How 3 former prison inmates started the 1st Black-owned meal prep company after being denied loans

Dollita Okine April 16, 2024
Left to right: Fritz Georges, David Lewis and Jarrette Atkins at a sampling event. Photo: MacroBites/Asbury Park Press

After serving time for drug-related offenses and being released from jail in 2013, David Lewis, the brainchild of the now-successful MacroBites, looked for a better solution. 

He told Asbury Park Press, “Though I was from a nice family, I was influenced by my surroundings and was trying to be something that I wasn’t.” Lewis and his best friend, Jarrette Atkins, who is now the CEO of their company, were both arrested not long after they graduated from high school.

“We bounced around the New Jersey prison system and I ultimately did 3½ years,” Lewis said.

Fearing a return to prison after being released in their twenties, Lewis took to trying his hand at various endeavors before realizing he had a knack for cooking.

Lewis’ father initially helped him land a job as a contractor while Atkins became a bartender. Another former prisoner friend, Fritz Georges, who is now Sous Chef, worked in construction. Nonetheless, the three friends were regularly discussing starting their own business.

A few years later, though, an opportunity unexpectedly arose when Lewis and Atkins determined they weren’t the best fit for an organization that owned franchised restaurants in New Jersey. It was then that they decided to bring their imaginations to life, having worked in the food industry.

35-year-old Lewis told, “Trying and failing a few times when I was younger left me in a dark place. But finally understanding there was another way to succeed really pushed me forward.”

In 2019, Lewis, Atkins, 35, and Georges, 37, founded MacroBites in Asbury Park, New Jersey. MacroBites is the first Black-owned meal preparatory service company in America, according to the California Business Journal. The three centered their business on their areas of expertise and passion, which were food and physical fitness.

“I was doing personal training after prison and some of my clients saw what I was eating and wanted similar food made, so I would prepare food and deliver it to them. We saw other meal prep companies doing it and decided to go for it,” Lewis told the Asbury Park Press. 

Despite Atkins’ excellent credit, they recalled that they were refused business loans when they started their company.

They did, however, save and pool their resources by selling some of the things they owned, and Georges worked additional jobs to supplement their income. They also started by using the commercial kitchen space at a friend’s restaurant on Mondays when it was closed.

Today, their ready-to-eat meal service company feeds hundreds of people every day at reasonable prices—burgers for $11, shrimp platters for $10, and vegan tacos for $13—while collaborating with other charities to provide free meals to the homeless.

Yvonne Clayton, Asbury Park City Councilwoman, said, “David, Fritz, and Jarrette, are three amazing young black men who have brought their wonderful story and vibe to Asbury Park. They have created a healthy, nutritious, and delicious menu in a community that frequently experiences high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. These entrepreneurs are community-focused and give back in many ways – including free food giveaways weekly.”

While the COVID-19 epidemic caused challenges for their company, they persevered and continued to serve other foundations and their clients to the best of their abilities. 

Lewis expressed, “We hope to create enough resources for our kids so that they can control their own destiny, fight systemic racism, and create generational wealth. We’re working hard to give our kids a chance at having the American dream.”

“We’re grateful for our customers and excited for the future. Owning the business has matured us, strengthened our work ethic, and given us hope to be successful.”

Research shows that racial disparities persist in many jails in the United States. In the year 2000, Black people made up almost half of the state prison population but only about 13% of the U.S. population.

Lewis and his friends hope to change the situation with their business and other initiatives.

Meanwhile, Georges advised, “Don’t be afraid or discouraged because you might not have it all figured out yet. Sometimes, that can take a lifetime. The trick is to never give up on your goals and dreams.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 16, 2024


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