Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Stacie Van Cleave, owner of Veg.Edible, is located in Omaha, NE, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Veg.Edible is Omaha's only ALL vegan, gluten-free, nut-free (except coconut) with soy-free options pop-up eatery specializing in allergen-friendly treats. We have dedicated equipment to avoid cross-contact with the top 8 allergens. Everyone should be able to enjoy food regardless of allergies or dietary preferences. You don't have to be vegan or have celiac to enjoy my creations! I feed a wide range of people, from vegan to carnivores and those with allergies to milk, eggs, animal proteins, gluten, nuts, and soy. You deserve to know what is in your food. Ingredient transparency is so important to me. All ingredients used are posted on my website!
Tell us about yourself
Born and raised in South Omaha, I have been in the foodservice industry for 15 years. I am very familiar with all of the incredible food options my city is spoiled with. If you're from around here, I've probably served you at some point. The foodservice industry has always been my passion. I've hustled every position from busser to host, server to bartender, and managed multiple locations of corporate chains and local staples. I know my way around a kitchen, and I'm finding my way to your heart with allergen-friendly food that doesn't taste like cardboard.
Although I love my city, I found that Omaha does not have many options when it comes to vegan AND gluten-free. Cross-contact is almost always an issue. General knowledge of ingredients and preparation protocol is usually not thoroughly taught to wait for staff. I know how it feels to ask a million questions when ordering take-out to ensure you don't make yourself sick or violate your personal choices and beliefs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I felt the need to leave the service industry because I have an autoimmune and was at high risk. Veg.Edible was always bouncing around in the back of my creative brain, but I didn't know how to get it going. I found a commercial kitchen nearby called Kitchen Council. Their goal is to help entrepreneurs launch their food startups. I am motivated by the "thank yous" and the "I haven't had (insert food here) in years because of (insert food allergy here). No one is doing what I do. It takes WORK. It is a labor of love, and I'm constantly learning and growing to provide options. Options are so important.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is being able to manage nearly 100% of the business myself. I take care of everything from recipe development to filling orders, wholesale retail, marketing, website design, customer service, creative and social media, photography, licenses, accounting, and inventory…I do it all.
My best friend Skyler, who has worked with me at various jobs over the last ten years, helps me with large production days, deliveries, and pop-ups. My partner Matt, who is a back-of-house genius, has worked in kitchens just as long as I have, and he helps with equipment cleaning, deliveries, and recipe development.
Being in control of how my business is portrayed to the world through my morals, values, and beliefs is so important to me.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment may also be the hardest thing that comes with being a business owner. It's A LOT to handle everything. I put in more hours than a "regular" job, but the perk of being your own boss is also making your own schedule. Having self-discipline is very tough.
I appreciate the flexibility that comes with being my own boss, but it's also my biggest enemy. If I don't feel like going to work, I don't have to call in and go through the process of getting my shift covered. I just don't go to work. But then it creates more work for another day, and that can lead to getting behind very quickly. Consistency is key.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Just quit that job. If you want to start your own business, you'll be sure of it. It's the scariest thing in the world, losing the stability of a 9-5, but if you feel stuck, you have to keep moving, or your happiness will steadily decline. I found other income streams like food delivery and personal shopping to make ends meet. Bills are always due. Do what you have to do to make your dream come true.
- Give yourself time and space to learn and grow to better the world around you. You have to be constantly evolving and be aware of what's going on in the world. When I first started Veg.Edible, I said I would never make cakes and that they were so hard and expensive and I just wouldn't do it. Cakes are now my top-selling item, and I very much enjoy making celebrations even more special.
- "Stick to your carrots" This is a silly little mantra I say in reference to the better known "Stick to your guns." Despite criticism, my morals and values as a vegan always reflected through my business. For instance, I would never serve eggs, even if that meant I had the opportunity to work with investors to open a brick-and-mortar. Eggs are a top 8 allergen and are not vegan; therefore, under no circumstance will I serve eggs. I am constantly trying and reviewing other food options to spread the word to others. People trust my recommendations because I stay true to myself and "stick to my carrots."
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have been vegan for four years. I am not diagnosed with a nut allergy or gluten intolerance. Gluten just doesn't make me feel great, so I try to eliminate it or face the consequences. Most vegan substitutes are nut-based, so I decided to go the extra mile and eliminate nuts in my kitchen space to cater to those with peanut/tree nuts allergies as well.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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