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The Sassy Vegan: Rachel Lomasi Smith Entrepreneurial Success through Passion, Purpose, and Perseverance.

The Sassy Vegan started her business by working hard and having a vision of the future. She looking back on her past helped her thrive as a Fort Wayne Business Owner.

Meet Rachel Lomasi Smith, the resilient owner of Sassy Vegan, whose journey from a tough upbringing to a thriving business is nothing short of inspirational. Growing up amidst adversity, Rachel's path to healing and success has been a testament to her strength and resilience. Through sharing her story and experiences, Rachel has not only found solace but has also used her past as a driving force to create a successful vegan-based business. In this article, we will delve into Rachel's remarkable journey of overcoming her childhood trauma, finding healing through her ability to share her experiences, and building a rapidly growing business that reflects her unwavering determination and passion. Join us as we explore how Rachel's story serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment for others navigating similar challenges on their entrepreneurial journey.

Rachel Lomasi Smith was born and raised in a small town near Wilmont, Indiana. When describing what it was like growing up there, she said,

"I grew up in a very closed-minded community, and this does tie into Sassy Vegan because it's a big part of who I am. The community I grew up in was very, I guess I could say, the wrong way to be Christian—just a very bigoted, evangelical kind of community. I grew up constantly around an environment of noninclusion and very judgemental. There was always a part of me that thought it didn't feel right. It didn't feel like this was how the world should be, but I grew up around that, so it very much shaped my worldview, but I was at odds with it at the same time." She continued by sharing that she was homeschooled and was the oldest of ten children. When we asked what life is like with so many younger siblings, she said, "It's kind of weird for me because there's a big age gap. I am actually no contact with my parents and have been for a while now, and that's because they are not good people for me to be around. They don't have any sense of boundaries, but growing up, I wasn't around all ten kids. Six of my siblings were adopted, and the last three children were adopted when I already left the house, so it wasn't like we had all ten kids at the house. At most, we had eight people in the house, which was still a lot of people, but it was interesting. I had to be a mom to some of the kids at a very young age, probably sooner than I should have, but I also enjoyed it at the same time. I love my younger siblings; it's weird because, being an adult myself, I have a group of adult siblings I don't get along with because they're still in that judgemental mindset, and I have removed myself from that so much that it's foreign for me. I am in contact with my little brother, who just moved out. He just turned 19, and he actually works for me part-time, so that's cool because we both have a love for baking. It's cool having him in the kitchen helping out with things."

We asked Rachel if she enjoyed baking as a child, and she shared that although she was homeschooled, she was also a part of the 4H program. Through 4H, she had the opportunity to do multiple cooking and baking projects. Ironically, she wasn't the best at the baking portion of the assignments, but as she got older, she's been able to master those skills. 

Rachel graduated in 2007 at 17 years old, and through the pressure of her parents, she went to Grace College to pursue a degree in multicultural studies and seminary. Throughout the next three years, Rachel learned more about different cultures and beliefs, and through that education, she began to realize that she didn't agree with many of the things she was raised to believe. From that realization, she decided it was time for her to take control of her own life and follow a path guided by her own beliefs and decisions, so she dropped out of Grace College at the end of her junior year.  After leaving college, Rachel applied for multiple jobs and landed a hostess position at Bob Evans in Columbia City. Throughout the next ten years, she worked as a hostess, a server, and in management, but ultimately, she decided she liked serving the best. She shared that working at Bob Evans also helped her journey towards self-discovery. 

The Sassy Vegan getting married. After overcoming trama her thrives in the world of business. With finding her purpose she coming to grow as a person and entrepreneur.

In October 2014, Rachel married her husband Kusko, and a month later, they both decided to go vegan. Rachel had already been a vegetarian for several years but wanted to try a vegan diet because she noticed she didn't feel well after eating dairy, and Kusko wanted to support and join her. After spending six years cooking and baking vegan goods and having the itch to start her own business, Rachel launched Sassy Vegan on February 2, 2020. When we asked how she came up with her name, she said,

"The 'Sassy' in Sassy Vegan comes from being made fun of growing up for being too 'spunky.' My parents also told me I needed to tone down my personality and be more submissive; otherwise, I'd never be able to hold down a job because my boss would fire me. Ironically,  I'm the boss now, so maintaining my sassy self and not compromising who I am to appease others is very much part of my brand."

She added that the kitty in her logo is her cat Ginger, who she's had since 2013. A month after launching her business and selling a few vegan baked goods at farmer's markets, the pandemic started. On March 13, 2020, Rachel was forced to quit her job at Bob Evans due to her having asthma and the risks COVID-19 would have on her health. 

