Foods.
Our community partner Working Solutions connected Corey to us. “With the new contract, we’d outgrown Working Solutions’ capability to fund us,” he said. “Our bank wasn’t connecting to our needs.”
Opportunity Fund business development officer Shanna McClearn worked with Corey to close a $150,000 loan in June 2017. The speed and ease of the funding process initially caught Corey off guard. “We had approval within a week,” he said. “I was expecting two to four weeks. We had the money available before we were ready to use it.”
Thanks to the loan, CORE Foods Tonics are now available at Whole Foods locations in Los Angeles and Chicago. As CORE Foods expands to compete in new product categories against food and beverage giants like Kraft and Coca-Cola, they may outgrow Opportunity Fund one day.
“Opportunity Fund has helped us invest in things we’ve needed for a long time and to position ourselves to run the business we know we can run,” he said. “That makes us much more attractive to a non-profit partner that we’ll ultimately partner with.”
Get to know more about Corey and the CORE Foods staff and mission in this video:
We’re proud to work with visionary entrepreneurs like Corey who create change in their communities, and we’re honored to be one of CORE Foods’ non-profit growth partners.
We hope this story has inspired you, too. At Opportunity Fund, we offer easy-to-get, fast, and affordable small business loans to help small business owners succeed. Visit our home page to find out more.
Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator,for our commitment to accountability and transparency.
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