Judy Wicks Awtt Portrait

Judy Wicks

Businessperson, Activist : b. 1947

I’m helping to create an economic system that will respect and protect the earth — one which would replace corporate globalization with a global network of local living economies. Business is beautiful when it’s a vehicle for serving the common good.”


In 2004, Inc. magazine named Judy Wicks, then CEO of White Dog Café, one of America’s 25 most fascinating entrepreneurs, “because she’s put in place more progressive business practices per square foot than any other entrepreneur.”

Wicks started the White Dog Café in 1983 as a simple muffin shop on the first floor of her house, then grew it into a “Philly institution,” with over one hundred employees including the adjacent retail store, the Black Cat.  Best known for buying organic produce, and pastured meat and poultry from local family farmers (to whom she occasionally lends money to help expand their operations), the Café also acts as a center for dialogue on progressive issues with frequent speakers, storytelling, film series, and local and international tours.  The company contributed 20% of its profits to the White Dog Café Foundation, with programs aimed at growing a local living economy in the Philadelphia region. The café also supports alternative energy by investing in wind-generated power to replace the electricity it uses. Sold in 2009 to a new owner, White Dog continues to support area farmers, championing fresh local food, renewable energy, and environment-friendly practices.

After launching White Dog, Wicks went on to start several nonprofits—all organizations that focus on building local economies and communities. She was cofounder and chair of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (now called Common Futures) and of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. In 2015, she founded the Circle of Aunts & Uncles, a microloan fund that provides low-interest loans and advice to underserved Philadelphia entrepreneurs. Then, in 2016, she founded Proud Pennsylvania to help elect state legislators who oppose fracking and support the growth of sustainable and just local economies. Her most recent project is All Together Now PA, “uniting Pennsylvania’s rural communities to build resilient, self-reliant regional economies that work for all.”

The recipient of many local and national awards and contributor to several publications, Wicks also spreads the word about growing local economies through radio and television appearances and guest lectures. In 2013, Wicks published a memoir, Good , Beautiful Business: The Unexpected Journey of an Activist Entrepreneur and Local Economy Pioneer. About her book, environmentalist Paul Hawken wrote, “This is business as spiritual practice, business as kindness, business as community, business as justice, joy, transformation, leadership, and generosity.”

Wickes learned from Gandhi that “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.” Explaining how this translates into her experience, she says, “Non-cooperation began for me by refusing to be part of the factory farm system. This motivated me to create an alternative system. What came first though was the moral obligation to non-cooperate with a system I saw as evil.”


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