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Khalid is Director of Strategy and Transformation for the Third Stage Consulting Group.  

Khalid joined the SVP Denver Board in November 2022. 

What motivated you to apply for the SVP Denver board? 

I completed the 2021 Leadership Denver program which encourages community involvement. We had a great class which included Colleen Kazemi, who was the Executive Director of SVP Denver at the time.

In our conversations she said, “You’re the kind of person that we should bring in for the board.”  Social impact is a big part of what I’m passionate about in business.

This gave me an opportunity to engage in a space where I wanted to be more connected. I feel like there are a lot of gaps in the financial world for minority businesses, and for social entrepreneurs in general.  So this just gave me an opportunity to get closer to this area of interest. 

One effort that you’ve been leading is the Family Tree Market. What led to this effort and where is the effort on its journey? 

Our effort is in the middle of its journey. I think it’s very tough to get financing for a grocery store. Our business model is unusual. It’s not a traditional grocery store model. It brings in a lot of health dynamics, service dynamics, and new use cases. We require a certain level of innovation, particularly on the technology side.  We’ve modeled it and it works, but in trying to explain that to financiers, they struggle with the risks as opposed to embracing the health impacts for the communities we serve. Change isn’t easy for traditionalists.

My background is primarily finance, consulting and technology. Retail grocery has been an area I’ve researched since college. It’s difficult to break into retail groceries independently, especially as a minority, but I’m connected to having a material impact on health. I truly believe that the current food model is broken, and that change is required to better support communities across the country.

This cuts to why I’m helping with the social impact space. If you want to have a real impact, particularly around social gaps, traditional business models aren’t gonna do it. If they did, then it would have already been done. 

There’s a lot of capital out there. There are a lot of business models out there. You’ll hear traditional speeches about margins and loan payback. These are all valid points, but when you’re trying to plug a social gap, the blueprint hasn’t been created yet. You’re trying to disrupt and do something that hasn’t necessarily been done before so it requires patient capital from sources that are connected to the outcome. The financial world tends to want to invest in safe things rather than transformational things. 

This is not something that we just decided to tackle yesterday, however. This has been a decade-long effort of data collection – talking with public health professionals and business modeling. This is something we hope we’ll be able to pass on to the next generation so that our children and our communities understand what we’re putting in our bodies. 

It’s an insane lift. But, I’m a gap guy. I went to school to learn how to tackle hard things. Nobody’s doing this, so why not me? I’m a firm believer in diligence – continuing to move in a direction – understanding your mission, and continuing to do it until it no longer needs to be done. 

Is there a community understanding of the problem? 

We’re trying to solve a health issue with a business model that shifts the way we think about food. The US health budget is insane. When you talk to public health professionals, they almost all tell you the same thing: We need to eat better. We need to exercise. It’s like a broken record. So if we know what it is, then how come we can’t make it happen? You start to really see how we’re stuck within our existing models. 

I’m not a health wonk that knows everything, but as a collective society, we don’t know what we’re putting in our mouths? The everyday consumer is not going to be able to go to a fast-food restaurant, pull out their food bible and analyze the menu.

I feel like the food industry doesn’t want to take responsibility for your health, which I understand, but support, I believe, is required at this point. My father had a stroke a few years ago. They gave me a little piece of paper with what he should and should not eat. We went to Chili’s not too long after he was well and I was thinking, “Where’s the paper? Let’s try to figure out what you can eat.”  And he said, “Don’t worry about it.” That’s what I think people across the country are saying about their health, “I’m not gonna worry about it. It’s too complicated.” For the families that are dealing with this, it’s depressing to think about. 

Couple that scenario with communities all across the country that are essentially food swamps, with no grocery stories and you start to see the problem. Even with grocery stores the problem still exists to be honest. The Rand Corporation did a study that showed access to healthy food is not enough if you don’t change your eating habits. So how are you actually going to do that? This is what our business models. We’re trying to tackle health in our food environments. We don’t think that it’s specific to affluent communities and non-affluent communities.  We just think non-affluent communities get the short end of the stick, and very few people care.

When you were a child, who were your heroes?

I grew up in Los Angeles and I really liked watching Magic Johnson play basketball. He was a larger point guard and it took me some time to really understand what I liked about him. When he retired from the game and he actually started to work in business, I was attracted to his leadership and his will. Black male leaders were interesting to me because they weren’t very common. So, Magic was a leader that really jumped off the page. 

Another hero of mine was my grandfather who lived well into his 100s. He pastored our church for over 60 years in Los Angeles. He always had a suit on. He would wear slacks to the beach. He always had a regal presence about him. He was a leader in the community that got things done and I admired that. 

I don’t want to make it specific to men though. I grew up with my mom and she certainly influenced my life. She was an educator – one of the teachers on the line when the teachers were striking. She’s a fairly quiet person but she’s very outspoken when she needs to be.

So I took little pieces from people around me and I was always observant. I had a lot of people around me to look up to and see qualities that made them effective at caring for their community and making a difference.

Do you like to grill? If so, what’s your favorite food to grill? 

I don’t eat much meat. I get a lot of flack for this now. Growing up I used to eat baby back ribs and sausages a lot, but once I got to college, I went vegetarian. Then, I lost too much weight, and started eating chicken and fish again. So historically, I guess chicken has been my food of choice on the grill. 

I do like to season it with salt and pepper, add a little rub now and then. My secret would be putting a little liquid smoke on it. But, you don’t want to overdo it in terms of seasoning. Just let it slow cook and you’re good. 

Do you garden? If so, what is your favorite thing to grow?

I do, but I don’t think I’m the best at it.  Herbs are a really good thing to grow for me.

Strawberries are a little harder, but I’m trying to get that down now. They take a little time, so you’ll have to ask me where my skill level is at, in a year or two from now?  Hopefully I’ll have a better answer then. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

I’ve done a lot of work in technology consulting.  I love technology and I love the benefits of technology on business models. I work with Third Stage Consulting now on selecting and implementing business systems. I also have a real estate background. 

I need passion to get me up and working though. Trying to have a positive impact on the world around me is a mission that I’ll chase. I’ll be connected to communities for as long as I’m able as a result. That to me is what excites me about my future.