Women in Business: Dee Regan of DeeLicious Raw

Dee Regan of DeeLicious Raw makes raw, vegan cheesecake in Vermont. DeeLicious Raw produces raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free cheesecakes in Vermont. Made only from pure Vermont Maple Syrup, organic virgin coconut oil, their own homemade almond milk, raw cashews, raw walnuts, raw pecans, California dates, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, there are no preservatives in any of our products and every cheesecake is made by hand, one at a time. You can find her products at each of our locations, including the Tiramasu flavor which is exclusive to Healthy Living!

1. What is your business origin story? How did it all start?

My background as a Registered Nurse gave me a front row seat to care for a majority of patients whose ailing health was largely due to poor food and lifestyle choices. Those poor choices led to unfortunate outcomes of obesity, coronary artery diseases, diabetes, dementia to mention a few. My light bulb moment came as I was administering insulin to one of my patients and she blurted out to me. “you know, when I was young my favorite thing was the drive-in movies and ordering big greasy burgers, greasy fries and milkshakes, no one told us this was bad for you, it’s just how we ate, it’s how we all ate, that’s how it was back then.” My patient was right, no one talked about nutrition in that generation. During the remainder of my shift that day, I began to question why people continue to make poor food choices. The sad reality I have observed is that only a handful of my colleagues make healthy food choices, while, unfortunately, it appears a majority are on their way to having many of the same health consequences as the very patients they care for. The answer became clear to me. They have the knowledge and the healthy food choices available but the food is not delicious enough for them to make the change. That brief conversation with my patient, coupled with by my own diagnosis of Hashimoto’s hypothyroid disease, and observing the health of my colleagues sparked an immediate thought process of ideas and concepts that over the next several years led to the birth of my company, Deelicious Raw. In that moment, I decided to find a way to become trained as a vegan chef. I became trained by internationally renowned restaurateur and NY Times bestseller, Alissa Cohen. I became a raw food chef and was determined to show people that whole pure
foods can be amazingly delicious, and enough to make the change!
In the Fall of 2013, I approached Nina Lesser-Goldsmith, co-owner of Healthy Living and Cafe in Vermont, with a unique concept idea of teaching a raw plant based food class at Healthy Living’s learning kitchen focusing on locally sourced and organic plant foods. Nina was willing to give my class a chance and with her guidance and support, my first class was launched in September of 2013. The classes were a success! Students loved the use of local Vermont products and especially loved our vegan maple syrup-infused cheesecakes. At the end of every class there was always a pleading from students to make and sell my cheesecakes. For the next couple of years I juggled nursing and teaching raw food classes while perfecting my Vermont- made vegan cheesecakes.
In February 2017, I left my nursing position and decided to pursue my idea of starting a vegan food company and Deelicious Raw foods was born. The name was inspired by my nickname, Dee, and the concept that vegan food can be delicious! Currently, the company is co-owned by myself, my husband Michael, and our partners, Manon Martel and Jean Sirois. Our mission statement is “to empower health though the unexpected pleasure of enjoying real pure
foods.” I am thankful for that serendipitous conversation with my patient and to Nina for giving me the opportunity to make my passions into a business.

2. What is the most rewarding part of owning your business?

Meeting our customers and hearing their stories. Together we all become a family of inspiring hope, inspiration and joy. Our customers often track our “demos” and bring extended family to meet with us. They are our cheerleaders! Knowing we are making people happy and realizing that spreading the word of healthy choices can be as simple as making a “deelicious” dessert is very gratifying. We decided early on that “demos” are a very significant part of our business and that the people we have representing our company at the demos will help to determine the success of our product. We made a commitment to have only our company’s owners work at our demos as our enthusiasm, passion, knowledge and dedication to our product is best represented by those of us who live and breathe this lifestyle. The surprise of pure joy, big smiles and a growing list of dedicated customers makes our demos the favorite part of our job!

3. What are some of the Challenges?

We look at every challenge as an opportunity to figure it out, make something better, or come up with a sustainable solution. We believe challenges are what makes you stronger and ultimately provide growth opportunities. Perhaps the first challenge we faced was how to distribute our cakes because they have to be delivered frozen and, since we are a start-up company, we do not have the volume needed to work with a distributor. Our solution was to distribute our own products by designing and purchasing our own freezer van. This has allowed us to develop a good working relationship with our store’s receiving department staff. Another example of a challenge we overcame was our initial labeling. Initially, we had the same color label for each flavor. Healthy Living reached out to us and asked if it were possible to make labels that allowed the customers to quickly differentiate the flavors. This challenge led us to develop color coded labels. Another challenge we encountered was providing whole cakes for retail. Seth Walker, Frozen Food Manager at Healthy Living, asked us to develop a whole cake that could fit in the freezer section. At the time, we were only making 9-inch whole cakes. Because of this, we developed a 6-inch cake available in all our flavors. The 6-inch cakes have become in high
demand for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and for any type of celebration.

Acquiring new accounts can also be challenging as it tends to be very time consuming. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Manon Martel, our new partner and Director of Sales. Manon comes to us with years of Fortune 500 sales experience. She was initially a loyal customer and big fan of our cakes. We are blessed to welcome her into our family and we are looking forward to big growth in 2018 and beyond.

4. Name one Company or Business owner that you really admire and why?

Hands down, for me it would be Oprah Winfrey. I have admired her for years. I remember clearly sensing as a young adult that she had an undeniable genuine caring for people. I could tell by looking at the expressions on her face, the way she listened and asked questions to her guests. As an African-American woman, she had two glass ceilings to break through. If you look at what she has accomplished and the steps she took to get there it is evident to me that there are three ingredients needed for success, passion, tenacity and authenticity. I admire the path she has taken and the roads she has chosen, from her humble beginnings as an employee of a radio station to owning her OWN network and giving back through philanthropy, Oprah has set an example for every woman who wants to succeed in business and in life. My favorite quote from Oprah is “you don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.”

5. What advice do you have for other women out there who may be wanting to start their own Company?

First, you must believe without a doubt that this is your purpose and passion. Because I
believe it is that passion and belief in your purpose that will sustain and drive you through the
growing phase of your company. Your passion is reflected in your product, no matter what it is.
I also believe that women are amazing, creative, intelligent, passionate, empathetic and fair
people. On that note, be a “confident woman” in the many roles of your life! It’s an amazing
time in history to be a woman, so sign up for the race! It takes a confident woman to know that
you can’t do it alone so seek out your spouse, partner, or others you can work with and trust.
Welcome feedback, it is where your next improvement often comes from. Be authentic and
empathetic so you become the voice people want to hear and follow. Lastly, take the word
“afraid” out of your vocabulary, or you will never start that idea, product or next big thing you
were meant to do.