Plant-based eatery offers healthy options
Plant-based food options have been growing in popularity recently, and local entrepreneur Tabota Seyon’s business InfusedLife is one of the Twin Cities’ businesses that offer such vegan cuisines.
Seyon took her 15-year-old catering business in a different direction and opened InfusedLife’s Plant-Based Emporium when she looked into how the food she ate affected her own life and family.
“In my business, I have done meat and veggies and everything in-between for a long time,” Seyon said. “I found that when I was cooking plant-based foods in my catering business, a lot of people were requesting it; it was the number-one thing that I sold often.
“And I thought, ‘I really kind of like where this is going, it feels good,’” she continued. “But it was also intentional for me to have those things on the menu. It just happened to be the direction a lot of people were going, and it felt like it was a natural fit for me because I have the ability and the skillsets to create delicious food that happens to be good for you.”
Seyon’s background was a natural fit for work based around food and nutrition. She learned about nutrition in her days as a yoga instructor and a Herbalife saleswoman.
“I recognized that a lot of the boxed foods that we were accustomed to seeing advertised, especially in low-income communities or communities of color, that were typically full of dyes and unnatural ingredients were really starting to take a toll and affect our dietary needs,” Seyon said.
“Also, they take an effect on our physical health,” she said. “There were days I would wake up foggy and I didn’t understand why, and I started to realize that a lot of the foods I had been eating were really a huge part of that. I wasn’t being mindful of my mouthful, if you will.”
She added, “A lot of times when I cooked in my private life it’d end up spilling over into my professional life. They always needed someone to prepare a healthy meal for the rest of the staff, and I’d be the one who always volunteered to do so.
“It became a thing where I started to preach the good word of nutrition and micronutrients and recognizing that we need to become a part of our own healthcare system.”
Seyon’s ambitions around plant-based foods did not stop with her own business—she also founded The Black Mamba Collective, which the Infusedlife website describes as “a women-led cooperative with the goal to elevate BIPOC-owned, plant-based businesses and expand opportunities for all.”
Striving against the odds
“For me,” Seyon said, “the mission is to provide access to women like myself who may not have always been supported along the way to be able to communicate, congregate, have shared resources and shared experiences, and shared purchasing power when it comes products and services that are meant to be healing for their communities.”
The Black Mamba Collective emphasizes healing and economic justice. Seyon is trying to build the Collective into a strong BIPOC women-led community. She says that she hopes it can serve as a safe space for women who may not feel safe at home or elsewhere in the community.
The Collective’s goals are intertwined with racial justice. Seyon hopes it can be used as a tool to build generational wealth for the families of the women participating, and says the project was inspired by and named after the Black Mamba Group, a co-op of women in South Africa who fight to stop poaching of endangered species.
“We as Black Americans oftentimes feel like an endangered species,” Seyon said. “We are constantly fighting for our right to have access to education, access to health care, access to building wealth, owning a home. So I felt that the Collective is a really good way of building on that energy and that solidarity that these women are doing within Minnesota and hopefully beyond.”
The journey to establish InfusedLife and The Black Mamba Collective has not been an easy one for Seyon. She compares her experience to the Biblical story of Job. She had to move her storefront early on due to the pandemic and has contracted COVID twice. Seyon says she has also experienced racism and sexism because of her work—eggs have been thrown at her windows, she said.
Seyon said the most recent attack on her business is from her landlord: Her business is being threatened with eviction for one late rent payment due to Seyon being sick with COVID. Seyon said she had previously always been on time with payments and put over $150,000 into renovating the space they were in.
“We’re being faced with only a one-year lease, where most people get a five-year lease,” Seyon said. “I was hoping to get a chance.”
Despite the hurdles, Seyon is not giving up and will continue to run both projects.
“God has a plan for me,” Seyon said. “I don’t know all of what it is, but I’m just trying to stand up to the call. Whatever that’s been placed on my heart to do, I try to follow through with and keep pushing.”
Infused Life is located at 3800 S. 28th Ave. in South Minneapolis. For more info, visit www.infusedlifemn.com.
Cole Miska is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.