By: Hunter Mylek
Q: “You were just a recent winner of the MVE lab competition. Can you talk about life before becoming an entrepreneur and how that shaped you as a business owner? What important lessons did you learn throughout that process?”
A: “So before stepping out in 2014 and starting my catering business. I went to college, studied abroad, and taught Spanish to migrant children in Muskegon. From there, I was given the opportunity to come to the Detroit area to help open a bilingual customer service center for DTE. Then I went on to work for BCBS and ended up in neurosurgery. All my life, I followed the course that was set for me, but something felt like it was missing.
I struggled with weight as a child and was made fun of because of it. After I got older and got healthier, the stigma still stuck and I was ashamed to love and create food. But one day in 2014, when I was at my job working in neurosurgery, while also raising my daughter alone. I decided I was done working 80-90 hours a week in neurosurgery and I stepped out on faith to follow my dreams and my love for cooking. It has not been the easiest path coming from making over 100k to poverty just to follow my dreams.
My business started with me having 34 dollars in my account. But now we are one of the fastest-growing businesses on the west side, it’s tough to get there but you have to stay the course and have passion for your product.
These experiences made me a compassionate business leader because I lead by my heart and not my sales, even though it may not be the most lucrative, it’s the best way to impact the community. The way I see it is, that you need to have character and integrity and do the right thing even when no one is looking. This is difficult and can be frustrating but it is crucial to take the high road. My mantra is to do what we love, and love what we do.”
Q: “We have a lot of students who come to CEI for advice on how to pitch. What are some of the biggest hurdles you faced during the MVE competition and how did you overcome them?”
A: “Practice! The biggest challenge is being concise. When you are passionate about your dream and the product, it’s easy to get carried away. So it’s important to hone in on what’s being asked of you, use your time to captivate the audience, and be well educated about everything your product has to offer. Be well informed on what you want others to be invested in.”
Q: “I know family is a massive inspiration to your business. In what ways did your family encourage and support your career?”
A: “…..Initially, I didn’t know it was encouragement.”
“When I was younger my grandmother taught me how to cook. From gathering the ingredients from the garden to cooking from scratch. But When I was growing up I hated doing it. However with the elders, came wisdom, and they must have seen something.
I knew this was my path because I was good at it. But overall, it was life and experiences that have been the best educator. I also took roots and influence from traveling and learning about soul food’s origin to preserve its history. That history being soul food was created by slaves, It started off as a means to use the discarded parts of animals that their masters didn’t want, and was challenged with the task to try to make something good out of it. From that, a new genre of food was created. I am taking the roots of soul food and making it gourmet.”
Q: “Your mission is to create soul food that tastes good and is good for you…with that being said I saw that you also provide vegan options. Have you found any pushback from the community by making soul food vegan?”
A: “Another interesting historical fact is the Africans that were brought to America during the Slave Trade were vegetarian.
African people only started eating meat because of the laborious work they were doing as slaves, where protein became necessary for survival and strength. Vegan soul is the most authentic form when considering soul food roots.
My Healthy Soul line was extremely popular and it consisted of numerous vegan options. There was no negative pushback. I actually can’t make enough vegan soul food to meet the demand at the moment. The demand for vegan soul food is growing so wildly that we are partnering with Santa Clara County in California to provide a vegan soul demo video for people to network and have access to us, which is crazy!”
Q: “About 5.6 percent in your county are black-owned, did you feel discouraged or inspired to start Soul Filled because of this? How did you break through these barriers?”
A: “This has been the biggest fight overall.”
“More than inflation, covid, and low supply. Is being black enough for the black community and not too black for the white community. The African American community shuns me because they feel I try to appeal too much to the white community and the white community only accepts me because I am “not too black and trustworthy.”
Ultimately, my goal is to be the change I want to see in my community, so I wear my ethnicity as a banner but it doesn’t inhibit me from loving everyone. Another historical fact is that Muskegon is the most segregated county in Michigan and I decided to put Soul-Filled right in the middle.
It’s my mission to bring the food experience to places where there is none. I want to share my culture and make it approachable for everyone in my community, I encourage my people that it’s not a betrayal to be kind to everyone and understand all individuals. This is an important part of creating a world how we envision it to be.
I want to be a trailblazer, I want to go where there is no path and lead it, that’s where I find myself only ever complimenting others and not competing with them.”
Q: “What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?”
A: “On your most difficult day still keep going, because if you look at the criticism and sacrifice as negatives you won’t receive the blessing of entrepreneurship. Keep going and keep fighting. Find mentors and positive people around you that will push you to follow your dreams.”
LaKisha is an inspiring entrepreneur and businesswoman that has a passion not only for Soul Filled but for her community as a whole. It’s her mission to bring the Soul Filled food experience to places where there is none, sharing culture and creating community. We are excited to see what lies ahead for Soul Filled. If you are interested, we encourage you to check out www.soul-filled.com
Also, you can find Chef on Instagram @SoulFilledCatering and Facebook @L’SoulFilled