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Conversations with the Inspiring Kamiya Willoughby and Tess Hurlburt

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kamiya Willoughby and Tess Hurlburt.

Kamiya and Tess, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We like to call SoulNia a legacy business. In 2007, Kamiya’s father wanted to create a legacy for his children by starting a vegan soul food business that included family and re-introduced a cuisine that is so important to black culture. Her father started that business in 2013 with his brother and family playing a huge role. In 2014, when Kamiya went to the military, she told her father it was a legacy she wanted to continue on, the storytelling and education aspect resonating with her. Kamiya met Tess during her service and met the perfect person to build a family business with. Tess had the same drive, passion and soul as Kamiya, not to mention her ability to cook with love and care. When they moved to Denver, they found a community to build SoulNia and have been popping up and catering for about a year.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been a winding road thus far and we have learned a ton just in this first year. I think the biggest we’ve learned is proper vetting. We sit down and have all our meetings in person with folks that we want to work with. Even still, we’ve made mistakes and have not properly vetted everyone which has led to some disappointments. We’ve been taken advantage of but we now have a process for everything that we do. That’s our advice. Create a process for ev-ery-thing. Since Tess and I are married, we have to cut out time for meetings, but we meet. We are creating a financial process with our bookkeeper now. We have a process for events. It is so important for keeping your head on straight. If you go into things with no plan or process, you may become overwhelmed. Also, eat and drink water even if you’re too busy!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into SoulNia story. Tell us more about the business.
SoulNia is a vegetarian soul food business. We do pop-ups, catering and private dining experiences. We love to do it all but our absolute favorite is private dining because we can really focus the conversation around food and culture, which is what our business is about. We are probably known for our collard greens and cornbread and Caribbean curried cauliflower. Those are the crowd favorites. As a brand, we are most proud of our commitment to being sustainable for every event we do and how we can start conversations around culture, history, different foods. What sets us apart has to be our cuisine and the story that follows it.

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
We collectively draw inspiration from all the female matriarchs in our family. Whether it’s mothers or aunties, grandmothers or sisters- we use their knowledge and experience to construct dishes that feed your soul! We look to other trailblazing female chefs, who defy standards and create magic in the kitchen.

Contact Info:

  • Website: soulnia-veg.com
  • Phone: 6143273759
  • Email: kamiya@soulniaveg.com
  • Instagram: soulniaveg
  • Facebook: SoulNia, Ltd.

Image Credit:
Triston Dimery, Timothy Burke, Kalen Acquisto

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1 Comment

  1. Ayanna

    October 15, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    So inspiring! May your legacy be passed on for generations to come!

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