By Kriston Jay Bethel
A few years ago, Tariq Mangum was concerned he wasn’t giving his body the nutrition it needed. “I don’t eat a lot,” Mangum says of his personal diet. “I probably eat two meals a day.” So he started researching ways he could enhance the quality of his diet, finally settling on homemade smoothies to supplement his meals. Eventually, a friend asked if Mangum could make him one. Then another friend. Then another. That’s when he realized he could turn it into something.
Now he’s working on a new venture that he hopes will become the Starbucks of juice.
“I came up with the idea of creating a healthy juice and bringing it to the community,” Mangum says. “A better tasting, healthier juice that we can enjoy.”
Mangum says that what sets Delectable Juices apart from others is the focus on locally sourced fruits, and that his products are made without the common sugars and additives found in most major brands.
Equally as important to its contents is the pricing. Mangum is trying to build partnerships with local farms so he can keep the price below the average $9 per bottle for popular brands sold at Whole Foods. A 16-ounce bottle of fruit juice from delectablejuices.com is $5.
Currently run out of West Philadelphia’s Enterprise Center with a single commercial cold juice presser and several employees, it’s a simple operation that goes a long way toward his goal of providing a healthful and affordable drink. It’s Mangum’s way of addressing the lack of access to healthy food for many in Philadelphia, where 1 in 4 residents lives with food insecurity.
Mangum has a history of seeking solutions to Philadelphia’s problems. After graduating from college, he used his own money to start the Mangum Foundation, with a broad goal of improving communities. He’s covered everything from providing meals to the homeless to creating a sensory room for students with autism at an elementary school. He’s even started a youth soccer team, AC Fairhill, that will soon have a home field in North Philadelphia.
The inspiration for all of Mangum’s philanthropic endeavors can be traced back to 2006, at the end of his senior year of high school. While seeing off a friend to prom, the driver of the car he was in backed into a pole.
Everyone else in the vehicle was unharmed, but whiplash broke the C5, C6 and C7 vertebrae in Mangum’s neck. It was miraculous, doctors said, that he was even alive. Left paralyzed from the neck down, he was told that he would have to relearn how to talk and that he would never walk again. Mangum’s plans to attend Kutztown University, where he had a full scholarship lined up to play basketball, were abruptly ended.
“Your whole life’s about to start as a young adult, and it’s cutoff,” Mangum says, reflecting on that singular, life-changing moment. “It turned out to be for the better.”
Despite his initial struggles, there’s nothing about that day that has slowed Mangum down. He eventually went on to regain use of his arms and complete a business degree at Strayer University. All of this he attributes to those around him.
“My support system was the biggest thing to help my recovery,” Mangum says. “I want to create a support system for others.”
Delectable Juices are available online, and this summer Mangum will take them to the streets in a food truck. But his long game is to use the bottled product to test the market and generate seed money for a business model that will eventually focus on bringing brick-and-mortar stores to underserved communities.
He envisions stores that provide healthful juices, snacks and maybe even classes to help communities better manage their diets.
“It’s not a juice,” Mangum says. “It’s a brand.”