Francesca “Sol” Chaney is the 23-year-old mastermind behind Sol Sips, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, whose focus is healthy customers over hefty profits.
While people are slowly becoming aware of the benefits of eating a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet, not everyone can grab such a healthy meal on the go. Many vegan restaurants are in gentrified neighborhoods and cater to a wealthy, privileged clientele.
Sol Sips wants to change that.
“There’s a disconnect because it’s not in the range of affordability, realistically, for what the general income bracket is in the neighborhood,” Francesca told CBS New York. “And then, it’s also the space itself [that] doesn’t feel inclusive. So, I’m constantly thinking about how can we make this more inclusive”.
Francesca’s mother is vegan, so the 23-year-old entrepreneur explained that she’s always known about the positive effects of a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. She believes that vegan food is more about wellness and healing one’s body than weight loss and diet trends.
However, when Francesca moved out on her own, she had a hard time coming across vegan food at fair prices. As a full-time student with three jobs, she struggled to find healthy food that she could eat quickly. She decided that the best way to overcome the accessibility issue in the vegan community was to take matters into her own hands. She started making her plant-based recipes for her friends and family, and at the age of 21, Francesca founded Sol Sips. Over the past two years, it has evolved from a pressed juice company into a restaurant and café that is accessible to the average Joe.
“The wellness community can be really classist,” she told ESSENCE magazine. “Our intention [with Sol Sips] is to make organic plant-based beverage and bites available to everyone”.
The restaurant even offers a sliding scale brunch on Saturdays. For $7 – $15, customers can enjoy a full meal and a beverage at a price that doesn’t break the break. With dishes on the menu such as green banana tamales of her mother’s native Belize, jerk jackfruit and “lobster” mac and cheese on the menu, Francesca also wants to change the perception that vegan food is bland and tasteless. Her customers seem to agree: the restaurant has a 4.9 out of 5 rating on Facebook.
“With vegan food, it’s all about what you bring to it”, she said. “It’s the absence of meat, the absence of dairy. It doesn’t mean that there’s the absence of spices and herbs,” she said.
Francesca plans to further expand her business with cooking classes and an internship program for women of color. She believes in nourishing the community both inside and outside the kitchen.
“We’re on this earth for such a short amount of time”, she said. “While we’re here, we should feel really good in our bodies”.