From left are Colette Moore, Effie Turnbull-Sanders, Emma Kloppenburg, Dennard Jackson, and Mario Holten. (Rickey Brown/L.A. Sentinel)


It takes a village to produce the Taste of Soul Family Festival and the multitude of vendors play a prominent role at the city’s largest block party.

At the 17th Annual TOS on Oct. 15, more than 300 vendors offered diverse cuisines, functional and futuristic products and a multitude of services.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of people in attendance enjoyed African American culture and other resources to improve their quality of life.

“Thanks to our wide range of vendors, Taste of Soul provided activities for the entire family – from food to clothing to housing assistance, educational information and leading music acts,” said Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., TOS creator/founder. “Due to their participation, we presented a free, first class event for the people of South Los Angeles.”


Vendor RLoveForFood attends the reception. (Rickey Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

As a demonstration of gratitude, the Vendor Appreciation Reception sponsored by Wells Fargo was held on Oct. 20 on the Macy’s Bridge at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.  Bakewell said the event allowed Bakewell Media to “celebrate all of the food and non-food vendors who are the heart and soul of Taste of Soul and to introduce them to resources to help their businesses, which were brought by Wells Fargo.”

Vendor The Kobbler King gives a testimony about his success at Taste of Soul. (Rickey Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

The reception allowed small business owners to interact directly with bank and other industry officials to learn about programs and services. Also, a panel discussion, which featured resource representatives, included a Q&A segment where vendors obtained answers to financial questions.

The food was catered by Dulan’s and Hotville Chicken. (Rickey Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

Mario Holten, vice president of Social Impact for Wells Fargo Southern California Region, spearheaded the sponsorship of the reception and recruited various colleagues to share their knowledge. Other participants were Colette Moore of PCR Business Finance, who also operates The Restaurant Academy and the SELF (Sisters fund for women minority businesses); and Effie Turnbull-Sanders, USC vice president of Civic Engagement and Economic Partnership who outlined the university’s Bridges to Business program.

In addition, Emma Kloppenburg of LISC – Local Initiatives Support Corporation – detailed the variety of grants, loans, and businesses cohorts available to vendors; and Dennard Jackson, vice president of Private Banking at Bank of America, reviewed wealth management/building and succession planning strategies.


Vendor Recruiter/Special Projects Coordinator Amira Elswify speaks to the vendors attending the reception. (Rickey Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

Holten of Wells Fargo noted that bringing all the experts together fulfills his mission to assist others in reaching their goals.

As he explained, “I once heard a quote that stated, ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re probably on the menu.’ As true community banks, it is all of the ‘big banks’ responsibilities to create those ‘seats at the table.’

“Wells Fargo’s goal for this event was to bring as many of the resources as we could to the community. People may not be aware of USC’s ‘Bridges to Business’ program, or PCR Business Finance’s Restaurant Academy, or SELF program for women owned businesses. Organizations like LISC (Local Initiatives Support Campaign) have grants, loans, and initiatives to help small business owners with capacity building,” said Holten.

“We have to help the people in our communities close the wealth gap, and create financial independence. It is up to us that work in the finance sector to help get the information out to anyone and everyone that will listen. As a true community bank we have to roll up our sleeves and meet the community where they are at,” he emphasized.

“I live in this community, so for Taste of Soul to give us this platform to serve our community, it was huge. We were able to communicate our vision to Pam [Bakewell] and Nicole [Williams] and put together an event that had real a impact on these small business owners. That has to be our goal everyday as a community, to share resources, make impact, and make sure that everyone has the knowledge needed to be successful,” Holten added.