Celebrating World Vegan Day with the Founder + CEO of Oo’mämē, Mark Engel
- What inspired you to start your brand?
“After working for 25 years for other people, leading product development and innovation teams around the world, I decided I wanted to do something on my own. I started my career in marketing at General Mills, and I wanted to go back to my roots, so I decided to start a food brand.”
- What vegan recipe does Oo’mämē go best with?
“You can check out our website for a variety of recipes, but what I personally find most flavorful is using recipes I’m already making and add Oo’mämē to it. You can transform your food with flavors from India, Morocco, China, and Mexico, with just one spoonful. Beginner cooks are always challenged, especially vegan cooks, trying to find ways to add tremendous flavor to their dishes. Oo’mämē brings convenience and ease to that. Experienced cooks and chefs love the complexity and versatility of Oo’mämē.
- Where has been your favorite place you’ve visited so far?
“In 1989 when I was 24, I moved to a small village in Taiwan. I didn’t speak any Chinese, and no one there spoke English. I found the Taiwanese people to be absolutely wonderful. I had to learn to speak food Chinese so that I could survive, and my fondest memories were exploring all of the food stalls and small Mom-and-Pop restaurants and learning how to cook authentic Taiwanese and Chinese food from these locals.
- What is the most rewarding part of running a small business?
“Running a small business is incredibly challenging, but one of the most rewarding things for me is when people leave reviews and they tell me how much they love the product and how they creatively use it. On top of all that, it’s rewarding to see a repeat customer come back and either buy more for themselves or for friends and family. That is just the best.”
- What are some lessons you’ve learned from starting a business from the ground up?
“Starting a business from the ground up is very hard, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to leverage my 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations, as well as the network and relationships that I had built over time. When it came time to find a design firm to help me create my brand, I had the right person to work with. When I needed help scaling up my recipes, I had the right person to work with there. Then, I had to find a co-packer to help me make my product. Bringing all of these experiences and relationships together has brought me to what we’re doing today.”
- What are the biggest challenges you faced during COVID?
“We’re a new business and we received our first palette of product on March 17th, which was the day that every business in our town shut down. We immediately had to make a pivot to e-commerce and online sales if we wanted to sell our product. The biggest challenge was understanding how to link our website to all of the social media platforms and getting it all to work together. We also had to get Google Analytics as well as all of the Google tools, which was far more complicated than I imagined. We had to hire a consultant to help us, but after two months, we have been successful.”
- What is your vision for Oo’mämē in the future?
“Our brand Oo’mämē is the phonetic spelling of the word ‘umami,’ which in Japanese means ‘yummy.’ People in the culinary world call it the ‘fifth taste.’ Think of it as the conductor of taking sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, and elevating those flavors to a whole new level. What we’ve done is search around the world and found exotic flavors from Fez Morocco, Kerala India, Sichuan China, and Oaxaca Mexico, and we’ve added all-natural umami. What it allows you to do is bring these exotic flavors into your home with amazing layers of complexity and textures to add to anything you’re cooking. We want to make it easy for you to prepare food from around the world in your own home.”
Find Oo’mämē products on Tastermonial, and find Mark at https://oomame.net/!
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