(Philadelphia, PA) When one thinks of vegetarian or vegan food they usually think of just salads and vegetables. Ever imagined the possibility of combining this food with the everyday food we have come to know and love? HipCityVeg has turned this possibility into a reality. According to the website, the design is “fast-food inspired fresh vegan food: Burgers, Fries, Salads, Wraps, healthy drinks and desserts.” This is the place where you can indulge in some of your guiltiest pleasures without sacrificing your health. The focus of HipCityVeg is not solely limited to good food but also sustainability and giving back. They accomplish this by using 100% compostable products, recycling everything, and sourcing locally and organically I had the chance to sit down for a face-to-face interview with President and CEO, Nicole Marquis.
There was a long series of events that led up to the creation of HipCityVeg. Ms. Marquis discussed her road to veganism, which took almost a decade. Her interest in nutrition peaked after reading Eating Well for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil and she gave up eating beef after reading Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman. Ms. Marquis then went on to become pescatarian, then vegetarian, and finally vegan once she learned of the negative health effects of animal proteins from, The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. She then went on to say, “when I realized that it’s not only about me or the environment, but it’s about other living beings and being compassionate to all living things, thats when I thought of HipCityVeg”. The idea came to her in 2008 and after four years of hard work and an 83 page business plan, HipCityVeg finally opened in 2012.
Ms. Marquis then described what it was like once she finally set her vision into motion. She discussed the numerous challenges that came into play when she was developing her company “(Laughs) Everything you can imagine”. Construction was what she defined as her biggest obstacle saying, “It seems like every time you uncover one problem, ten other problems pop up”. Ms. Marquis also said that there is so much you have to learn, like plumbing, construction, real estate, etc. in order to stay on top of things because there is always someone trying to rip you off. When asked how she overcame these obstacles, there was one thing she described as the biggest driving force saying, “I got through all of it because of my passion and my burning desire to create a positive change through a plant-based diet”.
There was some great advice that she gave for those who are interested in entrepreneurship. Ms. Marquis quoted a speech by Winston Churchill where he simply said “Never give up” five times in a row, saying that when you are trying to achieve something that is of importance to you, challenges are inherent so you can’t give up. She also said that you have to ask yourself: “Why?” An entrepreneur needs to focus on the “why” and not as much the “how”, there are a lot of people you can bring on to figure out the how. “I have ten people working with me who are smarter than me in their specialized realm because I don’t have to think about those details. I have to think about the why,” going on to define entrepreneurs as those who create and encourage other to come together for a shared purpose. She then went on to say, “I wouldn’t work this hard just for money. It’s too hard for just money (Laughs)” continuing, “I am working this hard because I know that every meal we serve is one less meal with animal products”. Over 10 billion animals are killed every year in America, so she described that one Crispy HipCity Ranch sandwich is doing something in a domino effect, “that’s so much bigger than me”.
Since the opening of HipCityVeg almost 3 years ago, Ms. Marquis has opened up a second location in University City as well as a bar on Chestnut St. with specialty cocktails and vegan tapas. When asked about the short-term and long-term goals for HipCityVeg, a short-term goal is to open her fourth restaurant which is a third concept they have that will open in April(ish) if construction goes well. Her long-term goal for the company is to create a global brand and spread her mission world-wide.
Patrick Whalen is a Junior at Temple University majoring in Media Studies and Production. He enjoys traveling, going out with friends, and trying new things. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.