A Story Of Entrepreneurship And Little Rock’s First Vegan Restaurant

A Story Of Entrepreneurship And Little Rock’s First Vegan Restaurant

A Story Of Entrepreneurship And Little Rock’s First Vegan Restaurant

Entrepreneurship is the action of starting a business that offers any service, operation, or product. Entrepreneurs, the people behind these startups, keep their eyes open for business opportunities. Originally, I never had a firm understanding of what entrepreneurship was and how exciting it really is, until I met Shiem Swift, co-founder of Little Rock-based vegan cafe, The Veg LLC, when he spoke in my Noble Impact 201 course.

Shiem Swift interviewed by Fox 16 News
The Veg LLC co-founder Shiem Swift interviewed by Fox 16 News at his cafe in the River Market.
“Freedom is what we want. We’re entrepreneurs. We don’t want to be boxed in.”
Shiem Swift, co-founder, The Veg LLC

Shiem never thought he would be in the food industry, let alone starting his own company. The idea came into mind when his friend Jamel, who is a vegan, went out to eat with Shiem. They couldn’t find a single restaurant that serves vegan food. So, instead of going out like they planned, Jamel just cooked for himself at home like he had always done. Shiem wondered why there wasn’t at least one vegan restaurant in Little Rock. After all, Arkansas is “The Natural State,” right?

Taking Those First Steps In Entrepreneurship

Shiem thought of a plan to create a restaurant that offers vegan food, not only for his good friend Jamel, but also other vegans in the community. Now, the only thing to consider was if other Arkansans were interested in eating vegan food. Shiem told us, “Sometimes you have a good idea, but there’s not a market for it.”

One day, Jamel made vegan cookies for Shiem and he instantly fell in love. Both Jamel and Shiem wanted to share the deliciousness of a healthy and new twist on cookies. They decided to hand out free cookies at businesses. From there, they started to gain publicity and popularity, through coverage in Arkansas Times and local news stations. They had no funding whatsoever, but realized they had found a market once people were willing to pay for the cookies they were handing out. Shiem and Jamel were both stoked to make their new idea a business.

The Veg LLC co-owner, Jamel
The Veg LLC co-owner, Jamel.
It took two years to persuade the River Market to let their business move in to the Ottenheimer Market Hall, a food bazaar that houses local eateries. Once they finally got the approval, they only had three months to move in. Being resourceful and eco-friendly, they collected recycled materials to decorate and furnish the store. They also put many used items on layaway. This created a very authentic and unique look that no other business had.

Now, the Veg not only has cookie dough but many other new items on the menu. All of their products are 100% vegan — no dairy, eggs, or any animal food products. Some items include: A veggie burger, chickpea salad sandwich, quesadillas, BBQ nachos, lobster roll, pulled BBQ sandwich, sweet potato fries, fresh chips, chocolate chip cookies, double chocolate merlot cookies, cakes, pies, cheesecakes (sliced or whole). With this wide variety of classic and new foods, who wouldn’t want to try vegan entrees?

Not only are they a go-to restaurant, but they also have other available services such as delivery, catering, meal planning and also cooking demos.

My Takeaways

Shiem Swift has taught me that you can create your own culture with entrepreneurship. You are able to be your own boss and go by your own rules. Even if there doesn’t originally seem to be a market for your idea, you can experiment and figure out the right recipe for success. You must learn to turn your disadvantages into advantages. It’s all about perception. Every mistake helps you grow and learn. These mistakes provide the experiences necessary for the real world. If you’ve never been in an uncomfortable situation as an entrepreneur, then you’re not really giving it your all.

With that being said, I am now torn between dealing with the happiness and frustration that seems to come with entrepreneurship. But that’s a good mindset to have, because I am up for the challenge. Now, I wish to start a few of my own businesses and create my own culture. Stay tuned!

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1 Comment

  • patrickoliver@speakloudly.com'
    patrick oliver October 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Unfortunately nobody informed the writer Kuumba Kafe was Little Rock firsy vegan restaurant. Great article!

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