Black Business Spotlight with Neka’s Vegan Delights.
If you know me you probably know me as a runner first, then someone that’s simply cool as heck but if you truly know me you know that there’s one thing that I do not say no to. It’s almost impossible and it’s something that I almost always have post-race or even sometimes pre run/pre-race, yes you read that correct pre-race (don’t do what I do). That thing for me is chocolate chip cookies, I mean let’s be truly honest, what runner doesn’t like sweets? We almost always indulge post-race why not indulge in some cookies. Here’s the thing with this type of chocolate chip cookie, it’s Vegan, it’s tasteful, it’s soft and most of all it simply tastes great. Neka Cole has the recipe for one of the best vegan chocolate chip cookies you’ll ever taste. This month we chat it up with Neka and Neka’s Vegan Delights as we spotlight these tasteful cookies in this months Mid Strike Black business spotlight.
MSM: Welcome to Mid Strike Magazine. Each month our goal is to spotlight a black business in our magazine, we’ve done fitness, clothing, restaurants and quite honestly, it’s time to indulge into some sweets. Give our readers an intro into who Neka Cole is.
Neka: Neka is an around the way girl putting it plainly, I’m a mother of two grown sons, age 19 and 22. I’m a daughter of course, and I’m a sister to 7 others. I’m a reader, a knowledge seeker. I love to learn, and I love to be around people whom I can learn from. There is a somewhat of a shyness to me, I find that laughter and the ability to not take myself so seriously is what draws people in and the fact that I’m 100% real, what you see online is who I am in person, straight no chasers. I’m a vegan, I love nature and animals! I’m a runner as well.
MSM: Before we get into the good stuff most folks know you as Neka the runner as your run journey is impressive, very medal heavy. We all have different choices regarding our fitness journeys, with running it can be one of the most rewarding yet most difficult at the same time. What made you choose the lifestyle as a runner?
Neka: Nearly 10 years ago, I met this lady that I worked with whom we’re still great friends. She came in one morning and started talking about this group that she runs with called Black Girls Run. She started talking about how great it was being around them and how motivating and encouraging they were on her first run with them. She told me to look them up on Facebook and that they all meet at one location and run at 5am, that sort of made me pause because I didn’t see myself EVER getting up at 5am to go run, but low and behold I did on Mother’s Day meeting two of the most amazing women whom we’re also still great friends 9.5 years ago, I thought wow what a great gift to give myself, never knowing they literally were saving my life, at the time I was on medication for blood pressure, overweight, not eating right, exercising but not really consistent. I ran my first 10K at the BGR meetup in Atlanta, and my first Marathon at over 200 lbs. I drank big gulps of the Kool-Aid, being around those women made me feel like I could do anything. They poured into me so much strength and confidence at a very low point in my life. The rest is history!
MSM: As we tend to dip one foot into the pool first before deep diving into the deep end of the pool, deep end meaning deciding to run a marathon. What was that moment when you said to yourself running is for me, this is what I’m going to do?
Neka: Not too long after that, I sort of went through a huge awakening when I got that first runners high and felt it and anyone who is a runner knows that high, it’s unlike any other high you’ll ever experience it’s when you get on that pavement, and you feel like you can literally conquer the world. I felt it and continued to chase that high and being around other runners as we all know you drink the Kool-Aid; one person signs up for a race and ask you to join them and then the next thing you know you’re running races nearly every few weeks. Plain and simple I took big gulps of the Kool-Aid.
MSM: I see you have a few marathons under your belt with New York City being one of them. What are some other races you’d like to run also what are some of your favs from the past that stood out?
Neka: Yes, I’ve only done 4 marathons, I’ve done way more half Marathons, and yes NYC Marathon is still my favorite Marathon, Half Marathon I’d have to say it was Run Like a Diva Myrtle Beach. I’d like to complete all the world majors, as a long-term goal of mine. The only races that stood out were all of them because I learned so much more about myself and what I’m capable of and where there were areas of improvement, for me it’s all about the self-discovery journey on every single race, even the 5k’s I learn more about me.
MSM: Most don’t know that you’re a Vegan. I love to speak with Vegan runners because there’s usually a misconception that it’s hard to be a vegan and be a runner that runs consistently yet it’s a theory that’s almost always defunct. What led you into the lifestyle change of becoming a vegan?
