Catching Up With: Lakesha Brown-Renfro, Nzinga Teule-Hekima, and Tanecia Willis of Simply Panache Groupe

Clockwise from top left: Lakesha Brown-Renfro, Nzinga Teule-Hekima, and Tanecia Willis of Simply Panache Groupe, photographed by Sara Harris Photography.

As a network of more than 3,000 small businesses, we’re paying close attention to how they’re faring in an age of social distancing. In an effort to stay connected to our TSG community and share their stories, we’re “catching up with” different business owners every week to hear about their challenges, learn how they’re coping, and find out how they’re spending their time at home. Today, we’re checking in with Lakesha Brown-Renfro, Nzinga Teule-Hekima, and Tanecia Willis of Simply Panache Groupe, a Hampton, Virginia-based lifestyle brand that includes Mango Mango Preserves (the gourmet spread that landed the three event-planners-turned-entrepreneurs on the television show Shark Tank—keep reading for information on a special offer), the boutique hotel Simply Panache Place, the relaxation-focused retreat Simply Panache Nail Bar & Pedi Spa, the stylish modern event space The Hampton, the French-Creole-NeoSoul bistro Mango Mangaux, and their latest venture, the private social club Noir: A Simply Panache Lounge. Here, they discuss how they’ve been helping to feed the front lines, the excitement and anxiety of reopening for business, and their commitment to spreading love in their community.

What’s your business up to right now?
Early in the pandemic, when schools were just closed and, therefore, the school lunch program was suspended, we decided to help our community by providing free lunches for nearly 1,200 students. It is important to us to support the community that supports us. We have been excited to expand our reach in concert with World Central Kitchen and Pharrell to feed 3,000 people in need a month.

Your biggest challenge professionally and/or personally:
One of us is a physician and works in a local hospital on the front line. We have had to pivot our businesses to address governmental pandemic mandates. As we are moving into the second phase of re-opening our bistro, being on the front line and therefore knowing that this pandemic is still raging on gives us trepidation that we did not have to worry about before. It feels odd to be both excited and nervous about things opening back up. The opportunity to generate more revenue is very thrilling, but the medical side knows that opening brings more exposure risk as well, and this drives the nervousness quotient up pretty high. We are committed to safely serving our CommUNITY.

The “Spread Love” sign in front of Mango Mangeaux: A Simply Panache Bistro in Hampton, Virginia. Photo by Sara Harris Photography.

What’s bringing you joy:
Positivity is bringing us joy. We are trying to constantly reach out and SPREAD LOVE in our business community for our neighbors, guests, and employees. (In fact, we have installed those exact words in front of our bistro.)  We are also finding the joy within our families and friends and being a beacon of light to each other.

What you’re watching/reading/listening to:
Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and She Did That, a Netflix documentary that promotes representation of Black female business owners.

Your go-to snack:
Our Mango Mango fruit dip—it’s our gourmet mango preserves (sold online here) mixed with whipped cream cheese and eaten with fresh fruit and honey crackers. [Editor’s note: You can find the recipe here.]  To spread the love, Simply Panache Groupe is currently offering a Scout Guide Special: two 16-ounce jars of  ‘Mango Mango’ Mango Preserves, a jar of Jammin’ Ginger Party Mix, plus recipes for how to put them to good use, for just $30—you can order this special here.

Your favorite family activity:
Our favorite family activity is baking oatmeal chocolate-chip pecan cookies and having Zoom bible study with our extended family.

The local businesses/services you’re using this week:
We love natural and organic Shea butters, lotions, and soaps. We purchase them for our spa, Simply Panache Nail Bar & Pedi Spa. We also source local produce from the surrounding farmers for our menu at Mango Mangeaux: A Simply Panache Bistro.