These three Yale Law graduates have founded a retail firm with revenues of nearly $200 million

BY Preta Peace Namasaba April 18, 2024 7:43 AM EDT
These three Black Yale Law graduates have founded a retail firm with nearly $200 million in annual revenues. Photo credit: 127 Wall

While at Yale Law School, Ademola Adewale-Sadik, Michael Nance, and Walker Brumskine were among the few Black students. They shared similar backgrounds and soon became friends, spending their time brainstorming means on how to make an impact on their communities. Through Yellow Banana, a retail grocery operator with annual revenues of nearly $200 million the trio is realising their dream of transformation together.

“We were some of the only Black guys at Yale Law School and we became fast friends. Even though we were from geographically dispersed areas – Ademola immigrated from Nigeria, Walker’s heritage is from Liberia and I grew up on the urban east side of Cleveland – we all shared similar backgrounds and spent a lot of time considering how to make an impact in the communities we deeply care about,” Michael Nance explained the origins of Yellow Banana.

It was through tragedy that the three men took their conversation to a new level. The loss of Brumskine’s father and Nance’s mother compounded with the Covid-19 pandemic made them realise that life is short. They had always planned on getting rich and sharing their wealth with loved ones but knew it was not always the case. Adewale-Sadik, Nance, and Brumskine merged their collective experience in law, business, and private equity investing and teamed up with Joseph Canfield, a seasoned operator in the grocery industry.

In 2019, the Yale Law alums founded Yellow Banana, a grocery retail platform on a mandate to address food access, job creation, and economic development for the benefit of three key stakeholders: customers, colleagues, and communities. It incorporates their careers and expertise while advancing integral personal missions to tackle injustices and establish food stability across the US. Yellow Banana provides underserved communities with dignified shopping and employment experiences to enhance their quality of life and gradually tackle the damaging impact of socioeconomic inequities.

The founders leveraged their industry experience to find retail partners and acquire some of their stores in the beginning. In 2021, Yellow Banana bought 32 Save A Lot locations, positioning the company as one of the retailer’s largest partners nationwide. The stores, located in Greater Cleveland, Chicago, and Milwaukee areas were generating revenues of over $130 million annually at the time. Yellow Banana is owned by 127 Wall, a holding company formed by the retail grocery operator’s co-founders.

“We have a model of public and private partnership, a method of community engagement, and the tenacity to figure out tough problems. We want to ensure we are addressing social issues related to food insecurity, so for instance, working towards adequate housing and better transportation. We hope to expand to other areas and continue securing funding to invest in deprived communities,” Michael Nance said about what makes Yellow Banana extraordinary.

The company sets itself apart from competitors by its unique ability to partner public dollars with private dollars to create effective, meaningful support for communities. Yellow Banana is constantly on the lookout for opportunities where all three parties can ideally interact. It received a $13.5 million Community Development Grant from the City of Chicago and over $20 million in New Market Tax Credits allocation to acquire and refurbish stores across the City. Yellow Banana has partnered with Flashfood, a digital waste reduction marketplace to provide customers with access to heavily discounted food nearing its best-by date.

Today, Yellow Banana owns and operates 38 stores under the Save A Lot banner across the Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Dallas metropolitan areas. Most of its stores are located in food deserts, areas with limited access to affordable, quality food. With annual revenues of nearly $200 million, the retail grocery platform is delivering essential nutrition to working families at affordable prices.