YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR ASHLEY KIRK LAUNCHES NEW HEALTH COMPANY

I founded my company in 2018 after suffering for years with stress-related illnesses. I suffered from daily migraines, anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, and so much more. My stress stemmed from achieving my “dream” job consulting large global companies on supply chain solutions. I worked many years to reach this position and it felt like my downfall. The nonstop demand, pressure, and negative disposition of C-level executives were unmanageable. I also found that as I worked with dozens of corporations, I was often not just the only woman but also the only African American. It was disheartening. The stress and seeing just how underrepresented African Americans were in high-level roles sat heavily on me.

Upon speaking with my physician, I was provided medication (with questionable side effects) to address the migraines and anxiety. At 26, I just could not force myself to take these pills. I felt there had to be a better way, that is when I stumbled upon a plant-based diet. I changed my diet and immediately felt my ailments dissipate. Gone were my migraines and insomnia and out came mental clarity and peace. I began studying the plant-based diet for years and was determined to make a change in the lives of others.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America with African Americans being the most affected out of every other ethnicity. Additionally, heart disease can simply be relieved with a change in diet and exercise. How can so many people suffer from such a preventable disease? As we study the American diet, from a young age we are constantly bombarded with ads that promote poor diets. From McDonald’s Happy Meals to large bags of candy for Halloween to a lollipop at a doctor’s office. While innocent, there is extraordinarily little daily promotion of good healthy choices. In the black community, we suffer even more so due to food deserts or lack of education on healthy eating. Growing up, I did not learn much about a healthy diet aside from the food pyramid. I too had poor habits and was not aware of it. When inadequate eating habits and stress caught up to me, I was not capable of performing at my best.

I wanted to impact health in America and uplift my fellow African Americans. That is why I started my company, Planted Foods in 2018. I invested more than $50K of my own money and slowly grew my business. I sampled my potential product ideas, held a vegan pop-up restaurant, and spent a year teaching and introducing plant-based eating to my community. In 2019, I launched my first 2 products- a vegan nacho sauce with natural protein and a vegan tuna with omega 3. We use whole healthy ingredients which makes our food production zero waste and sustainable. Additionally, we are preservative and GMO-free. We avoid gums or highly processed pea or soy proteins. We are a brand delivering healthy familiar foods in a plant-based way. To date, Planted Foods has done over $300,000 in sales and distribute through local retail channels, Walmart.com, and through our own website. My family and I are a small team and run the business and production.

We have new products (burger patties) coming in the next month and are working to expand brick and mortar distribution to reach more consumers. I am asking to feature how my business is working to disrupt the existing plant-based food industry by creating food that is truly healthy and innovative. Rather than the short team focus of mimicking meat, we are infusing plant-based foods with adaptogens like ashwagandha. I am building a brand that will address health in an authentic and holistic way. Our products are unlike any other on the market today and beautifully interconnects health and convenience. Not only does our brand focus on health but we are a company that feels social impact is important. We donate funds and products to our local Boys and Girls Club and partner with Rhythmix Cultural Works non-profit. I am also personally involved and sit on the board of Rhythmix Cultural Works to assist with expanding on their mission. I believe that we can change the world one step at a time.

http://www.plantedfoodsco.com

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