Fitness legend turns food entrepreneur with chicken seasoning and waffle & pancake mix.
For many familiar with the name Donna Richardson, images of fitness and health come flooding from the 1990s–2000s. As one of the few Black female sports and aerobics personalities seen in the American media, Richardson is loved for her bestselling Buns of Steel videos, which sold over 10 million copies.
You’d be surprised to know that along with those accolades to her credit, The National Fitness Hall of Fame inductee and her mother, lovingly known to all as Mama LaVerne, have been busy concocting another way to get to your heart—this time with food and happiness.
During the pandemic in 2020, the mother-daughter duo were been busy cooking at home in Texas, creating care packages of Mama LaVerne’s chicken and waffles magic for family and friends. But you don’t have to live in the area to enjoy it—Mama LaVerne’s Chicken Seasoning and Waffle & Pancake Mix is now available online and on Amazon too.
From Family Recipe to Delicious Food for All
“It started at my grandmother’s table where we would go to visit with her after church and have brunch. After my grandmother passed away, we started gathering at my mom’s house…and she had put her love into that chicken and waffle recipe,” says Richardson. “It was a labor of love; in the joy it brings her to see people come together. Great food, great times—that made her happy.”
During the pandemic, the two started making bags of the beloved dish and mailing it out since they couldn’t meet anyone in person. In Dallas, Texas, Richardson established what she called “the love drive-by” so she could leave care packages at her front door that people picked up and took home.
Then they started talking about making Mama LaVerne’s love available to more people. Thus, the idea was birthed for a seasoning and mix combo, launched in 2021 on Mother’s Day by at the time 58-year-old Richardson and her “81 years young” mother.
The package has two mixes in one bag: the chicken seasoning and the waffle & pancake mix. The chicken seasoning can also be used on seafood, vegetables, and meat. This is, however, the first time that the two products are being sold in one package together, so consumers can enjoy the entire meal all at once. It is 100% natural, made in America, and has no artificial flavorings or preservatives.
- Daniel Lee Offers New Fusion Choices at Farina Pasta and Noodle
- Kahawa 1893 Promotes Women’s Empowerment in Kenya with Specialty Coffee
There are other products in the works, including a key lime pie mix and a sweet potato souffle mix. “What we learned during the pandemic is we got to reconnect …now my mom passed down this generational legacy to me, and I will pass it down to the next generation— that’s another reason why it’s special to our hearts, and it’s homemade and mixed with a lot of love.”
The goal is for the product to be in retail and grocery stores across the country, as well as in commissaries and select restaurants through food service arrangements.
“That takes a process,” Richardson shares, “Because you are basically taking a homemade recipe and you have to formulate it to mass produce, then you get a co-packer, spice company and a packaging company, graphic artist, all of that.” But she is clear this preparation falls squarely in the homemade comfort food category.
Cooking instructions on the Mama LaVerne’s package include fried, crispy, and air fryer chicken options as well as light and Belgian-style waffles and pancakes.
“As a health expert, I tell people that you should have things in moderation. The seasoning and pancake mix is healthy, it’s what you add to it that adds the calories. This is food for the soul, and now that we have come out of this pandemic, people are wanting to come to the table and gather and bond over great food and great times again with family and friends, those are the memories we treasure forever,” says the author, international motivational speaker and television host.
Bringing Mama LaVerne’s to Your Home
The fried chicken and waffles dish first became famous in the 1930s, tracing its origins to the Harlem Renaissance and the Wells Supper Club, where musicians such as Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole and other great icons gathered post-performance. “I think they would be proud of Mama LaVerne,” Richardson says.
“We want to improve the quality of how we interact with each other and how we work on things greater than just us. Everything we do, we think about that. We are proud to have this rich legacy packaged so consumers can have it at home.”
She reports the response to the product has been positive. “We call it delicious homemade joy. It’s savory and sweetness all combined in one and this is comfort food,” says the entrepreneur who has been in business for decades talking about fitness, food and fellowship and spreading the gospel of body, mind and spirit.
Mama LaVerne shares, “We tried to decide what we wanted to do…maybe a restaurant or a food truck, but then Donna came out with ‘how about a flour mix?’, and I said that sounds excellent. So, we put all our love into packaging for Mama LaVerne’s chicken and waffles.”
On working with her mother, Richardson shares, “It’s been an honor to work with her and just know that we are building something that we can pass down to the next generation…it brings joy to my heart to know that at 84 years young, she did it now…I have been in health and wellness for 33 years; my mother has been doing her own tax business for 33 years.
“So, we were both stretching ourselves in a whole new industry but guess what, there may be fear and things we had to learn along the way, but we keep on going and know to stay motivated.”
How the industry functions overall has presented a steep learning curve for both.
Beating the Odds to Inspire in Business
“It was very eye opening…I think, for me, you face the fear, that’s what I learned, and that you trust the process and have faith in ‘becoming,’” says Richardson.
“We need to embrace becoming CEO of a major food company in the world, and it’s going to take that kind of perseverance, relentlessness and tenacity that my mother has, grandmothers had.”
She admits though, how she does business has changed over the years too, especially with a recent physical injury rendering her immobile for an extended period, causing setbacks to her usually demanding plans, including a robust international consulting and speaking schedule.
“All these years, I have been fearless, with no limits, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and running the Paris Marathon because I always thought everything is possible. I was helping people, and some of them did have limitations. I just never had one.”
Richardson adds, “But now that I had one…I have more empathy and can serve people at a greater level because of what I am experiencing…I have never been immobile before. I miss all the different activities I enjoyed and helped others with.”
On plans for the future, Richardson shares, “We are going to take our time to grow and scale the business, but it’s interesting now that we are opening again, the food truck may come back around. It’s an exciting time. But it’s also a lot of hard work…it’s blood, sweat and tears.
“It tests every fiber of your being when you open a new business and launch it. My goal is to build generational wealth but also generational health because you can’t have one without the other…We are hoping our story can inspire other people, no matter what age you are, no matter the circumstances, no matter what you face, you can do it and we are a witness to that.”