By Martelle Esposito
Today, we talk with mompreneur Tambra Raye Stevenson. Inspired by her ancestors and her experiences as a mom and a dietitian, Tambra founded WANDA to combat diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and malnutrition in communities of African descent in Africa and America through food and nutrition education, advocacy, and innovation. She boldly asks, “What if we had more women and girls become food sheroes in our community?” And, her related Where's WANDA? children’s book series fills a gap as “the ‘Doc McStuffins’ of nutrition meets ‘Dora the Explorer’ for Africa.”
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for Nativsol Kitchen and WANDA, including your children’s book series?
Nativesol Kitchen is the precursor to WANDA. It’s about preserving cultural traditions in the form of faith-based and community programs. The familial, cultural, and spiritual approach to food was not being taught in classes across the country.
Once my kids got into school, preschool was not on my side about changing the environment. They used junk food as reward, and it started a fire in me to start WANDA. Growing up in a military town, I thought about a military way to attack the problem— an army of female community members, touching all different aspects of our children’s lives. It is important for them to be a part of this food fight to ensure little WANDA reaches her full potential.
And, I always wanted to write a book. I use the books as a calling card to a nutrition mission in a movement starring little WANDA. The WANDA books also address issues of diversity. We’re not seeing many characters of color in children’s books.
Can you describe an experience you have had in your entrepreneurial journey so far that has been particularly meaningful?
Just getting validation when you choose to follow your purpose. It can get easy to get lost in the noise of not taking the straight path. In the words of Chadwick Boseman, “Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose." I feel that with this as well. It chose me.
Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
I was very conscious of generational healing. I am trying to heal my past, and we are growing and evolving together.
I would also say that my children represent the future. Ruby is the Chief Inspiration Officer. My son Elliot is the Chief Engineer. We may not have all the riches and treasures to give but we can give them the hope and inspiration that they can do better and be better and a sense of identity and purpose to navigate the world. Elliot just turned 9 in June, and Ruby will be 8 in August. They are getting older and speaking up for themselves. It’s really amazing. And, young people will teach you just as much as you will teach them. It’s bidirectional. It’s a mutually beneficial mentorship.
Can you describe a favorite family memory?
I wouldn’t say favorite, but I will say memorable. One day, I was driving to a WANDA event, and my son was asking where we were going. He said he wanted a cut of the profit and negotiated 35%. It was meaningful because it showed me my son knew his worth, and it motivated him to have focus when we arrived. He targeted other men, an audience I wasn’t targeting. Business is a way to bring families together that builds social capital and unites us. It’s a community-building activity.
What has been most challenging about being a mother and entrepreneur?
I am always feeling like an octopus and seeing time go by. Managing time and money is always a thing. Even though I don’t like to focus on it, little WANDA's got to eat, too.
And, managing my mind. It’s important to build community between mothers. A sense of community is needed more than ever.
What in your life has prepared you the best for these two journeys?
It’s my ancestors. It was through my dad dying and then reflecting and investigating my family history that I learned what my DNA was built out of. It was my grandma with her strong faith who is still alive managing diabetes. It was her father, an entrepreneur with high intellect and self-sufficiency. It’s allowed me to see what they did and go to the next level. We often see our history as a monolithic narrative and lose sight of our unique journeys.
What keeps you motivated through the ups and downs of both motherhood and entrepreneurship?
I alluded to these moments of reinforcement on the path before. When it gets tough, you have an email that comes that says you’ve been nominated, you’ve landed a contract.
Also, being a fitness trainer to your brain. For anyone who has done sports, it’s like performance coaches. Instead of negative Nancy, you have Brenda booster.
Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?
F2 P2: faith, focus, prioritize, and perseverance. At the end of the day, successful people are the people who continue to stay on the path. Through faith they stay on the journey. They prioritize and persevere through burdens because can see what is a burden versus what is a test of convictions.
What advice do you have for other parents beginning their parenting or entrepreneurial journeys?
Do a self-assessment of your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses by bringing on a team member with those skills or learn those skills. And, take care of your nutrition. Make sure you are taking a multi-vitamin if you are not getting what you need.