We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenelle Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jenelle, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My company originally started as a Baking Business. I started out baking fondant cakes, then to boozy cupcakes then turned those recipes into gourmet cookie bars which I sold to my local Freshii when I lived in Chicago, IL. After transitioning to a Vegan lifestyle I knew I wanted to keep my business going but was really at a loss as to which product I wanted to sell especially since my former recipes for the baked goods were non vegan. So I decided I would start making Plant based milks which I did however when I moved to Dallas I had friends over for New Years Eve and I had a little hidden gem that I didn’t quite promote until my friend tried it. The hidden gem was a Plant Based Cashew Queso cheez I made. My friend was out done and blown away by the taste and suggested that be my product to launch vs the milks. After becoming overly excited about the idea I knew this product would be an asset to many especially those looking to give you dairy or just someone who wanted a healthy alternative to cheese.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’d love to say I have been an artist since birth. I am a lover of music and entertainment. I have a previous work history that extends from being in the music industry, a recording artist and extra background work in acting in Los Angeles. I have also worked most of my life in Corporate America & have a Degree in Sports Medicine/Athletic Training. Growing up I always had hopes of becoming Janet Jackson’s backup dancer, a Physical Therapist, a Nutritionist & an Olympic Athlete. My favorite sport was Track n Field & eating great food lol. I struggled with my weight all my life. I did not have a healthy relationship with food. I would try diet after diet. In 2016 I had grown weary of working in Corporate America and not pursuing all the things that set my soul on fire not to mention I weighed in at 238lbs at almost 5’7. I was fat, sick and nearly dead. I had grown tired of feeling horrible so I devised a plan that would allow me to focus solely on healing myself.

My contract on my job was up for renewal I was praying they would either let me work part time or let me out of my contract all together. Well they let me out of my contract and I was on my way to getting healthy. I decided I would give Veganism a shot since I had tried everything but that. It was very challenging in the beginning. I mean I was a great baker but a cook I was not lol but I was determined. I pretty much locked myself in the kitchen and learned how to Nourish my body. As time went on I became better and better. The weight was simply falling off and I had gained much more clarity. Having such a vast pallet allowed me to explore certain fruits and veggies I would never even dream of. As time went on my food seemed to taste amazing. I found myself creating fusion dishes by layering my foods and infusing other cultural spices together. I was trying to create art and magic in my kitchen and I was loving every moment of it.

I went from being a cook to now a Chef. I learned to try new things without Fear. I mean it’s just food right. Well in that process I discovered my passion for creating amazing foods with plants and wanting to share that passion with the world. I dropped 80lbs from simply changing my diet but more importantly I learned to have compassion, I learned to Love myself enough to want to become mindful of how I was nourishing my body, mind and soul, I lost the depression and anxiety that had plagued me for so long and to top it off I was a single mom living at home with my mom and grandmother with my child in a dark room in the living room. It was not only our bedroom it had become my gym as well. I had pulled myself out of a very dark place in 2 rooms the bedroom/living room and the kitchen only to be sitting right here Healthy, Whole and Thriving.

I will not tell you it’s easy but I will tell you it’s 1000% worth it. I am so grateful to myself for stepping out on a faith and deciding to go down this path. It has been one the the greatest gifts EVER!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I had a friend visiting we would visit my favorite juice bar in the city Roots Market and Juicery, then hit up one of my favorite Latte Bars like Lalaland or Karmic Grounds. I’m a sucker for a creamy nourishing latte. Then hit up a few of the local Vegan Chefs like Vegan Vibrationz, The Real OG Vegan & Rellanas Mexican Food & Bowlega for an amazing açaí bowl.

Hit a few of the local pop ups or Farmers Market in Frisco & Dallas I simply love the vibe of the markers. As a vendor myself you truly experience the Love and Passion one puts into their brand. Small batches of love every time you make a purchase.

I love the water too so there are a couple spots I would love to hang out and that’s Adriatica in Mckinney & The Sound in Coppell and depending on the day you can catch some live music. The vibe there is amazing.

Of course I cannot forget my local supermarkets. I am someone who stays in the grocery stores. The produce section gives me life and I love exploring new vegan products. So taking my friend to Central Market, Natural Grocer or my local Sprouts is so awesome.

Since we are in Texas being outside is a must so sitting outside at your local eatery/pub or bar is also a good idea. I do not really drink alcohol anymore but I am always down to finding a great mocktail on the menu and doing a little people watching.

Lastly Top golf is always a fun time and or bowling I have a mean curve when I bowl, watch out now lol.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As I stated early in my response to the driving force behind starting my business. I would love to shout out my friend Nicole Johnson for encouraging me to launch my Queso line. Without her input this product may have just been on the back burner. I would also like to give credit to my mom she has been my biggest fan and has made her share of investments into my brand. She’s encouraged me daily to keep going no matter what. Eat Your Greens the pep talks, the encouragement, the lessons and the endless amount of information exchanged from them has been priceless & the amazing microgreens they bless me with. What can I say lol. And of course my clients who support me no matter where am at the moment with my brand. Without them I am not sure where I would be. There support and feedback is priceless.

Website: www.exotic-bites.com

Instagram: exoticbites

Facebook: Exotic Bites LLC

Youtube: Exotic Bites LLC

Image Credits
Jean Charite

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