Meet The Goodvibes Kitchen, producer and distributor of the world’s first vegan cheesecake bites. Owner Gabrielė Nečejauskaitė tells us about how she started the company on a shoestring and why she’s interested in collaborating with other vegan food entrepreneurs. While the company launched on April 1st of last year, it’s no joke. A big fan of self-improvement coach Tony Robbins (who happens to be vegan too), Gabrielė has a solid recipe for success: some savings, a positive attitude, resolve, supportive friends and a way with sweets. This budding businesswoman is determined to attain commercial success while enticing her omnivore contemporaries to come to the veg side, one delicious bite at a time.
Gabrielė tells us we owe these cruelty-free versions of the traditional Lithuanian delicacies to her former double affliction: lactose intolerance and dairy addiction—I know, what a bind! The young entrepreneur (21), reveals she managed to rid herself of the digestive discomfort that had plagued her since childhood by switching to a plant-based diet two years ago (her first vegan influence being controversial YouTube celebrity Freelee the Banana Girl).
Gabrielė’s extreme love of all things cheesy made her wonder if she could switch successfully to a vegan lifestyle. In fact, she says that the idea for her business came from a purely selfish need for an alternative to the cheesecake bite, which was her favorite dairy-based dessert. Gabrielė’s version of the beloved snack has soft bits of flavored sweet soy curd coated with dark chocolate.
To complement her special knack for making sweets (she’s enjoyed cooking and baking since she was little) and strengthen her natural talent for business, Gabrielė is currently enrolled at Vilniaus Kolegija, University of Applied Sciences in Vilnius, studying international business. But she already knows a lot and has made many of the right biz moves. Before selling, she first offered free samples to friends and relatives. Without their positive feedback and inquiries, Gabrielė says she might never have found the courage to take on larger scale production.
After experimenting with recipes and flavors for half a year, Gabrielė launched The Goodvibes Kitchen. The name is meant to reflect the positive vibes we feel when lovingly preparing compassionate food.
Selecting the flavors to include in her sampler box, Gabrielė opted for classic vanilla, chocolate and coconut cheesecake bites. In response to customer requests, she later introduced a poppy seed bite. Caramel filled and mint flavors are also available at events only.
To promote the business, Gabrielė participated in numerous events in Vilnius: the September VegFest at the LITEXPO (largest expo center in the Baltic States) , the November BaltGastro Fair (featuring Balkan-based gastronomical companies) and the December VegFest at the Novotel hotel. She also created a Christmas giveaway contest, offering some of her sampler boxes as prizes, managed to get featured in local business newspapers and started selling through the first Lithuanian vegan grocery store, Veggo Shop.
One of Gabrielė’s strengths as an entrepreneur is her optimistic attitude. She told me she’s confident the number of people interested in alternatives to dairy is steadily rising. “People who approach me tend to be more and more open to new possibilities. Even though most of them aren’t yet plant-based nutrition advocates, they appreciate the products.”
Another strength is her inclusive attitude, not only with customers but with colleagues. Gabrielė urges everyone thinking about starting their own culinary adventure to get in touch. “We can discuss your specific situation. I’m honest and always find it fun to talk with like- minded people determined to make the world a better place.”
But no matter how good the product and how resourceful the business person, there are always some bumps on the road. Asked about difficulties she’s encountered, Gabrielė says some people wince at the price of her bites, which ranges from €1.69 to €1.75 in shops and go for €1.50 during events. This is a bit expensive for a sweet, by Lithuanian standards. “Unfortunately that’s out of my control,” explains Gabrielė. “As long as State subsidies are funneled to dairy producers and not to plant milk propagators, not much can be done in terms of cost reduction.”
But, hey, there are indications this situation might change in Europe. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), for example, has urged the Dutch government to adopt a nationwide tax on meat and other animal products, and establish clearer labeling to make sure everyone can quickly identify sustainable and healthy food items.
Another difficulty is the misinformation on soy from mainstream media and propagandist resources. “Some customers have been scared away from soy, but most relax a bit when I confirm the product I use is certified non-GMO,” says Gabrielė. For a comprehensive review of soy, we recommend UC Berkeley’s May 9, 2016 wellness letter dedicated to the issue. While on the subject of soy, I asked our friend if her soy was local. “Since soy cultivation is quite new and scarce in Lithuania,” she responded, “I often end up sourcing some of the soy curd from other EU countries.”
Despite these few concerns about price and the use of soy, she knows she’s on the right track based on the many phone calls and messages from satisfied customers expressing gratitude and joy for her desserts. “There probably is no better feeling than when your passion brings joy to others too, and when you feel that the message is spreading. People are receiving, understanding it and sharing it.” Gabrielė believes delicious foods are the ultimate tool for converting new vegans and destroying the myth that plant-based nutrition leads to boring, tasteless, unhealthy food. She also believes that catering institutions joining the plant-based movement are a key element to veganizing the world.
Still, Gabrielė avoids using the terms “vegan” and “veganism” so as not to scare the locals. “In Lithuania, these words often have a negative connotation,” she warns. Probably wise—respecting human psychology and sociology, which differs from one country to another, is important when it comes to inspiring positive change.
Please give Gabrielė’s Goodvibes Kitchen a Like!