Some of the most successful businesses spring from a place of personal passion. This is certainly the case for Zorina Price, founder of Zys_Oakland. With the upcoming launch of the Oakland-based vegetarian restaurant, Price plans to offer employment opportunities to vetted, nonviolent ex-offenders while fulfilling her mission to bring people together over food, serve the community and enhance the quality of life of others.
The unfortunate fact is that, when ex-offenders aren’t provided with productive opportunities to reintegrate in their communities, the outcomes can be daunting. Statistically, only three out of 10 previously incarcerated individuals are able to re-enter society successfully on their own, and 65 percent return to jail within three years without some type of outreach. Price is fully committed to doing her part to change these outcomes.
Her passion behind this mission was fueled after witnessing first-hand, the real-life effects that can result from lack of employment options for ex-offenders. “Something that has stuck with me over the last decade is I had to let go of someone who was in a management role who happened to have a previous record,” she recalls. “We were being bought out by a restaurant group and we were no longer going to be an independent small business, so they did background checks,” she says. “Letting that person go, I felt was an injustice. It wasn’t fair. I felt like that person had done their time and they were at a second chance in their life and we took it away from them. If it were up to me, I would have made a different decision.” Well, now that it is up to her and she is committed to doing things differently.
Having grown up in a household where community service was valued, this kind of generosity is second nature to Price. “I did lots of community service when I was young, when my parents used to force it upon me,” she says. “As I got older it was something that was ingrained in me and I continued to volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters to serve the community.” That service background led her to the hospitality industry where she has spent her career working in major markets. “I worked throughout college in various dining establishments in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco,” says Price. “My passion is definitely food and hospitality.” Zys_Oakland perfectly blends Price’s passion for service and hospitality.
Zys_Oakland is the perfect complement to the emerging culinary culture of the East Bay. The restaurant will partner with reentry-based farms, urban gardens and greenhouses in the Oakland to source locally grown, organic foods. In addition to its multi-layered mission of community service, the restaurant will provide a banging menu of plant-based cuisine reflective of California’s harvest cycle. “Everything in the restaurant will be prepared from scratch, in a rustic style that elevates flavors instead of manipulating them,” says Price.
With her business plan in place and location secured, Price has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for her passion project. Want to be one of the first to see the magic happen? Click here to contribute and gain exclusive access to the Soft Opening Dinner Party.
Photo credit: Zorina Price