Q&A with Heather Bell and Jenny Engel | Owners, Spork Foods
Posted on January 20 2020
Los Angeles based Spork Foods is a gourmet vegan food company. They offer live vegan organic cooking classes and are published cookbook authors of Spork-Fed as well as Vegan 101. They teach all over the country, training chefs and home cooks alike, reaching over 15,000 people a year.
Tell us about your career path leading up to starting your own business. We are sisters and knew at a young age that we always wanted to have a family business together. As teenagers and into our early twenties we were drawn towards environmental issues to help planet earth sustain herself and made the choice to go vegan to have the biggest impact. We worked at an environmental non-profit organization for years (yes, together while we ALSO lived together!), in restaurants, and as private chefs. After working for others, and putting all off our time and energy into manifesting other peoples’ dreams, we wanted try it out for ourselves. The path of actually teaching cooking classes, as opposed to having a restaurant allowed us to empower whomever is learning, and opened their hearts and minds to delicious vegan cuisine. So we made the leap from working for others to starting our own vegan culinary business and have no regrets!
What made you want to start your own business? Our dad has always advocated being your own boss, since he’s a self-made salesman from East New York. We must have inherited that entrepreneurial gene! We love being able to be creative, work with people we care about, do things every day that feel good to us, and allows us the freedom to make our own hours. Having lunch together every day was another big goal, so we knew that if we had own business we could make that happen.
How did you go from idea to execution? 20 years ago being vegan wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is today. No one in Los Angeles was teaching vegan cooking classes so we thought we would give it a try because we had such a passion for it. We started with about 4 people at a time out of our small apartment in Silverlake and grew the business from there. One month after our first class we were fortunate enough to get picked up by Daily Candy, which was a newsletter that exposed people to new and interesting activities, and we had so many visits to our website with so many sign ups overnight that it crashed our site. It was a wonderful beginning and we have some culinary students that still come to our classes. Shortly thereafter we quit our day jobs and focused on our dreams full time.
What were some unexpected hurdles you faced when starting your business? Unexpected hurdles become a fun everyday part of doing business because even over a decade later, they still show up! Some fun ones include your oven not turning on when you’re about to start teaching. Construction on the roof of your building just before filming an important TV segment. The AC blowing out in the dead of summer. More importantly, we focus on the unexpected gifts that come about. Meeting the right person at the right moment, and partnering out of nowhere. There are many more gifts than hurdles.
Best advice you’ve received?
Rely on word of mouth for marketing! Make the best product you can and it will sell itself.
What does Support Your Local Girl Gang mean to you?
Ladies make the world go round. So do small businesses and shops. We always make mindful purchases, be it from a local book store instead of amazon, or from a friend who just started a new product venture. We also give business advice to as many ladies as we can!
Favorite books, podcasts, tools, and or apps:.
The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan
A New Earth: Eckhart Tolle
Forked Up: Thug Kitchen Podcast
Stuff You Missed in History Class