Judy Wicks is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and mentor working to build a more compassionate, environmentally sustainable and locally based economy.
Her recent book Good Morning, Beautiful Business: the Unexpected Journey of an Activist Entrepreneur and Local Economy Pioneer was published by Chelsea Green in March, 2013.
Judy’s speaking engagements focus on the topics of local living economies, responsible business, and the role of the feminine in building a new economy. She has addressed communities throughout the USA and Canada, as well as Berlin, Delhi, Havana, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Her keynote presentations at numerous conferences provide insight and inspiration concerning the deep connections between local food, ecology, economy and social justice. Judy is popular with students and faculty and has presented at many universities including the University of Pennsylvania, Syracuse University, Keene State, the University of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Yale, Harvard, Bryn Mawr and Haverford College, where she gave a commencement address and received an honorary decree.
Growing up on the outskirts of Ingomar, a small town in western Pennsylvania just north of Pittsburgh, Judy developed a deep love of nature and witnessed the role of small businesses in community life. After graduating from college in 1969 with a BA in English, she lived for nearly a year in the remote Alaskan Eskimo village of Chefornak as a VISTA volunteer. Here she had the transformational experience of living in a culture based on sharing and cooperation. During the 1990’s this insight was further expanded by working with the Zapatista revolutionaries in Chiapas, Mexico, to set up a fair trade coffee venture. Her experiences working with small farmers in Chiapas, as well as at home in Pennsylvania, evolved Judy’s vision of a global economy comprised of a network of self-reliant and sustainable local economies connected by small-to-small fair trade relationships.
In working toward this vision for self-reliant local communities, in 2001, she founded the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, www.sbnPhiladelphia.org and co-founded the international Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, www.bealocalist.org. BALLE, which now includes some 30,000 local independent businesses in the U.S. and Canada, envisions an economy that provides for the needs of all people while working in harmony with natural systems.
As an entrepreneur Judy is best known for Philadelphia’s landmark White Dog Cafe, which she founded in 1983 on the first floor of her house and managed for 26 years. After helping to save her block of Victorian brownstones from demolition to make way for a proposed mall of chain stores, she grew what she began as a tiny muffin shop into a 200-seat restaurant featuring fresh local food. Over the years White Dog grew a national reputation for community engagement, environmental stewardship, and responsible business practices. In 2009, Judy sold the company through a unique exit strategy that preserves White Dog’s sustainable practices and maintains local, independent ownership.
Under Judy’s leadership, White Dog became a leader in the local food movement, purchasing sustainably grown produce from local family farmers, and only humanely and naturally raised meat, poultry and eggs, sustainably harvested fish, and fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. Other business practices she implemented at White Dog include paying a living wage, mentoring inner-city high school students, recycling and composting, solar heated hot water, eco-friendly soaps and office supplies, and purchasing 100% of electricity from renewable sources, the first business in Pennsylvania to do so.
Searching for a vehicle to spread the farm purchasing practices of the White Dog to other restaurants, in 2000, Judy founded Fair Food www.fairfoodphilly.org, which now has numerous programs to connect local family farms with the urban marketplace. Both Fair Food and Sustainable Business Network were incubated at White Dog Community Enterprises, and supported by 20% of the restaurant’s profits, customer contributions, and local foundations.
In her retail career, Judy was founder and owner of Black Cat (located next door to the White Dog Cafe), a shop that featured locally made and fair trade gifts for 20 years. In 1970, Judy co-founded the Free People's Store, now well known as Urban Outfitters (with which she has no affiliation).
Among her other publications, Judy is co-author of White Dog Cafe Cookbook: Multicultural Recipes and Tales of Adventure from Philadelphia’s Revolutionary Restaurant, published in 1998. She is a contributing author to Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat and Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart, both published in 2010.
Judy is the recipient of many local and national awards including the James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Lifetime Achievement Award, International Association of Culinary Professionals Humanitarian Award, and the Philadelphia Sustainability Award for Life Time Achievement. She has been acknowledged by Oprah Magazine as one of five “Amazingly Gifted and Giving Food Professionals,” Inc. magazine’s “Best Small Companies to Work For,” American Benefactor’s “America’s 25 Most Generous Companies,” and Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 50 American Restaurants Worth Traveling to See.”
For a complete list of awards click here.
Judy has appeared on Nightline, MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, CNN, PBS documentaries, and numerous local TV and radio shows. She and the White Dog Cafe have been featured in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Fortune Small Business, Washington Post, Whole Earth Magazine, Utne Reader, Yes! magazine, Fast Company, Healthy Living Magazine, Business Ethics Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Chronicle of Higher Education, Resurgence Magazine, Hope Magazine, Sojourner Magazine, In Business, Orion Magazine, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine and the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Judy is the mother of two grown children, Grace Wicks and Lawrence Schlosser, and resides in Philadelphia where she writes, works for social change, and mentors the next generation of beautiful businesses.