Vsoulful Eatery Owner Azaria Drakeford spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about starting out, her passion for plant-based foods, and finding a home in Hartford.
NAN PRICE: When and why did you start the company?
AZARIA DRAKEFORD: I started Vsoulful Eatery in June 2019, after I discovered there was a lack of flavorful plant-based options in my neighborhood. I had been eating a plant-based diet for years and was having trouble finding foods that were animal-free, but also tasted good. When I did find options, they were either too far away or too expensive, or they sacrificed flavor in the name of “health” or vise-versa. So, I began recreating plant-based versions of the foods I grew up eating and shared my creations with family and friends.
NAN: What do you do differently that makes you “innovative”?
AZARIA: Our tagline is “There’s Life In Every Bite” because there truly is. We make food for the “foodie” and we wholeheartedly believe that food should taste good, period! Through our creations, we prove that words like “plant-based” and “vegan” are not synonymous with bland. I love to take traditional Caribbean and soul food meals and “veganize” them without sacrificing flavor.
NAN: Have you been involved with any other Connecticut startup/business resources?
AZARIA: I have worked with the Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center (EC-WBC) and I also was a part of reSET’s Food Incubator program last year.
NAN: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your entrepreneurial journey thus far?
AZARIA: The biggest lesson I have learned so far is: “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have it, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared,” Whitney Young.
NAN: Why did you choose to locate your business in Hartford?
AZARIA: Hartford has been good to me, so choosing to start my business here seemed like a no-brainer. Although I’m not a resident, Hartford is still home. This city has enabled me to come out of my comfort zone, flourish in my area of expertise, and grow as a person and small business owner.
Intentionally starting my business in Hartford is my way to make an impact and inspire youth living in the city. I want the young boys and girls in this city to know that, “If they believe it, they can achieve it!” I’m a regular person with a quirky love for delicious plant-based food who started a business doing what I love to do. If I can do it, so can you—and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
NAN: What do you enjoy most about having a business in the Greater Hartford region?
AZARIA: The best thing about working in the Greater Hartford area is the diversity. I enjoy meeting and interacting with people from all walks of life and I believe being in Hartford is a great place to be able to do this. Hartford is a colorful, vibrant city with a lot to offer residents and business owners.