By Hunter Mylek
What is Sweet Potato Delights and what inspired this business idea?
Sweet Potato Delights is a veteran woman-owned business/enterprise that manufactures a 100% vegan line of sweet potato goods and grab-and-go items.
What helped to inspire this idea was Dr. Velondas’ love for Nutrition. “I always envisioned myself as a couch on eating healthy, I began with writing cookbooks and my audience’s love for my sweet potato cheesecake is what started Sweet Potato Delight’s journey. My readers wanted the original baked goods handcrafted by me, so after two years of resisting in 2013 I started my company by selling the sweet potato items I wrote about and doing special cheesecake orders”.
Can you talk about life before becoming an entrepreneur and how that shaped you as a business owner?
“I have had entrepreneurial energy since ‘83 when I landed in Detriot. But before that, I began my journey as a nurse wanting to work in pediatrics. However, I soon found out that was not my full path so I left college for a while and went into service”. She was stationed in California as a military police officer and got the opportunity to tap into her passion by teaching people to be healthy. Dr. Velonda taught a fitness class during the time she was stationed and it opened up the world of physical fitness and wellness. This path continued even after her time in service “from ‘83 to ‘93 I did strictly physical fitness through personal training, coaching, and community wellness”. It wasn’t until she continued training clients who mastered working out but not eating healthy. “This is what drove me to get my Ph.D. in 2001 in nutrition and health” so she could better help her clients lead the healthy path they desired. After getting her Ph.D. Dr. Velonda continued coaching and teaching through workshops relating to health and wellness till about 2010 when she got connected with the food industry in Metro Detroit, through the Food Lab, which yielded her path into food entrepreneurship.
The mission of Sweet Potato Delights is to provide a healthy vegan alternative, that is just as good. Can you explain why an alternative with sweet potato is beneficial?
“Plant power is the key to healthy living, Most illnesses develop due to an unhealthy immune system, a healthy immune system is when the body is flooded with oxygen and antioxidants”
“What I found out through my research during my Ph.D. is that sweet potatoes are a superfood and are high in antioxidants which is exactly what our bodies need to stay in top shape, they are also blood sugar stabilizers and which helps with diabetes”
“I took what I learned through my research and I wrote a cookbook called Beyond Candy Yams and Sweet Potato Pies. Because I wanted people to understand that sweet potato are a must-have in your diet”
Can you discuss what Sweet Potato Delights has been up to recently, and what you have in store for the future?
As the farmers market season comes to an end in October which was huge for Sweet Potato Delights. Dr. Velonda’s biggest focus is wrapping up the season. As well as, being an ambassador for Bunkers Labs Veterans and Residence. This is very similar to MVE but is a six-month cohort where she helps facilitate the experience and acts as a mentor for veteran entrepreneurs and has even been a member herself.
In the future, the holiday season is approaching and sweet potatoes make a bigger appearance in people’s households. But it is Dr. Velonda’s goal that they are inside households year-round.
October is also sweet potato awareness month and she will be involved heavily on social media and in pop-pop events during that time. But something very exciting is that Sweet potato delights partnered with Holy Moly Donut in Detriot, to make a specialty sweet potato donut. They wanted her to create something vegan to expand their line and the delicious sweet potato donut will be instore soon
What last bit of advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
1: “There is no such thing as an overnight success”.
2: “Know your whys!…. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? Why am I passionate about this?… etc”.
3: “Don’t give up! People will have opinions or unfavorable responses to what you are trying to achieve. But don’t give up just be willing to pivot and be coachable. It’s ok not to know everything”.
4: “Get mentor(s)! Not just in your industry but in all lanes that are associated with business and will a more well-rounded entrepreneur”.