Everyone knows that a plant-based diet is good for your heart and the planet. The sticking point? Well, a plant-based diet doesn’t include cheese—that melty, savory, high-fat, animal based substance that’s hard for some of us to live without. Despite years of concerted efforts, passable plant-based alternatives are few and far between.
Heidi Lovig is setting out to change that. She believes that vegans shouldn’t have to face a life without cheese; she also believes that cheese substitutes don’t have to be manufactured in labs. Here, we sit down with Heidi to learn about her company, Heidi Ho, and her vision for a more sustainable world.
What was the spark that inspired the birth of Heidi Ho?
As a newbie chef writing vegan options onto restaurants in Portland, I tasted the non-dairy cheeses available on the market and found that none of them tasted good. They weren’t made from real ingredients either—they were made entirely of processed starches and low-quality fats. I knew there was an opportunity here.
What problem does your business solve?
Heidi Ho Organics fills the gaping hole in the marketplace that was begging for a high-quality, organic, and flavorful alternative to cheese. Using a combination of organic nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes, herbs and spices, I’ve created a line of delicious plant-based cheeze, which just happen to be very nutritious.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
It gives me the opportunity to use my work for change. Our motto at Heidi Ho is “Be the Cheeze”- it comes from compassion and is ignited by action. By design, conscious business supports innovation that shines a spotlight on the environmental, economic, and social challenges we face. Being an innovator requires a disruptive mindset, which entails a steadfast commitment to the purpose of Heidi Ho, our morals and values, and living by that set of principals in every business decision we make.
What’s the biggest surprise?
The power of asking for support. It is invaluable to own my areas of expertise and reach out for help from people for their areas of expertise. It makes me a better leader.
As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night?
Cash flow is a big contender, of course. But I often find myself in deep thought about how to use this company as a catalyst for the change I wish to see in the world.
I am entrepreneur because I am not capable of spending my time working to make others’ dreams come true.” (Tweet this.)
What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)?
The Vice President of the Pacific NW region for Whole Foods Market, Bruce Silverman, once told me that I MUST identify with clear convictions the purpose of Heidi Ho. This higher purpose would become the GPS system for our company, guiding my decisions and illuminating the path forward.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?
You have to love what you do with every cell of your being and have the willingness to risk all stability. I am entrepreneur because I am not capable of spending my time working to make others’ dreams come true. There are only a few existing companies I could see myself working for. I work for my dreams, and I carry the weight of them with me at all times.
What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey?
I would say that my song is an awesome 80’s hairband song called “Winds of Change” by the Scorpions. When I was eight years old, I was offered an opportunity to fundraise so that I could embark on a 110 mile back-backing journey through Yosemite National Park. I remember having one cassette tape and a Walkman and listening to this song on repeat during the adventure. It was the first time in my life that I realized I was capable of anything that I set my mind to. This song is about the history of our conflicts and learning from them. It touches on the end of WWII through the cold war, the spring of 1968 revolutions, the USSR, the Kosovo and Bosnia conflicts, the fall of communism, the Berlin wall coming down, and AIDS. The song is about listening to the winds of change and looking for opportunities for growth. To me, it is my anthem on my own journey to becoming an entrepreneur.
Imagine your venture becomes wildly successful. What does that look like?
A wildly successful Heidi Ho Organics creates opportunities for me to make the world a better place. It gives me the capital to be the change. It leaves the planet greener. It saves some farm animals. It provides healthy options for people everywhere. It is a launch pad to be able to do the philanthropic work that our local communities, our country, and our world need. It is the muse for my bigger picture.
Can you describe your typical day?
A typical work day for me involves quite a bit of high-quality Portland coffee, a little exercise for self-preservation followed by 12-14 hours of meetings, production, phone calls, emails, research, numbers, strategy, planning, action, and more planning. All of that is complimented by my solid plant-based high energy diet… and Inka Corn (a crunchy salty roasted corn snack).
Our goal is to help keep Oregon money green.” (Tweet this.)
What’s your favorite local business and why?
Food Fight! Grocery. They are a bad-ass little vegan grocery store on SE 12th / Stark, and were the first store to carry our product line and show Heidi Ho some love.
As you think about the growth of Heidi Ho to date, what are you most thankful for?
I am most thankful for my partner, Lyssa. She has supported me, invested in me, and held my hand through the ups and downs. She is the bravest person I have ever known, teaching me the value of calculated risk-taking and insurmountable work ethic.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a younger child I wanted to be a marine biologist. Later I learned that involved science, so that dream fizzled. Then I wanted to be famous. I am not sure for what, but famous nonetheless. In high school I wanted to be a writer. I still do, and I will in time.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business?
Oregon is a perfect place for any food company. Heidi Ho only tastes as good as the ingredients I use. Our hazelnuts come from Meridian Organics in Aurora, OR. Our organic veggies come from Spring Hill Organic Farm down in Albany, OR. We source as much as we can locally because of the Pacific NW quality. If we can’t source it direct, we find a local supplier to support and have them source it for us. Our goal is to help keep Oregon money green.