Image credit: Teranga
Nafy Flatley was following the American Dream to perfection.
Right after graduating from the University of San Francisco (USF), the Senegal native catapulted herself into a career that saw her shatter glass ceilings and expectations when she became a marketing manager for a medical device company within just three years. She got married and started a family. And she was financially supporting her mother, who also moved from Senegal to San Francisco to be close by. Dreams were turning into reality.
However, once the global economic recession unfolded in the late 2000s, Flatley shifted her perspective on her work and life altogether.
“They wanted me to come into the office every day five days a week,” said Flatley, when speaking about her hectic work schedule.
Since then, Flatley’s work-life balance was never the same. She was leaving at 5 a.m. to go to work, splitting time to watch kids with her partner. Flatley knew it would be difficult to live on one stream of income for her entire family as San Francisco’s cost of living skyrocketed.
Flatley’s friends suggested that she start her own restaurant. At first, it was a running joke because of how focused she was on her marketing career. But she eventually came to terms with the idea that launching her own establishment would be more conducive to her lifestyle.
Enter Teranga Juice, a concept in the Tenderloin District that, on the surface, feels just like another trendy place for the average San Francisco foodie to grab snacks. However, Flatley taps into subtle Senegalese roots in ways that nearly go unnoticed. Teranga, which also means “hospitality” in Flatley’s native Wolof language, seeks to recapture childhood memories of cooking with baobab fruit.
“We use organic products… we don’t compromise, you know, the taste and the flavor,” said Flatley. “It’s really African.”
With a menu consisting of items like fruit seeds and pulp to nuts and juices, Teranga thrives with an authentic, original take on wellness. But as COVID-19 made its way to San Francisco, the juice bar and its owner have been handed new challenges.
In March and April, Flatley was unsure of what was in store for Teranga. She was forced to let go of employees in the kitchen, leaving her to figure out what new operations would look like by herself.
“It’s been very difficult to find the funding to stay afloat. They’re talking about the PPP (Payment Protection Program), they’re talking about loans and grants, and all those loans are [already] granted,” said Flatley.
“All the institutions are racially driven.”
As a Black immigrant female business owner, Flatley has not received the same level of support that other White and male restaurant owners have been privileged to have during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal program providing financial relief to small businesses, only funded 12 percent of Black and Latinx applicants in the early months of the pandemic, according to an online survey. Experts also initially projected that 90 percent of minority and female-owned companies would be denied PPP funding, a challenge not faced by many White business owners.
“I don’t think any business should be left behind…” said Flatley. “The city should find a way to support us in every single way…”
“I need to be proud of what I am.”
Despite the odds, Flatley is still finding ways to put Teranga in a better position to succeed without any additional outside funding. Controlling what she can, Flatley adjusted the menu to sell items that could last three to five days, extending the shelf life for ingredients and supplies.
The efforts cut costs, without taking away from the high standard she sets for all of Teranga’s products. Flatley also rolled out all-new recipes that can be made at home. The Strawberry and Baobab Smoothie—along with the Baobab, Chocolate and Avocado Smoothie—have become fan favorites during COVID-19 and are available here.