Neka: Hmm I’d have to say I had a good friend who inspired me. I’ve never been a fan of touching raw meat honestly, I cringed every time I had to cook it, even as a kid, and honestly in the back of my mind I had this thought that wow this is an animal that I’m eating. I transitioned, first I started with pork, like at age 19, and then beef about a year prior to becoming vegan I stopped eating it, it just didn’t taste good to me anymore and it made me feel like wow I really don’t need to eat this if it’s making me feel this way. December 31st I was told about this documentary called “What the Health” and that it would change my life and it started as a New Year’s Resolution and became a lifestyle change for me.
MSM: Becoming a vegan is not an easy process as it is essentially a complete lifestyle change which does come with its struggles, yet the reward is so beneficial. It’s a process which you can kind of compared to a marathon, you must find that groove of what works vs what doesn’t. What were some of your struggles early on while making the change to vegan and what advice would you give to fellow runners and non-runners that are looking to become a vegan.
Neka: The hardest part was paying attention to labels and how essentially, they put animal products in nearly everything and having to give up some of the foods that I loved, like chicken wings, until I had 3 bad batches of them where they were undercooked and I took that as a sign that I needed to leave it alone. For those struggling early, transition, eliminate one thing at a time, join groups of people who are likeminded was extremely helpful for me as with any group, you have those who think they know it all and want to nitpick. I’m not one of those who point a moral finger at anyone on what they choose to do with their lives. Find what works for you. Find alternatives to your favorite foods and cook more at home, there’s a vegan version to nearly everything you love out there I promise, but please know that you’re on your own journey and don’t allow others to deter you from what you want for your own life.
MSM: I like to think of myself as a healthy being but to be honest snacking on sweets is indeed a weakness of mine especially when it comes to finding a good vegan snack to satisfy that sweet tooth, usually we can’t find vegan spots in our neighborhoods as they simply just don’t exist. We’re these some of the instances that led you to creating Neka’s Vegan Delights?
Neka: YES indeed, I’m not big on snacks but I loved a good cookie quite honestly and a soft warm chocolate chip cookie was a game changer for me. I made some and took them to work and people fell in love with them and every potluck I was asked to bring those cookies people were fighting over them.
MSM: Starting a business isn’t easy especially a black owned business. The good thing about 2020 is that it essentially forced us to be still while also being creative. There were many things born out of 2020. When did you know that this was the path you wanted to take in starting your own business?
Neka: Quite honestly when I lost my job during the pandemic. I accepted an offer and quit the job that I was at, as it didn’t work out. I started baking and playing around with recipes and found that I really loved to bake, it was relaxing for me it didn’t feel like work, I baked with my mom as a kid being home schooled, especially for holidays. that’s where my love for baking came from it was buried and idle time brought it back to the surface. My son and I had the plan to move to NYC for school, for me to be the support for him during this transition moving so far away. I had planned on starting it once I moved but the pandemic forced me to make that decision early on and I’m happy that it did, because I have gained some very loyal customers even shipping as far as Seattle, The Virgin Islands even Montana from my son sharing my website on Twitter.
MSM: The menu for N.V.D is solid, it’s not just about the chocolate chip cookie. You offer otter items such as lemon shortbread, oatmeal raisin (sorry readers but I am not a fan of any oatmeal raisin cookie) yes fight me everyone lol, lastly you also have a 4/20 cookie which is very interesting. Needless to say, the menu is pretty versed. What goes into an item created by Neka?
Neka: The recipes take a lot of trial and error, putting my own spin on classic cookies, instead of using butter and eggs, I find other ingredients that work well for holding the cookie together like apple sauce.
MSM: For our readers how can we keep up with Nekas Vegan delights, where can we follow and most of all where can we order AND YES READERS cookies can be delivered as well.
MSM: Whats on the horizon for Nekas Vegan Delights, any chance we’ll see a storefront in the future or even at a race event. Gotta have those post race cookies!!!!
Neka: My long-term goals is to be in stores, quite honestly I don’t want to responsibility or the hassle of a storefront although others want that for me, I have to go where my heart is. Race Events I would love to be a vendor it allows me to get my name out there even more and for people to see that there’s other layers to me outside of running.
MSM: Any last words you’d like to share with our readers?
Neka: Find whatever it is that you’re passionate about and work on it daily. I find I get stuck sometimes and then I remember what my goal is and that’s what drives me. Also, the fact that people really love and share their experience with me after they eat my cookies keeps me completely inspired and it blows me away at the same time. I appreciate the love.
MSM: From us here at Mid Strike we wish you nothing but the best and we look forward to seeing what’s on the horizon.