Dr. Cheryl Jackson

Trailblazing and Change Making with Cheryl “Action” Jackson

Cheryl “Action” Jackson knows how to utilize collective action to fully finance a non-profit. Jackson is the CEO and founder of Minnie’s Food Pantry, an organization that feeds the hungry in five locations in Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York. Jackson spoke with GLO about how she turned her life around from working 5 jobs between her and her husband to owning a successful company in her mother’s name to ensure no one else goes hungry.

Starting a Successful Business

Jackson recognized early on that, as a non-profit, she had to hone in on her messaging. “In the non-profit world, you still need a 30-second elevator pitch.” She found that people connected when she told her story and that they wanted to help. “When I walk into a room people say, ‘That’s Action Jackson and she’s gonna ask you for something to help her feed the hungry.”

Creating a clear mission has been integral to Jackson’s success, as others have clearly begun to associate her with her company. Jackson believes that all people who own a business should feel the same way. When you approach an investor or potential partner, you should think that you’re giving them the “opportunity of a lifetime to do business with you.”

Finding Opportunities During Covid

Covid has presented the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself, Jackson suggests. While you have time at home, think about your business failures. Why aren’t you getting meetings with the people you want to meet? What is your competitor doing better than you? Study those who are succeeding and adjust your gameplan. This is your chance to make some major changes and reemerge with a stronger business plan.

Covid has changed the trajectory of how Minnie’s Pantry functions, just as with all businesses right now. Jackson says, “If you’re an entrepreneur who is saying ‘I’m not gonna change,’ then you’re not gonna win.” Jackson had to continue to serve millions of meals to individuals while respecting Covid protocol. She went from serving food four days a week to all seven when covid hit and switched to a drive-through instead of a walk-in food pantry. With these necessary expansions during a time of need, Jackson needed to find more capital.

Jackson’s advice on accessing capital is primarily about building relationships. Lack of access to capital is the number one reason why we have half the number of entrepreneurs today in the US than we did in 1975. Venues such as GLO allow entrepreneurs connect with investors and develop these key relationships

The Importance of Networking

“Capital is all about relationships. [Businessowners] need relationships to thrive and survive.” Jackson oftentimes applies for grants and reaches out to people who are donating to other causes similar to her own, and asks them to consider donating to Minnie’s Pantry.

Jackson sought value-based partnerships (link to Nina Vaca article) by going to an event at the Chamber of Commerce. She sat in on conversations with people she could learn from. This gave her the opportunity to meet experienced business owners with who she could connect and collaborate. She would take her learnings back to her team to help them move to the next level.

How did Jackson get successful individuals to share their secrets of the trade? People are flattered by flattery. You can still build relationships in a zoom environment by using this tactic. Send your competition emails and make zoom meetings with them. Ask how they did something and see if they would be willing to share their tactics with you. If you flatter them, it will be hard to turn you town.

Cause Marketing and the Potential for Growth

 

Jackson suggests that all businesses invest in cause marketing, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s incredibly useful. She urges entrepreneurs to partner with a non-profit because of the reach it provides. Jackson stresses three main benefits to cause marketing.

  1. Your brand will become relevant to all the people in that non-profit’s database.
    • Your brand will be featured on the non-profit’s website, in their newsletters, and will be a continual source of marketing for your brand.
  2. It will give you the opportunity to do good for your community.
    • Jackson’s mother, Minnie, always told her, “When you give it comes back to you.”
  3. The non-profit will spread your name.
    • Jackson always recognizes the companies that support her business. She publically thanks everyone who supports her.

If you support the community, the community supports you. Cause marketing should be incorporated into any business plan. “It will go much further than any other type of marketing. It’s not a one-time thing.”

Jackson’s Growth Plan

Minnie’s Pantry grew to where it is today because of Jackson’s commitment to her goal. Jackson concentrated her message so everyone knew what she wanted and needed. She started small. She posted daily on Facebook, stating that there were people who were hungry, and if you donated a mere $5, you would give someone a meal and Jackson would say your name on her platform the next day. You can donate *here* now.

Jackson’s message reached people. This collective action tactic allowed people to feel good about helping. They were always recognized for their efforts, no matter how small or large their donation was. They wanted their name to be shown.

Utilizing these marketing tactics was essential for Jackson’s growth, and she has made her mark by urging people to help others in their time of need. To learn more about Minnie’s Pantry, click here. To watch Jackson’s full interview, sign up here.

 

Quick Takes Aways

  1. How and where do you find capital?
  2. Should entrepreneurs today be doing any kind of “cause marketing”
  3. How has Covid affected businesses and what can you do to adjust?
  4. Why is being a part of organizations like GLO so important for entrepreneurs?

Author

Samantha Braffman

Samantha Braffman is a Philadelphia based writer for Global Leaders Organization. She is also an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, working towards a bachelor's degree in Political Science and English.