The creator of the Fort Worth Foodies Facebook page had to stop her car and pull over recently when she learned that she had received a $40,000 grant for the site.
“I was stunned. That may not seem like a lot of money for some organizations, but for a small group like Fort Worth Foodies, $40,000 is a lot,” said Connie Bally, who founded the group in 2017.
Fort Worth Foodies now has 103,000 followers.
“I was driving when I received the message, and I had to pull over to process it,” Bally said.
Fort Worth Foodies received the grant from Facebook’s parent company, Meta, as part of its Meta Accelerator Program.
The award includes not just the $40,000 but also provides funding, coaching development and networking opportunities. The awards are given to groups across the world that have goals and plans to enhance their communities.
Bally said she was particularly honored when she learned that only 4,800 groups are allowed to apply and fewer than 35 winners selected in the U.S.
“It’s just a pretty amazing program. I’m very, very humbled and honored to be in this, to have been accepted,” she said.
Bally is already putting the grant to work. She’s using some of the funds to help repair a fence of east Fort Worth’s Bridgewood Church of Christ. The church had planted some fruit trees and a garden to provide much-needed produce for people in the food desert of East Fort Worth.
“Someone tore down the fence and stole the fruit trees,” Bally said.
She wants to use the rest of the funds to launch a citywide, culinary incubator event early next year that will attract not only local chefs, entrepreneurs, and restaurants, but other service areas that also touch the culinary world – financing, music/arts, content, design, and other areas.
“I want to do an entrepreneurial job fair thing, just to kind of get people working again,” she said.
Bally admits she doesn’t quite know what that will look like yet.
It will start initially on the Facebook platform and then move out to a live event, she said.
“I am really casting the net wide,” she said. “Anything that deals with the culinary arts. If you’re a truck driver, if you’re a grocer, you want to learn to weld, to build a better mousetrap. If you want to learn about content creation or photography. There’s a million things that people touch to make that hamburger, get that hamburger on the plate and get it in front of you.”
Bally wants the event to attract people with the entrepreneurial spirit who want to get involved in the food industry, but aren’t quite sure how to fit in.
“I would love to be able to give people an opportunity in a really fun way to get people involved in the industry,” she said.
Bally wants to help people who are making food products but who need help with the next step to make their products a success.
“A lot of people have a product, but, say, it’s not made in a commercial kitchen and they don’t know that,” she said. “I want to help them take that next step.”
For Bally, she and the Facebook site have come a long way from 2017.
Before starting Fort Worth Foodies, Bally had no social media management experience. But she spent 32 years working in finance and had “good business sense,” she said.
Now she hopes to take the group to another level by increasing community impact.
Still, at the end of the day, she wants the group to be the place people go to “find the best banana pudding, the best barbecue.”
“We’ll always be that, but we can be so much more,” she said.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.