Black Millennial Vegan: Redefining traditions one wholesome meal at a time
Los Angeles-based Imari Scott-Cheatham is on a wellness mission to challenge her community’s eating habits and remind the world that health is real wealth.
According to Imari Scott-Cheatham, the owner of Black Millennial Vegan, there has never been a better time for people to start trying to make the big switch to a vegan lifestyle.
Sure, plant-based diets have existed since the dawn of eating but today she argues that for the green at heart there is more information, more options and more positive incentives to leave meat off the menu for good.
Imari’s transition toward a plant-based diet challenged her southern roots, where meat dishes are still prevalent and culturally significant to a large segment of the African-American community.
Imagine trying to explain to your family why you can no longer eat your grandmother’s treasured mac & cheese recipe, then lovingly present the case for why they shouldn’t really be eating most of the traditional soul food offerings on the table either. This confrontation has all the ingredients for an awkward holiday dinner.
To her credit, Imari wears her heart on her sleeve and owns the role of wellness educator, not just by preaching from team ‘healthier than thou’ but by serving as a positive platform within the community she knows and loves.
She was able to turn her personal journey into a growing enterprise with big dreams for the future. I sat down with Imari to discuss the rise of a vegan entrepreneur. We talked about shipping, the challenges of running a small business as a new mother and why we all need to get more sea moss in our life.
Sendle’s small biz quiz
Name, title, and location
Imari Scott-Cheatham, Owner | Los Angeles, California
How would you describe your business?
I would describe my business as a wellness business that is dedicated to the decolonization of the mind, body, and soul through natural food.
If you had to describe your business in three words, what would they be?
Organic, wholesome, and informative.
What are the origins of Black Millennial Vegan?
It’s crazy because I went to school in Nashville, Tennessee (where I was born), and got my degree in mass communications. I thought as soon as I graduated, I was going to go back to California where I was raised, and get into the corporate industry.
I ended up doing a lot of different things. I did celebrity styling, temp jobs, marketing research for a while but none of those things stuck.
Then I remember I wanted to cut out meat all of a sudden. I did have some health issues in college. Gastrointestinal issues that I felt like a person in their 20’s shouldn’t be having.
The more research that I was doing I started to realize the effects meat was having on my demographic, which is the black American BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color).
We’re affected the worst when it comes to health ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, all of the cancers, and it is due to our diet.
My family is southern and we all eat a certain way. My grandmother passed away from breast cancer and I know for a fact that her diet played a role in that.
I couldn’t eat like that anymore and I wanted to tell people. I want to share this message with the world. It started out as just bits of information. But then I thought ‘how can I monetize this in a way that doesn’t just benefit me but also my community?’ That is when I started developing my products.
How did you get the business off the ground?
I was blessed to have a friend who invested about $2000 into the business. It’s not much but it was something. It got my inventory running and helped me get my website ready. I was working two part-time jobs (which equals full-time) so the business was still on the side at first.
Then COVID happened and it gave me more time to put more footwork into my business.
What is it that you enjoy the most about running your own business?
Informing people. I just had a baby. And so I was able to be at home. I had to put a lot into my body in order for me to have a successful pregnancy.
Sea moss gel (which is my best seller) helped me to have a really easy pregnancy because it’s filled with 92 minerals and vitamins. I was taking that throughout my pregnancy and attending wellness events not only to provide my offerings but to inform people about what I was doing.
I was talking about what sea moss is good for, and giving people information about my other products.
What advice would you give to a new small business?
I would say get your branding right. Have your thank you cards ready, have your labels ready, have all the branding materials that you want people to see ready before you start.
You might waste some money in the beginning when you’re still trying to figure things out. Get samples instead of buying 500 business cards only to find out there is a typo. Get samples, reread it, proofread it and have someone else look over it.
Also, there are plenty of marketing experts out there, especially on Instagram. Invest in their services. As a new mother now, I require help now more than ever. It’s ok to hire someone.
Anytime I see a website with typos and grammatical errors I don’t necessarily want to buy their products or support them because it looks a little janky. That’s just the truth. So I would say before you go buy all the supplies, really think about the plan and the marketing.
That’s your brand’s image and it’s very important.
You have very clear, strong branding with Black Millennial Vegan. What was the thinking behind that choice?
Black Millennial Vegan is self-explanatory. I’m black, I’m a millennial, I’m still young and I’m vegan. I’m not going to say it is rare because veganism is becoming way more popular and more embraced, which I am so thankful for.
Back in the day we didn’t have half of the products that we have now. We didn’t have the resources that we have now.
I wanted my business to have a name that stops you like, “ok she’s confident about being a black millennial vegan.” They say all these things about black people, they say all these things about millennials, they say all these things about vegans. I’m embracing it. I’m happy and I’m doing it. And you can do it too.
What does the future hold for Black Millennial Vegan?
Eventually, it will become a restaurant. Just a brick-and-mortar space for people to come together. Whether that’s to eat or host wellness events or give back to the community in some way, shape, or form.
Ultimately my goal is to help my community become healthier and happier and realize when you eat certain foods you don’t feel good afterward. If you’re not healthy you can’t know true wealth, because health is wealth.
How did you discover Sendle and what role does it play in your business?
Sendle plays a big role in my business. When I first started, I was going to the post office. I was standing in line and I was paying $15 for shipping.
The boxes weren’t the right size, if I bought my own boxes it would be more expensive. I was just not getting enough sales and I felt it was because I had such a high shipping price. I couldn’t keep going that way.
My business wasn’t going to thrive if my shipping was so high. A lot of customers were abandoning their carts because they were like, “Ok, $15 shipping...no thank you. The product is $15.”
I was doing some research and my initial investor found Sendle for me online. Once I read about it I knew this was it.
I haven’t used this feature yet but they do pickups. And I’m going to start doing that because I have a baby now and it’s actually really annoying to have to go to the post office all the time to drop off packages. The beauty is I can just drop them off. I don’t have to wait in line. I just print out my label, put it on there, and go about my business. And the shipping is cheaper. It’s reliable. Sendle is awesome.
Why should we all become vegans?
I don’t anticipate everybody going vegan. I’m not here to pressure anyone into going vegan. One of my quotes is, “To choose plants is to choose God”. He created all these plants, and he created all these natural remedies for us to feel good, thrive and grow our own food.
We can be self-sustainable. Just give it a try. Go to plants before you choose anything else. There are so many resources and communities out there. You might not have any friends but you’ll find some friends if you go vegan for sure.
We stick together and we share information on herbalism, recipes, and testimonies about how veganism has changed our lives.
You don’t have to be 100% vegan but definitely incorporate more plants into your lifestyle.
You can learn more about Imari’s journey and get access to some amazing wellness products and vegan recipes online at her website https://www.blackmillennialvegan.com/
Or by following her Instagram @blackmillennialvegan.