Charlotte Business Journal
By Erik Spanberg
Black Business Owners of Charlotte has landed Duke’s Mayonnaise as sponsor of a newly created food-truck competition that will end with a winner being crowned at Bank of America Stadium in September.
Organizers told CBJ the event will help bring more attention to Black-owned businesses and, they hope, investment in those enterprises.
The top two finishers in the food-truck competition will receive grants of $6,000 and $2,000, respectively.
The mayonnaise brand is the title sponsor of the Duke’s Mayo Classic, an annual college football game played at the NFL stadium in uptown. This year’s game — to be played Sept. 3 — will, for the first time, feature two historically Black colleges and universities: N.C. A&T State University and N.C. Central University.
To help promote the A&T-Central game, Bespoke Sports & Entertainment, a Charlotte-based marketing agency whose clients include Duke’s, worked with BBOC on a program aimed at raising awareness for the game while boosting Black-owned businesses.
BBOC is a nonprofit founded in 2014 by Cathay Dawkins, who is also the organization’s CEO.
The nonprofit works with all types of businesses but has been particularly successful with food-related ventures. Black Food Truck Fridays started in 2017 and became an offshoot of Charlotte Black Restaurant Week. Both were started — and are still run — by BBOC.
“They knew that we were attached to a majority of the Black-owned businesses here in Charlotte,” Dawkins told CBJ. “So, it was the perfect relationship.”
Dawkins went on to say that while Black Food Truck Fridays have been successful, with attendance of 2,500 to 5,000 people and 10 trucks participating each week, it has been all but impossible to attract corporate sponsors.
Black Food Truck Fridays are most often staged at West Complex CLT, 1600 W. Trade St., in partnership with Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte’s lone HBCU. A&T’s campus is in Greensboro; Central’s is in Durham.
The symbolism of the sponsorship is as important as the capital, he added.
“For us, as an organization, it’s a game-changer because once you get a major sponsor, other major sponsors follow,” Dawkins said. “Because they know, ‘OK, you’ve worked on this level with this sponsor, we will follow.’ And we’re already seeing it. For Black-owned businesses, it shows that Duke’s Mayo as a major corporation is interested in supporting Black-owned businesses and they’re not afraid to say, ‘We’re supporting Black-owned businesses.’”
Mike Boykin, Bespoke Sports CEO, pointed to the influence of BBOC in the local Black community as a crucial ingredient.
BBOC has 180,000 email subscribers and membership of 5,300 registered Black-owned businesses. Of those businesses, 75% are in North Carolina, with Charlotte accounting for the largest portion. Last year, 103 food trucks participated in Black Food Truck Fridays here, according to BBOC.
“We were looking at authentic ways to get involved in the community,” Boykin said. “We’re excited about this.”
Entrants will pay $300 each (details here) and participate in three weeks of professionally judged competition for recipes that include Duke’s Mayo. The food trucks will serve as part of Black Food Truck Fridays at the West Trade Street location on July 8, July 22 and Aug. 12.
The five judges, still to be determined, will award points, with the top five finishers advancing to participate in the football game’s fan festival outside the stadium on Sept. 3. All five trucks will be able to sell their items to an anticipated crowd of 25,000 or more, but only the top two will be competing for the championship.
The winner will be announced and honored on the field at halftime of the Central-A&T game later that day.
Dawkins said that each round of competition will be sandwiched around a four-hour sales period to the public, ensuring all entrants more than offset the $300 entry fee.
Boykin said more events surrounding the game are in the planning stages, including a step show, concert and more. Duke’s will promote the game in grocery stores by including the school logos and kickoff game logo on its mayo jars in August.
The game is owned and operated by the Charlotte Sports Foundation.
Beyond Bespoke and Duke’s Mayo, other partners with the sports foundation include 100 Black Men of Charlotte and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Duke’s Mayo is owned by Sauer Brands, which was acquired in 2019 by Charlotte-based private-equity firm Falfurrias Capital Partners.