For the past month, entrepreneurs Shakira Polite, the founder of social impact organization Black Bravado, and Christa Lynch, the founder of catering concept company Brooklyn Braised, have been coming to Work From Here by Industrious at Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn to collaborate on their latest venture: Meals On Us.

Food insecurity has risen sharply across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting nearly 54 million people — including 18 million children — according to Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger-relief organization. With Meals On Us, Polite and Lynch aim to provide critical aid by delivering three days’ worth of fresh, healthy meals to Brooklyn families. To support their efforts, Industrious and Wythe Hotel have donated office space from Work From Here by Industrious, a pop-up transforming boutique hotel rooms into on-demand office space.

Read on to learn more about Meals On Us and what the two entrepreneurs love most about working from Wythe Hotel.

Tell us about the work you do as Meals On Us.

CL: Meals On Us is a business model designed to support the Kensington Family Shelter, a CAMBA residential aide facility. The project partners with local restaurants to donate takeout meals to some of Brooklyn’s most vulnerable, food insecure residents.

SP: Food insecurity existed long before COVID-19, and unfortunately it has increased drastically due to the pandemic. Christa and I are both mothers and reducing hunger, specifically for children, is extremely important to us. We wanted to give back in a way that was relevant but also personal. For our first cycle, Meals On Us provided more than 4,000 meals over 8 weeks. We fed 59 families, most with children under 12 years old. For us that is a huge deal!

How did you two meet?

SP: Christa and I met in the summer of 2019. I had started freelancing again and she was looking for a web designer. We found that we both had a background in community work. Through the process of redesigning I became more involved in ideating new marketing concepts. It was exciting for me because I had never worked with a female owner, not to mention one of color.

CL: I was seeking a team to help me get [Brooklyn Braised] to the next phase of our business, but the first step was an updated website. I interviewed Shakira and immediately felt a connection with her. As a female employer it is important for me to keep us women working; 85% of Brooklyn Braised’s staff is female.

What inspired you to form your respective companies?

SP: I remember returning home from Mexico in 2014. I touched down at JFK with a million notifications about Mike Brown. His story wasn’t the first, but it hit differently than the others for me. I think it was the timing; I was in a particular space in my spiritual journey and looking to lead a life filled with purpose. In the weeks following I knew I wanted to have an impact beyond my network of family and friends. I sent out an email and gathered about 20 people at the local coffee shop — it was from that meeting that Black Bravado was born.

Since 2016, our mission has been to create change in communities of color through goal-oriented workshops on personal and professional development. Our Culture (+) movement helps to move the culture forward with a focus on positive representation. To date we’ve motivated more than 800 people to achieve their goals through our community programming.

CL: I’ve had 22 years in hospitality — it put me through undergrad and two advanced degrees. Brooklyn Braised was born in 2017 as a meal prep and delivery business serving the Brooklyn community, and quickly graduated to a full-scale event and production brand. Through Brooklyn Braised I have championed building a stronger food ecosystem by participating in creative ways to reduce hunger and protect the environment. I continue to expand this concept through charitable initiatives.

What’s a typical workday like for you at Wythe Hotel?

CL: I’ve been an early riser since grad school; for me that means 5:30 AM. Now that I am a mom, 5:30 AM has a new feeling.

I meet my trainer on my roof at 6:00 AM and then my first meeting begins at 9:00 AM. Most of my time is spent creating recipes, writing menus, and working on the operations of Brooklyn Braised. At least four times a week I am at the Wythe working on specific brand projects.

SP: I typically wake up before 7:00 AM, meditate or enjoy the silence that the morning brings, then check my emails. I will admit that sometimes I check my emails first but hey, I’m a work in progress! Most days I arrive at the Wythe by 10:00 AM — Christa is always there before me. On Mondays we catch up and discuss our agenda for the week.

Over the last few months I have been very intentional with my work days. I create an actionable to-do list weekly and stick to daily routines. Being at Wythe Hotel has helped me stay on task in a major way!

Does changing up your space affect your work? What about your mood?

CL: Absolutely! I feel more productive having a space for team collaboration.

SP: There have been studies on workplace psychology that literally found that people are more creative when they change their environments. I was feeling stagnant after working from home exclusively for five months. This new space has boosted my mood and allowed me to think outside the box, which is needed since, like us, many businesses are pivoting.

What’s your favorite part of your office at Wythe Hotel?

Both: It’s the outdoor space for us!

What else should people know about Work From Here by Industrious at Wythe Hotel?

CL: Even though we are not traditional guests, the staff treats us like queens.

SP: The space is designed in a very thoughtful way. The desks are large, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for someone like me who has three or four notebooks at any given moment space matters. Also, the staff at Wythe is remarkable! They remember your name and make you feel like part of the family.

How can people support Meals On Us?

Both: We are looking to start another eight-week cycle of Meals On Us. In order to do that we need to raise $25K. To help us fight food insecurity in Brooklyn, people can donate directly to our ifundwomen campaign. We’re also looking to align with corporate donors and get exposure to government grants. Our network is vast but we’re also open to new connections!