Updated: Apr 8, 2019
This month we are excited to feature Garden State Kitchen’s newest member Laiquan Harvey-Davis, founder of How Delish HD. It’s been great seeing Laiquan around the kitchen, and boy does she make the place smell amazing! We were lucky enough to have time to sit down and talk with her this past week to learn more about her current businesses and how she was able to transition her career from engineering to her love of baking in order to spend more time with her family. Plus read all about the awesome vegan cooking class she'll be teaching next month at Garden State Kitchen.
Thanks so much for talking with me today. Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your business?
My business is called How Delish HD and we focus on vegan desserts and some gluten-free options for people that have dietary restrictions. We also make desserts without refined sugar.
Awesome! So when and why did you start How Delish HD?
I originally started baking vegan desserts for myself. I had stopped eating dairy products and it was hard to find good desserts, so I started baking for myself about 6 years ago. Then almost two years ago, my husband and I went out to lunch in Montclair and he asked for dessert at the restaurant. They said that they didn't have anymore because the person supplying their company with vegan desserts had closed their business. I mentioned that I make vegan dessert and they asked me to bring them some samples. I did, and they ended up buying from me. So that’s when the baking really became a business; when I started supplying desserts to restaurants. Then my husband and I were trying to think of our name. I used to say “this is so delicious” whenever I was eating food and our last name is Harvey-Davis, so that’s how we came up with How Delish HD.
Is How Delish HD what you do full time or do you work another job as well?
I have an engineering company that I started in 2007 and that's still going. I have an employee working for the engineering company and we have a project now that's starting to wrap up. But he basically takes care of that business right now so that I can focus on baking.
It’s a pretty big difference in career between engineering and baking? How did you go from one to the other?
I decided to take a break from engineering because I had just been working the 92nd and 96th Street to 2nd Avenue extension project and when finished that project, I just was tired. While I was taking time off I was doing a lot of baking, and then supplying for restaurants just kind of came about.
So you’ve always kind of been an entrepreneur between you engineering business and now How Delish HD. What are your favorite and least favorite things about being an entrepreneur?
One of my favorite things is that I am able to create opportunities for people. I like the fact that I was able to hire people that probably wouldn’t have had opportunities otherwise if they weren't working for me. I’ve been able to hire people that were mistreated at larger companies and when they came to work for me I was able to have a better relationship with them and understand what they're going through. I also love that How Delicious is a family venture. Working alongside me are my husband, my sons, my brother, and my sister-in-law. My least favorite thing while running the engineering company was not being able to spend as much time with my family, and that's one of the reasons I'm gravitating more to the baking business. It is giving me more time with the family, especially when they're helping with it.
So what do you think makes How Delish HD unique from other companies?
We focus on making desserts that people haven't had since they turned vegan. I had the same experience when I went vegan, like “oh I can't have cheesecake”. I think our focus on making these things taste even better than the original dessert is what sets us apart from most people.
I like on your website how you say you want to make vegan food that even non-vegans want to eat.
Exactly that's our goal and what usually happens. For example, I've had Italian people tell my cheesecake or tiramisu is the best they've ever had. That really means a lot because it means that we're doing what we wanted.
How has your business changed over time?
We’re expanding. We have grown drastically and it's just from demand. I’m also always adding new recipes. You know people are curious and sometimes challenge me. This last weekend for example, someone wanted me to make pink cheesecake, so I just added a new chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Also, the number of events we’re involved in is increasing. There are decent amount of VegFests and vegan festivals that we participate in. This year we’re not only going to be doing events, but we're also going out and talking to people about being vegan, about the change in lifestyle, and being healthier. I just talked to a group last weekend and I have another one coming up where I’ll be speaking with teen girls.
That is so awesome that you are adding an activist side to your business as well! Now that your business is expanding what kind of help do you need to move forward?
It is difficult being a small business because you need help but you can’t afford full-time help. So right now I try to manage most of our baking for restaurants and personal orders and events myself, but eventually I will have to bring on help. I have some goals for this year so if I meet some of those, I will definitely have to change some things in the business.
What are some of your goals for this year?
I want to start commercial distribution and acquire more restaurant accounts.
Can you tell us something about you yourself or your business that people may not know?
I originally wanted to be an artist, I didn't want to be an engineer. Things didn't work out with college. Even though I was accepted to the top art schools, I didn't get to go, so my backup was engineering and then from engineering you know I always loved to cook. When we have people over the house and they ask what they can bring I tell them nothing. I'll cook for like 40 people in a blink of an eye. I had a reading done and this psychic said she saw that cooking and baking and those types of domestic things were therapeutic for me. So when this opportunity came about, it just called to me since it was something I’ve always love to do.
What advice would you get somebody who wanted to start their own business?
Make sure it’s something you love to do because you put in a lot of hours. But its more fulfilling, it's like it's almost like a different energy your using. You have to be dedicated to your business. An example is this past year we participated in Vegan Fest on Randall's Island. I thought I made enough products for this two-day event, but people were buying the stuff like hotcakes. The first day we sold out of carrot cakes about an hour into the event and cheesecakes about two hours into the event. I was like “oh my gosh what am I going to do you?” I can't disappoint my customers tomorrow, who I told I would have more product. That evening we came home around 7:30 and I had to first go to the supermarket to buy ingredients and then start baking. I slept about 45 minutes that night.
So what would you say success look like to you?
It's funny because a lot of people associate success with being rich and having a lot of money, and I've never been the type of person to want to be rich. I always want to be comfortable, I want my family to be happy, I want to be able to pick up and do whatever I want when I want and not have to worry about certain things. So at this point I feel successful. Even though I don’t have millions of dollars in the bank I'm happy, I'm at peace. I think I’ve changed a lot of the ways I thought materialistic things and just you know I put things into perspective so that I can appreciate where I am now versus where I was. Even though I was making more money I wasn't fulfilled like I am now.
How has becoming a member of Garden State kitchen and being able to work in this kitchen space affected your business?
It enables us to do more festivals and events and last year and just it just gives us the opportunity to sell more.
I know you’re going to be running a cooking class here next month. Can you tell us a bit about what it will entail?
One of the things that it's hard to find as a vegan is good Italian food and cheese and things like that. So that’s the focus of the cooking class, it will be called “A Tour of Italy.” So we’re going to make food that is similar to traditional Italian dishes. It’s a BYOB class and will be held here at Garden State Kitchen on March 9th. As an appetizer you’ll have a simple salad. Then you are going to get to make your own lasagna and we going to have a lot of different options for fillings like different veggies and different vegan meat. We're going to have some different cheeses so maybe like a cashew cheese or some sunflower cheese, which is nut-free. We will also have a gluten-free option for those that can’t have gluten. Finally our famous tiramisu will be the dessert. Everyone will get to take home a cookbook with all of the recipes from everything and we're making.
That sounds like so much fun. If you are interested in participating in Laiquan’s cooking class on March 9th, make sure to email her to reserve your spot. A big thank you to her for sharing her story with us!
It’s so interesting interviewing a different entrepreneur each month. There seems to be a similarity in people leaving their original careers to do something that they find more fulfilling, yet despite this similarity each entrepreneur has their own unique story and brand. We are amazed and inspired by these individual’s journeys and hope all of our readers are too. Do you know an entrepreneur with a super unique story who you think we should feature? Tell us a little about them in the comments section below, and we’ll check them out!