North Philly gourmet corn maker dreams of Jersey Shore boardwalk business

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If Nija Wiggins offers you her business card, be prepared to laugh — or groan — at the corny joke written on it.

But that’s just the vibe of her small business, Corneey’s, which sells gourmet corn on the cob and specialty popcorn at street festivals and public parks. She also caters at parties.

Wiggins dreams of opening spots on seaside boardwalks along the East Coast, starting with the Jersey Shore towns such as Ocean City, Atlantic City and Cape May. She’s shucking bushels upon bushels of Jersey-grown corn anyway, she said.

And if she can swing it, she aspires to opening a stand inside Lincoln Financial Field to feed hungry football fans during Eagles games.

Those dreams might be years away from reality for now, but Wiggins is one step closer after snagging a $5,000 microgrant which includes business support from the Urban League of Philadelphia and Elevate Together. There were 20 small businesses across the city who were awarded $100,000 at a Northeast Philly Office Max in September 2023. It’s the third year in a row that Elevate Together, which is funded by the Office Depot Foundation, has donated the money to the Urban League and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Grantees ranged from electrical contractors to wine makers. Each business owner was matched with a U.S. Small Business Administration mentor to improve their company strategy.

Wiggins is also a graduate of the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s small business incubator, which was created in 2021 and offers Wi-Fi, work space and business classes. After a music career that was put on pause since the birth of her twin daughters, Wiggins said she’s had “a million jobs” but “knew since the beginning that being an entrepreneur was definitely the ultimate goal.”

  • January 15, 2024
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