Updated: Jan 25, 2020
“It’s not about what the shark says, it’s about what GOD says. The sharks said “no,” but GOD said yes!” - Lakesha Brown-Renfro
Just a short drive from Fort Monroe, where Africans were first brought to Virginia in 1619, resides one of the finest bistros in Virginia; Mango Mangeaux! Directly across the street, your eyes are instinctively drawn to the bright mango doors of Simply Panache Place: A Boutique Hotel - which frames the entrance of The Hampton: A Simply Panache Venue. If you continue driving to the next block of East Mellen Street, you’ll see Noir: A Simply Panache Lounge.
At that moment, if not sooner, it will become extremely clear: Simply Panache Groupe is living out the ancestors’ wildest dreams by buying back the block.
It all started when three friends: Lakesha Brown-Renfro, Tanecia Willis, and Nzinga Teule-Hekima were event planners for their company, Simply Panache. (Panache is French for style and flare). The ladies created a popular gourmet mango preserve and requested their chefs infuse their recipes with it. This led to mango lemonade, mango vinaigrette, spicy mango shrimp and more becoming popular with Simply Panache’s social and corporate event attendees.
They decided to produce the preserves for retail sales, at the Hanover Cannery, and began selling the mango preserves at Virginia Farmers’ Markets. Then a friend suggested they go on Shark Tank; at the time they weren’t familiar with the show, but figured they’d give it a shot. Simultaneously, they were approached by two buyers from QVC, who encouraged them to make an on-air pitch. Surprised by the opportunities presented to them, Simply Panache decided to go back to the drawing board.
“When you have all of these plans, sometimes you have to make revisions to them” -Brown-Renfro.
The ladies made a very successful pitch to QVC, which led to QVC placing an order for tens of thousands of jars, and led to an opportunity to go on-air to pitch the “Party in a Jar!” Meanwhile, Shark Tank began discussions with Simply Panache, which led to them submitting a video using the preserves and the catchy jingle: “Spread it, mix it, shake it, stir it!”
As favor would have it, both QVC and Shark Tank would want the ladies on their shows, on the same date. They decided to postpone the QVC opportunity, and went on Shark Tank. Every shark said “no,” but were very gracious with their feedback. Following the show, they made $300,000.00 in sales - which they decided to invest back into their community with the opening of The Boutique Spa at Simply Panache Nail Bar & Pedi Spa, followed by Mango Mangeaux: A Simply Panache Bistro, Simply Panache Place: A Boutique Hotel, and The Hampton: A Simply Panache Venue.
Since opening Mango Mangeaux, they’ve served over 400,000 people in four years, and are a Top 50 Bistro! In addition to serving delicious food, they host rooftop events such as painting, dinner and a movie, and yoga!