The Sassy Vegan cooking and baked vegan based food. With trying the vegan lifestyle back in 2015 she decide to make it her life and bring it to other in the community. When making this food transition she never looked back on her past to support this new life style.

With the support and encouragement of her husband, Rachel decided to put all her time and energy into focusing on Sassy Vegan full-time. We asked her how she felt about this transition into going full-time for her business. She said,

"Honestly, I think it was always in the back of my mind that I didn't want to work for anyone else. I wanted to do something differently, but growing up how I grew up, there was always this doubt that I couldn't achieve something. I grew up having so much negativity thrown my way that I have C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of it, so starting Sassy Vegan was me getting my toes in the water. Then, with the pandemic, I was thrown into it, and I think that is the best thing that could have ever happened to me because I don't think I would have taken that risk otherwise. Now that I have the business, I have completely changed who I am as a person. I think a big part of it was that it helped a lot with my healing; this was something I was good at; people told me I was good at it, and people told me I could make money doing it, so I wanted to see if I could."

Rachel and Kusko were living in Whitley County during the pandemic, and they noticed a lot of people from their community struggling to get by. With this knowledge, Rachel decided to start making meals and delivering them to people for free to help ease some of the stress. Throughout the week, she would take orders from people in her community, and over the weekend, her husband would deliver them all over town. Over time, people started to give her donations, and with that new budget, she was able to make meals for over one hundred people every week. Although she was doing this primarily out of the kindness of her heart, it also helped get Sassy Vegan out into the community. As the shutdowns and restrictions started to lift, Rachel noticed that Eco Fest was planning its first event in Fort Wayne on August 9, 2020, which was her 31st birthday. She felt this would be an excellent opportunity for Sassy Vegan to be a vendor at, so she started looking into what she needed to do to get in. When we asked her about this time, she said,

"I got a hold of the board of health in Allen County, and they said if I wanted to do this, I had to be a commercial place because the laws at the time stated that you couldn't sell home-baked goods at an event. The laws have changed since then, but that's what it was then, so I was like, okay, how can I make this happen? There was a commercial kitchen in Whitley County at the 4H fairgrounds that you could rent. So I started crunching the numbers because I didn't know anything then, and I was like, you know what, for $500, I can make this happen; let's see what happens. We got moved into that kitchen at the end of July, which was right before the Eco Fest deadline, and it was also perfect timing because I was starting to branch out more into Allen County, and I had a lot of places that wanted to sell my products. The bad part about that location was that you had to rent out the space for the entire day, so I was baking 16 hours a day from start to finish. Then I went to Eco Fest, and it was amazing. I had a blast. I sold out of everything. It was very eye-opening to me that I could make money doing this and be a legitimate business, not just a local farmers' market vendor. I had made more money in that one day than I ever had in my entire life doing anything, and I was like, wow, this is cool. So I kept plugging away, and then the universe just throws me into things because I think that's just what I need sometimes, but the kitchen I was using decided they wanted to redo the floors, and they would be shut down for an entire month in December. They told me at the last minute that they would be doing this, so I was like, I can't just not have a business. I had already been looking into Cook Spring, but the smallest amount I would need was $600 a month, and I didn't know if I could sell that much. I  wasn't sure it would work, so I talked to my husband, and he said, 'You know what, go for it. What do you have to lose?' The government was getting ready to shut down in November around Thanksgiving, so I had 72 hours to make this happen, or I would be shut down. I got a hold of people at the board of health, and they walked me through everything I needed to do, and literally down to the last minute, I got the final signature I needed. I was freaking out, but we got it done, and we got moved in, and we've been there ever since." 
Plant Based & Gluten Sensitive food in Fort Wayne, IN. Sassy Vegan is commited to serving a healthy alternative to our community.

After moving into Cook Spring at the end of November 2020, Rachel was able to continue working on perfecting her vegan and gluten-sensitive baked goods and growing her company. In the summer of 2021, Rachel decided it was time to get back into cooking meals and ventured out into catering and meal prep targeted towards those with food allergies and/or strict diets. After going into that sector of the food industry, Sassy Vegan began to grow significantly because Rachel was able to serve a market of people that only a few other catering services specialized in. 

