Stronger Together is a series of entrepreneur profiles created by Baltimore Small for Made In Baltimore. Each profile tells a story of innovation and collaboration in the face of the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.  This story first appeared in Bmore Art on June 21st 2021.

 

 

““My first day working at Taharka Brothers was great. I started in 2013, right out of high school.”

“I came down to the factory to meet Sean and the rest of the team. They greeted me with open arms. It was the first time I had ever met young men my age that really wanted to go into business. When I got here, I said ‘oh my goodness, all you guys want to be entrepreneurs, and this is what I’ve always wanted to do since I was younger.’

The founder of Taharka Brothers, Sean Smeeton, was my dad’s mentor when he was a teenager. My dad got mixed up in the Baltimore street life, but Sean, who was mentoring other kids in the Lexington Terrace neighborhood, helped them start lawn care and newspaper delivery businesses.

Over time they lost contact and when my dad passed away, Sean couldn’t get in touch with my family. Years passed and he started Taharka Brothers in memory of my dad. My dad’s name was Taharka. 

My grandmother told me about the company after she saw the brand and recognized the name. She went down to the factory and met with Sean and then told me to get in contact with him.

Detric McCoy stocks inventory at Taharka Brothers’ Hampden factory

After I signed on the dotted line, I accepted that it’s real and I had to step up to the plate and try to hit some home runs.

I started out packing pints of ice cream and working on our truck during events. I decided to go to college for my associate degree. Sean is a CPA and that inspired me to pursue accounting. He would help me out with school and when I’d come to work, I applied what I’d learned.

At the end of 2020 we became a worker-owned cooperative. There are six owners and I’m one of them. This has been in the works for a while because there are a lot of things that go into creating this type of business. It’s really a teamwork thing and we set ourselves up before we actually signed the papers. We worked with lawyers, created bylaws, and determined how to structure the boards.

As we got closer to becoming a worker-owned cooperative, I was battling with believing if it was real. Where I come from, you don’t see this happening, even if it’s happening to you, you’re just so surprised.

Being from Baltimore you see a lot of bad things all the time, so it’s hard to believe something this great could happen. We’re four months into the worker-owner cooperative and now I feel like I’ve got to do better every day.  

The 8-pint home delivery boxes that helped enable the company’s pandemic pivot to online ordering

We lost a lot of business during the pandemic because we sell most of our ice cream to restaurants and institutions.

The public stepped in and filled that void for us. They were going to grocery stores and buying whole shelves of ice cream, ordering home deliveries, and tagging us on Instagram.

I really appreciate that, if it wasn’t for them, we probably wouldn’t be in business right now.

If my father were alive, I know he would be happy with Taharka Brothers. He put a lot of good out into the world, and I believe that’s why I’m benefiting from this.”

Interview and Photography by Jon Bregel via @BaltimoreSmall

Stronger Together: Featuring Maryland Medical Industries

Stronger Together: Featuring Maryland Medical Industries

Maryland Medical Industries co-owners: Kim Strassner, Patrick Iles, Samantha Kiffer, Dan Janssen, Cecilia Grimm, Matthew Williams, and Jeremiah Jones (seated). Not pictured: Robert Andelman, Jill Andrews   Stronger Together is a series of entrepreneur profiles...