Ladyprenuers Edition: Charisse McGill

“Drake is my favorite rapper. He has a song that says, do right and kill everything! You don’t have a choice, you have to do the right thing and kill it every time! There’s no second chance!”

Charisse McGill aka French Toast Bae imparted many gems during our conversation. The above statement was about her daughter, now 14, who was her first business partner in the made-to-order food industry wherein they successfully sold lemonade at a farmer’s market. Charisse goes on to say, “If she takes that, no matter what she does, she will be able to be CEO of anything!”. Many have seen Charisse on television news or in print sharing her passion to give back to the community and put a smile on people’s faces – one French toast bite at a time. I have had the pleasure of calling her friend and watching her realize her dreams while being a trailblazer, inspiration to the youth, a great mother, and a legacy builder.

Upon my arrival, I witnessed Charisse in conversation with a couple, smile prominent, their attention captured. Her communication style is that of a story-teller. I imagine that if we still lived in a world where historical information was shared orally, that would be her placement in the tribe. Her way with people and being able to predict their needs comes from working alongside her father, who was also an entrepreneur. She describes that experience as being foundational “I got to see the hard work but also the extrinsic parts of the work as well”. One of the reasons that she chose to take a leap of faith and gamble on herself was knowing that she was savvy and able to predict trends, however, she was unable to grow in a traditional 9-5 job as much as she has in the past two years being a business owner.

When you are the only or the first of something, there’s a lot at stake!

Winning forward has definitely been a blessing for the French Toast Bites Bae, especially during a pandemic. Charisse has been very vocal about how she has had to pivot her approach to how she operates her business. Navigating the many changes during a pandemic as a young business that depends on outside venue/entertainment spaces has not been easy. Being the first Black woman as a vendor at Spruce Street Harbor, as well as, being the only who is also offering made-to-order hot and fresh eats in an outdoor space. Charisse contributes some of her success in being able to pivot by being recognizable which comes from marketing, branding, communication, and being able to deliver. She also noted the importance of trademarking what you create.

Charisse’s’ background is one from academia and practicality where she has been able to bring forth what she has learned in textbooks in real-time, on a big stage. “My friends think I’m a mad scientist, I don’t talk about things, I just do them!”. In this, she affords opportunities to underrepresented youth, many of whom she has previously taught, and exposes them entrepreneurship, up close.

If I can take any part, in having youth see entrepreneurship up close and they can be intrapreneurial within this entrepreneurial endeavor, they can do it. I tell them, don’t let me work you, work the job because with me, you’re going to meet folks from Rock Nation, the folks that do the bookings for Roots Picnic, folks who do the vendor bookings for the Delaware Waterfront Corp, etc. – if you’re just working, you’re not taking advantage of the opportunity.

Being French Toast Bae is just the beginning. There are some amazing endeavors with “unusual partnerships” ahead. Let’s just say, French toast meets beer meets brunch!

While imparting some wisdom, she told me to “find my inner DJ Khaled”. I’ve since taken this advice, to help me maintain momentum to create and be my best self – is great advice to budding Ladyprenuers!

You can currently find Charisse greeting customers and passersby at Spruce Street Harbor in Philadelphia, PA. through September 27, 2020, and on major social platforms @LokalArtisanFoods.

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