Tamearra Dyson, owner of Souley Vegan, has been cooking her signature vegan dishes since the age, of 18. Chef Dyson, a vegan from an early age, believes in cruelty free eating.
"When Life Hands You Lemons, Add Basil!"
Growing up my Mother fed us three kids (my brother Myron, Sister Rosalie and myself) a primarily vegetarian diet. She didn’t call it that at the time, she just tried to do her best with what she had.
When I was pregnant with my son Aquil, I began cooking. Being a vegan already, all of the dishes I prepared were vegan.
In June 2007, I decided to leave a promising career in the medical field for something I was more passionate about. (That something became what you now know as Souley Vegan!)
A single mother with zero savings! Of course everyone said I was crazy to pursue this. But not one to be discouraged, I began catering and selling food at local markets and events.
Fast forward two years, in 2009, I came across a vacant restaurant location at 301 Broadway in Downtown Oakland. After passing by this location a first, second, and third time, I decided to call and schedule a walk through. I barely had the gas to drive down there, but I went and attempted to portray full confidence in my ability to pay the high price the landlord was requiring upon securing the property.
In my heart and soul I felt that this place belonged to Souley Vegan. I said to her with the confidence I pretended to have that while my credit wasn’t the best, I would have no problem paying the money she requested. She called me a week later and said, “Tamearra, you said your credit wasn’t the best but you did not say how bad! We will not be able to lease to you.” I said if that’s what you choose then I understand, however,if you give me a chance you will not regret it. She responded “So, let me get this straight, I’m supposed to just take you on your word, huh?” To which I just replied, yes. She said I’ll call you back..I received a call from her a few days later , as she informed me of the stipulations that I would need to meet in order for me to get the location I was thinking yes!! then thinking, now how am I going to do.
Remembering that it would take my mother because of her pride, an hour to get up the strength to call one of my aunties or Grandfather to ask for food to feed us children when we didn’t have any. I too had that pride and did not want to ask anyone for anything..but I did, I humbled myself and went on a quest for money while continuing to take any and all catering jobs, farmers market etc. to make the money. Yes I got insulted a few times and It was embarrassing and very humbling.
One day I received a call from a customer that heard I was looking for funds to secure this location. To make this long story short, between the money she loaned and the money I made from catering jobs and markets…I literally got the total sum in my hand 20 minutes before I was due to meet my landlord to sign the contract to seal the deal.
After signing I thought, YES!! then I thought, now how am I going to pay rent, get equipment in the restaurant etc. this was in March of 2009. When I opened Souley Vegan in July of 2009 I had to my name one pair of pants and the 27 dollars my sister put in the cash register right before I opened the doors.
To find out how I paid rent with no money for the 4 months I had the property before we actually opened…you’ll have to find me at the restaurant. Come say hello and let me tell you. 🙂