Today, Rachel has a team that helps her sell products at events and cook in the kitchen; they call themselves 'The Sass Squad.' Her husband, Kusko, and little brother are part of the team that helps in the kitchen, and her husband works on the fudge and Kusko Krunch. If you want to purchase any of Rachel's delicious vegan and gluten-sensitive baked goods, Sassy Vegan has a pop-up at Union Street Market Thursday through Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm and they are at the YLNI Farmers Market every Saturday. Rachel also plans to be a part of many events every year, but this year, she has taken a step back from booking events because she has big news coming for all Sassy Vegan lovers. Rachel is moving into her first storefront by the end of the summer, and she can't wait to share all the details when everything is finalized. Although she is cutting back on events, she still plans to host Sassy Sundays every other month, which are currently held at the Botanical Conservatory. When we asked Rachel what Sassy Sundays are, she said,

"We have local vendors, and it's a maker's market, so we have a lot of small businesses that otherwise wouldn't be given the opportunity because a lot of events are starting to get picky about who they let in. I'm more like if you make your product and you're not a bigot, you can come. I don't care if you're a small or large business. Then we also pick an organization that we sponsor for the month and donate part of our sales from that event to that organization." 

As we discussed all the incredible things Rachel has accomplished up through today we asked her what her hopes are for the future. She said,

"I think most importantly, I want to raise awareness for creating a more inclusive world, just in general. Whether it's with food or world views, that's why I offer vegan and gluten-free and cater to people with very obscure allergies. Being a nero divergent person and my husband is autistic, along with many of my staff, I'm just trying to show that being inclusive isn't a burden. It doesn't have to be a big deal if we shape our minds to view inclusivity as the norm instead of the exception, and that's what's really important to me. It's tied to my healing journey, it's tied to my business, it's tied to everything. On the business side, I want to get moved into the storefront and potentially have more than one location; we'll see. I want to have fun with it and don't want to lose sight of who I am. I say I hate capitalism, but I'm also a participant in it, so I'm just trying to see what that looks like for me, doing it ethically and being there for my community. We have free food bins at the markets where people can purchase items for it or take from it. It's like the Forward Indiana Pantries, but it's a bin at our booth. I want to continue doing community work like that and running the Sassy Sunday community markets. I want to continue doing what I'm doing and, hopefully, one day on a larger scale. I want to get to the point where I can tell my husband he can quit his job."

She continued by sharing how vital her husband has been throughout her healing and business journey. He has been there since the beginning of Sassy Vegan and has believed in her even when she didn't believe in herself. She also mentioned that her grandparents have been significant supporters along her journey; in fact, Sassy Vegan was created on her grandfather's birthday, so that day holds a very special place in her heart.

Rachel Lomasi Smith and Kusko have built a wonderful business that is continuing to grow in our community. After doing lot of vendor events and hiring a great team, she shares her story with the Fort Wayne Business Journal

Rachel's journey from a challenging upbringing to a successful business owner is a testament to her resilience, determination, and unwavering belief in herself. Through it all, she never lost sight of her dreams and worked tirelessly to turn them into reality, with the support and encouragement from those who want to see her succeed. Through her hard work and perseverance, Rachel has transformed Sassy Vegan into a thriving company that is now poised to take the next step in its growth by opening their first storefront. Rachel's story inspires all who may be facing obstacles in their own lives, showing that anything is possible with courage, perseverance, and a steadfast commitment to one's dreams. To finish our conversation, we asked Rachel what she would say to other entrepreneurs hoping to start a business one day. She said,

"I think of what I would say to younger me, and that is that it's okay to be scared and not to know what you're doing. You don't have to have everything figured out to get started because it's either day one or one day. I'm really glad that I had people who believed in me and pushed me to take risks because I would consider myself someone who takes risks now, but back then, I did not, so be willing to bet on yourself and trust your gut. Definitely trust your gut because my gut has told me things were not meant for me, and I didn't understand at the time, but then I figured out why later. I would also like to share that it is possible to have a life after trauma and abuse. That's not to say that everything horrible in your life is going to be erased. It's always going to be there, but things can get better. You get better at things and can find purpose and meaning even if things didn't turn out how you thought they would."
Fort Wayne Business Journal share The Sassy Vegan story and how The Sally Vegan got started as a business. If you want to learn more about businesses in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

When we want to send a huge thank you to Rachel for sharing her journey with us and being so open about the highs and lows she's had to overcome. Thank you to Nike with Creative Roots Media for capturing the photos you see throughout the article and thank you to Sarah Grace Photography for the product photos If you enjoy reading the stories of those shaping Fort Wayne, one business at a time, subscribe to our free newsletter so you're always in the loop about what's happening here at the Fort Wayne Business Journal.


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