Kiano Moju opened the Los Angeles-based culinary creative studio, Jikoni, in November 2019, just four months before the country shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic and six months before the national civil unrest after the death of George Floyd.
Before starting Jikoni, which means kitchen in Swahili, Moju was a culinary video producer for the Buzzfeed website Tasty, which describes itself as the world's largest food network and then she launched into freelancing.
After seeing that there was a market for spaces to shoot culinary videos in LA, Moju decided to open Jikoni. She was overwhelmed by the number of requests.
"As soon as I opened the space, I learned that the demand was bigger than my original vision," Moju explained.
But the noise from the protests and helicopters constantly circling the arts district, filming at Jikoni was impossible and revenue was lost.
"It was very touch and go where we thought we were going to have clients coming in, and then news of L.A. COVID-19 cases increased causing everything to be canceled," said Moju.
But then Beyonce stepped in. Moju was one of 20 Black business owners who received a grant from Beyonce's BeyGOOD Foundation. In a partnership with the NAACP, the BeyGOOD Foundation awarded minority entrepreneurs impacted by the pandemic and the civil unrest $10,000 to help them rebuild.
"God is good, because this grant came at a time where we were just able to legally open up, but companies were still internally expressing that no one's forcing them to go shoot again," said Moju.
The BeyGOOD grant has provided hope for the future of this business. In addition to Jikoni, Moju also created a series called Cooking the Diaspora in which cookbook authors and passionate home cooks share their recipes.
"With this grant, we're able to, one, just keep our location, then make all those small renovations that clients have been demanding," said Moju. "So, when people are interested in booking, they actually can be like, 'Yes, the studio has everything we need. Let's do it.'"