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Minority-owned businesses selected by the NFL to be vendors at the Draft

Cathy's Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwich is one of the local minority-owned businesses selected by...
Cathy's Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwich is one of the local minority-owned businesses selected by the NFL to participate in the draft as a vendor.(Cathryn Cross)
Updated: Apr. 30, 2021 at 10:18 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -As fans pour in to the NFL experience this week, they’ll get a “taste of Cleveland” from a host of local vendors selected by the NFL, many that are part of the league’s “Business Connect” program which highlights and supports minority-owned businesses.

Local companies like Cathy’s Ice Cream Sandwiches, and KG’s Homebaked Goodness have been hand-picked by the NFL to feed fans at the Draft.

“We’re used to producing a lot. Obviously, this will be a lot more, but our team is ready,” said Cathy Cross.

The league sought out and booked minority-owned vendors for the fan experience through their business connect initiative.

“It’s been a tough year. It’s been a tough year for the whole industry. This is a great way for us to get a little bit of exposure and participate in a national level event,” said Dylan Fallon of Ninja City Kitchen.

He and his partner Bac Ngyuen are prepping dishes beyond the usual football fare, like spring rolls and steam buns, exposing them to what Cleveland’s Asian community has to offer.

“It represents us. Both traditional Asian stuff and more “fusion-y” stuff for lack of a better term. The steam buns help bridge that gap,” Ngyuen said.

Baker Karen Gordon is rising to the challenge, and hopes that being “called up” by the NFL will afford her the chance to take her business to the next level.

“I wanted to truly legitimize my business and not be someone who was just doing a hobby from their house,” she said.

“We’re definitely increasing our cookie prep team hours to make sure we have as many cookies as possible,” said Cross.

She’s brought on extra staff to meet the demand of landing the huge job as a vendor at the NFL Draft fan experience.

Gordon has been baking feverishly for more than a week to get ready for the national stage.

Her constant efforts to grow her network helped land her the vendor gig. She leveraged relationship with the Urban League, Women’s Business Center, and the Business Growth Collaborative, and tapped into the commercial kitchen resources of Eric Rogers of Black Box Fix for the large-scale production.

“I hope this opportunity will open doors where I am able to open doors for others,” she said.

“One thing I’m so happy and proud of is to be a black woman and a woman of color and to have a business in a thriving downtown area, and the business being supported by the community from the downtown residents, employees, visitors. I’m thrilled the NFL recognizes that and wants to stand behind that,” Cross said.

For these minority business owners, much like the young players we’ll see on the stage, the draft is the chance they’ve been waiting for.

“We’re super excited that such a large national organization is putting an emphasis like that here in Cleveland,” Fallon said.

“I’m personally prideful and excited to showcase the best of Cleveland,” said Cross.

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