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Interviews with Change-Makers: Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals

Author: Apeel Team

We can’t possibly come close to achieving our mission of creating more abundance for all if there is anyone in our community who is left behind. This is why, on top of fighting food waste through plant-based protection, we’re partnering with and investing in organizations who are doing the hard work to drive systems of change. 

Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals (SBYBP) is one of those organizations. SBYBP is a non-profit for young black professionals to participate in educational workshops, community service, and networking opportunities in the Santa Barbara community where we’re headquartered.

As part of our investment, Apeel has donated toward their Unity in Community initiative, which specifically supports the mental and emotional health of members. 

It’s important work and we’re proud to help make it possible in any way. 

To share more about SBYBP, we have Nikia Acy here to answer some questions: 

Can you tell us a little bit about the mission/goals of the Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals (SBYBP) organization?

Nikia: Our goal is to create and foster positive relationships which empower young Black professionals in the Santa Barbara area by creating and participating in opportunities for professional development, social enrichment, and community service.

Amazing. And what was the driving force behind SBYBP?

Nikia: SBYBP was started in July of 2016. At the time, we realized that the Black community was not thriving. Students would graduate and leave because there weren’t enough job opportunities here and professionals were leaving in search of places that had more diversity. We thought by creating a community where both professional and personal relationships could thrive, the Black community could grow and, most importantly, remain in Santa Barbara.

How has it been growing from the ground up? What have you learned throughout the growth of the org? 

Nikia: Being a part of an organization from the beginning has been quite the experience. We began growing really quickly. Initially, it was like building a plane as we were flying it. We stepped up where we had to whether we had the experience or not. We had a few growing pains as we navigated financial needs, lack of volunteers, catering events to larger crowds, and the like, but it’s been amazing seeing the community come together to support us and our mission. It’s also been amazing to see the support that we’ve gotten from other non-profits and locally-based organizations. Several of them did not know that a Black community even existed here. 

Since the inception of SBYBP, my biggest learning has been that the community comes first. Despite small issues that may arise or the feeling of not having enough bandwidth to support our plans, when we’re at our events and everyone’s networking, fostering relationships, and just enjoying themselves, we know that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. That the team is doing what we have to do to ensure that our community feels safe and like we deserve to be here.

How are you working with Apeel to further SBYBP’s goals?

Nikia: Apeel has made a huge contribution to support our goal for this year. With the pandemic and most folks working from home, mental health has been a top priority for us. Since we haven’t been able to meet in person we wanted to do something for our members to let them know that we’re thinking of them. The Apeel grant that we received is allowing us to do gestures as small as creating self-care bags for our members to eventually being able to pay a part of their therapy. We would not be able to accomplish this without Apeel.

Where can people learn more about what you’re up to? 

Nikia: If anyone is looking for resources in the community I would recommend that they head to our website,, where they can join the collective as well as find a list of Santa Barbara County Black-Owned Businesses to support.