We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Tayem, RDN and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk taking is necessary for success, especially if you are an entrepreneur. There is an old quote that exemplifies how I think about risk, “only the person who risks is truly free.” If we don’t risk, we are just playing it safe, which means the payout for things such as happiness, wealth, personal/professional growth will also be of equal measure. Safe, but likely not exceptional.
When I look back at my life, I have always been a risk-taker. I moved out young, graduated through independent study, moved out of my home state, and went back to college later in life to choose a new profession. Most recently, I’ve chose to start a business during a pandemic. Not because I believed it would be the easiest road to success, but because it was what was calling me. With the title RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) there are several “safe” career options – clinical work in hospital, outpatient at a clinic, community work or working as a food service director in a school district or hospital. All of these are admirable positions, but for me, choosing to be an entrepreneur meant continuing to choose what is best for me and where I feel I can contribute the most and bring my A-game. There has been a lot of risk involved, some involving my time and some involving financial decisions, but as the old saying goes, “no risk, no reward.”
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.
Prior to being the owner of Cashew Later Sauce Company I was an unemployed Registered Dietitian in the middle of a pandemic. I had a career as a CPT (certified personal trainer) before becoming a RD, which is still a hobby but no longer a profession. Although, I don’t train clients anymore, my background in nutrition and fitness have help me develop my expertise in how food, physical function and longevity are related.
My path to becoming a business owner and RDN was a long, but well worth it. I spent 6 years in school and in a dietetic internship where I completed clinical rotations in inpatient and outpatient settings, in a school district and in a local WIC office (women, infants and children). I sat for my state board exam to become a Registered Dietitian in 2020 and passed, thankfully. Anyone who has taken this exam knows how difficult and obscure it is. Shortly after I got my credentials the pandemic hit. It was stressful at the time, but in retrospect it worked out perfectly. It gave me opportunity and time to develop my product, branding and home-school my kids at the same time. It was hectic, but like many people, I found this time useful because I got to reflect on what I really wanted to be when I “grow up.” Either way, was it challenging? Yes. Do small business always have challenges? Yes. How do I work through them? I put my head down and grind. It’s all in the mindset.
I think the biggest thing that sets me apart from others, particularly in the food industry is my understanding of nutrition and ingredients, how they relate to health and the quality of my product. It’s very gratifying for me to put out a product that is truly healthy and wholesome. I only use ingredients you can pronounce; I source many ingredients locally and I only use high quality ingredients I would feed my own family. Many products currently on the market are plant-based but they are still full of non-whole food ingredients or are highly processed. A promise I have made to myself, and my brand is that I will never cut corners with the quality of ingredients just to increase the bottom line. It’s this promise that sets me apart from others.
There have been countless lessons along the way, but I think the biggest one I’ve learned is to never compromise on what I set out to do. It’s easy to have distractions, but a real entrepreneur always keeps their end goal in mind. When making day-to-day decisions, or even big decisions I always ask myself “does this align with my end goal?” If it does, then I proceed and if it doesn’t, then I go back to the drawing board. You’ve got to know what you want, it’s central in acting on your intentions.
If I could tell the world one thing about our brand it would be, TRY IT! Plant-based eating isn’t a new thing, but it is new for the general population here in America. Our product is vegan friendly and gluten free, but you don’t have to be either of those things to like it. If you are a person who is new to plant-based eating, or just trying to find some healthy alternatives but hate flavorless options then give us a try. We are a high quality, delicious option that won’t disappoint and have the ingredient label to back it up!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is such an incredible city to live in, but if you are just a visitor, there are some places you should definitely see. I am a huge foodie and love good drinks, so here are some of my favorites. Pomegranate Georgian/Russian food in Northpark for their salad sampler (carrot salad, eggplant salad, beet salad, bean salad, Oliver salad). They also have a selection of imported beers and vodkas from Georgia! Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town. This place is a true diamond in the rough. A lot of people don’t know it’s there but it’s my favorite spot for fresh, high-quality, purist sushi. They also have an impressive selection of sake. Ironside is a classy and delicious choice for seafood, and you can’t beat their selection or freshness when it comes to Oysters. They also have an impressive cocktail and wine list, and the atmosphere is perfect for a date. For vegan eats, I love Kindred in Southpark and right across the street from Kindred is Buona Forchetta, which has the best Italian food in San Diego. Their pastas are homemade and appetizer list is the chef’s kiss. Last, if you are looking for just a cocktail, Polite Provisions in Normal Heights is the place to go. They have a unique list of old school cocktails with a modern twist.
Hangouts that cannot be overlooked would have to be Balboa Park for the museums, architecture and even food. You can spend a whole day there! The famous San Diego Zoo is also a must see. For beaches, Windansea in La Jolla is absolutely beautiful but if you are looking for the Baywatch style beach you better head to Mission Beach. Mission is great for tourists because there is a lot to do around there – restaurants, boardwalk, shopping and amusement park. I personally love Coronado, but it is a bit off the beaten path. Little Italy is also fun for the farmers market on Saturdays, shopping and so many good eats. You can spend a full day doing a food tour in this neighborhood.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It would be truly impossible to recognize every person who has supported me in a touching way. My immediate family has given me a tremendous amount of support and has never stopped believing in me. I have a tight knit group of friends here in San Diego that are my second family and have been my soundboard throughout the development of my business. They are my biggest fans and keep me going when I am feeling overwhelmed. Last, I have a few investor friends who have literally made my business possible, and I am forever grateful for them. From the beginning they knew they could lose it all, but they believed in the product, brand and most of all, me. I dedicate this shout out to all of these people because without them this business would still just be an idea.