A 22-Year-Old Phenom Opened A Soy-Free Vegan Restaurant That Is Actually Affordable & Damn Good
MelaninASS has been a space that has primarily been dedicated to fashion, beauty and wellness (ie. yoga, fitness and mental health). We are excited to expand "healthy lifestyle" and wellness conversations to the importance of healthy food options and more importantly, FOOD SOVEREIGNTY! Food is an important part of the conscious ecosystem alongside clothing and beautification.
What better way to introduce food then by chatting with the 22 year old founder of a Brooklyn-based VEGAN restaurant that actually has affordable options for the community. Francesca Chaney is the witty, passionate, community-oriented and super dope founder of SOL SIPS, a brunch and bite joint that's diligently working to change the healthy food industry!
Why did you start Sol Sips?
I needed an outlet to be sure that I can be healthy. I needed an outlet to be sure that I can be nourished. There wasn't anyone around me who was taking a stand in the corporate world or in the business world. I needed to do this so that #1 I'm sustained, but also to make sure that I can sustain my community.
I'm from Queens and lived in Brooklyn for the past 10 years. I lived in East New York for the majority of that time and Bedstuy for the past 3 years.
How does it feel leading this movement of Black women working to bring about food justice?
I'm joining a conversation - there are so many people out here doing grass roots work, organizations who are out here de-colonizing access to food and I'm joining that conversation. I'm grateful that I get to be apart of it.
My whole thing is moving with the needs of the community and the only way I can do that is within the community. When I moved to Bedstuy from East New York, I realized that I stopped going back to East New York. I'm now living in a gentrifying area, so it's not hard to find food like it once was for me. I can go to the grocery store around the corner and get soy free veggie burgers that I can feel nourished with. It's not something that is my struggle right now and it puts me in a place of privilege. However coming from it, I understand it in a way that resonates because I experienced it for so long.
I'm in a place now where I'm able to do something. I have the tools and support - why not!
Speaking of support, Francesca literally had a tribe of strong black women to help her. She grew up in a village where health consciousness, wellness and holistic living was the norm (as it ancestrally was). Her mother is a nutritionist, which helped create a solid foundation.
My mom has been vegan for 20 years and also our partner who is part of the team - she's a vegan, as well as her husband. There's a lot of people around me who were into it way before it was hip (in the beginning when soy chucks was such an exciting meal).
So this influenced me a ton and I worked at my cousin's apothecary and Life Wellness Center.
A lot of people have been supporting this process and it's not just me and it's not something that just happened overnight.
I believe in the "Pay it Forward" concept - I've always been in a space with black women business owners. The woman that owned the corner store in my neighborhood was a black woman -- and she's still there. My mom owned a boutique growing up.
I want to make sure that other Black women know that they can do this.
What are your thoughts on accessibility, community and using your resources?
I have these nuances - I've experienced living in black middle class but also high poverty! That in itself led up to this moment where I understand the lack of resources that are available in both areas. What's been helpful for me is community outreach. There's always a local farm if you research! When I think about East New York - that is the hood. But the one thing that I think about is that there are resources that are there and there are resources that are not there. Look for people who are advocating for you. You have to walk around your neighborhood. You have to find people who will stand with you. Even people who will have a conversation with you.
One of my high school teachers one day was like - you know what - support local business because you supporting them is going to go back into the neighborhood and you're going to see it as opposed to you going to Starbucks. They have so many heirlooms that are seeing that and you don't benefit from that. Find people that are willing to nourish and nurture. Bell Hooks and her book "All AboutLove" - the definition of love being wanting to provide to the spiritual nourishment; wanting to be involved in that process and seeing the highest good. So there's always people around, look for those people and if you can't find those people then be it for yourself and create a space to be that for other people.
What advice would you give to young Black business owners?
Persevere! That's a lesson coming up for me a lot. Resilience - stick with it. You're not going to see a lot of businesses ran by people who look like you that are owning the space. So you may not even see the resources that they get. You may have a hard time getting a loan and that option may not even be available. There has to be a level of commitment, and perservence and resilience to follow through in a way where you're going to find a way to make it work. And it may not look like how you expected it to be but it's a start.
There was a moment when I went to Home Depot and realized that I couldn't afford paint. Instead of me getting attached to the colors I wanted, I was grateful that my sister had leftover paint that I could use instead. Then I realized that I didn't even want to paint - I was willing to be creative and move with it and that's something that's great about Black people! Whatever we get - we're able to work with what we have. Make the most out of it. I know that that's within in us and always available for us to tap into.
I was talking to a sister friend and we were talking about all of the things our ancestors had to go through - we still have so much that we're dealing with but we do have a different opportunity. There's a balance within it. Focusing on the opportunities without making the struggles a blindspot - paying attention to it but focusing on what's there and who can help. Milking your resources OD!
Not only does this young Queen have an amazing spirit with an inspiring story to back up ... the food was actually bomb (and yes we tried it).
The mantra is simplicity. Making the most out of the small things that you do have. All of our items have 4 ingredients or less. That's something thats really special to me!
It's brunch and bites. We have sandwiches - Avocado mushroom melt, Tamarind jackfruit panini ... a plant based bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and this is so exciting for me because I remember the days when it was just a conversation.
The coffees are made from dandelion root right off the root and their all bitters. Traditionally we would take bitters and that would be important in our pallets because we need those to stimulate bile on the liver. We need it to cleanse.
The Western diet is so sweet ... everything sweet sweet sweet and we need a balance in that. So that coffee came in as a way for us to enjoy bitters. So we put the roots through our process to make it taste like coffee. We make the nut milks - right now its presale and we make enough for the day to make it available with the coffeee to make a latte, espresso or cappachino. Usually those are the ones that you can't necessarily find - the pecan milks, hazelnut milk. For the ones that are easier to find - we source those from our organic market ( coconut milk, almond milk, etc).
However, she's most known for her SLIDING SCALE BRUNCH. Every Saturday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M., Sol Sips offer a full meal and beverage for anywhere between $7 and $15—customers pay what they're comfortable with.
If you haven't gotten the hint by now, Francesca is actually about that community life. She has worked on collaborative cooking classes, farm to table initiatives, works with local farms, and is consistently working to help young folks such as herself become part of this movement. Her opening this restaurant is just the beginning and we are so excited to support her and spread the news of this amazing endeavor.