by: We Rise and Shine
It has been said that you are what you eat, and caterer Nola Ro is healthy, balanced and rejuvenated. At the age of 17, she was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease and her doctors predicted that between ages 28-30 her body would begin to rapidly deteriorate and aggressive dialysis would be needed. Immediately, healthy meals became a top priority and Nola incorporated lessons she learned about nutritious cooking into her diet. As a result, she turned her health around. Nola has successfully managed the symptoms associated with it. Today, Nola’s lifestyle has transformed into Sumptuous Bites, a reputable catering company, which has become the go to place for mouth-watering, healthy Caribbean-American cuisine. Here’s what Nola had to say about her journey, entrepreneurship and her commitment to showing others the flexibility and creativity that can be expressed in the culinary arts with West-Indian foods.
What inspired the name Sumptuous Bites?
Sumptuous" means luxurious, extravagant and splendid, which are all words that describe our food and the experience we aim to give our clients.
What are your favorite dishes to cook?
Seafood and vegetables because it doesn’t take much time prepare, but when you eat and look at the meal it doesn’t look like it was just whipped up.
I read that cooking with organic/fresh foods is a must for you. Yet, for some, organic foods can get very pricey and is not always easily accessible. What advice would you give to those who encounter these challenges?
I totally understand that concern. First, I suggest reading labels and identifying all the ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it, please don’t eat it, the simpler the ingredients, the better. So, while it doesn’t have to be 100% organic, it should be healthy. Additionally, like anything you want to buy, shoes for instance, you may shop around for the best deal before purchasing. The same concept applies to food. Whole Foods, while being a great store and expensive, isn’t the only place to buy organic food. Since organic is all the rage, more local supermarkets are adding organic departments to the mix. Also, farmer’s markets, are great options because they have even fresher fruits and vegetables at more affordable prices. Lastly, research. Go on-line and Google affordable organic food locations in your area. So there are always options, you just have to search for them.
You were diagnosed with a debilitating disease at a fairly young age, how did you stay encouraged and faithful?
I’ve always known that amazing things would happen in my life. I want to be healthy enough to witness and live through those amazing times. I love being healthy and being able to travel, I want to enjoy my life. I also have a 4 year-old son who I know will become an amazing man, and I really want to see that. Its a matter of me making sure that I take care of myself and try my best to be as healthy as possible to keep pushing through.
Being an entrepreneur is very demanding in itself, how do you manage running your business and caring for your 4 year old son as a single mom?
For me, it’s live or die, there’s no in between for me. No middle ground, as “middle grounds” I find to be a breeding place for excuses. When you are truly passionate about something you make it happen. Sound’s cliché, I know. However, passion drives you to do the incomprehensible, the unthinkable and the unbelievable; having your own business falls under all these categories. It’s a demanding life for sure, having a child and being a CEO is no easy feat. There is no method to the madness really, I just get up and go. As Nike says, “Just do it.” Sometimes too much thinking about how you will get it all done paralyzes you with fear. Also, taking care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally doesn’t hurt. I like to pay attention to how I feel about things, and I don’t ignore the signs my body is giving me. Making sure that Nola is ok is an essential to ensuring that I take care of my responsibilities and do them well.
What was the biggest sacrifice that you have made to see the idea of “Sumptuous Bits” become realized?
To be honest, when it comes to doing what I have to do its very rare that I use the word sacrifice. I don’t look at it as a sacrifice. I have a game plan, and sometimes when you want to make something happen there are some things you should not do because it will slow you down or not make your vision become realized at all. It’s a matter of staying on course. I feel like I’m winning.
What do you think is the #1 problem that holds young women back from accomplishing their business goals?
Definitely fear, and I can speak from my own experience. It’s apparent when you have to work harder just to prove yourself because you are young, and you are a woman. For some reason, those two things mean that people don’t automatically trust you when it comes to business. You may have to deal with rejection or having to work harder than your male counterparts. There are so many times where I have to hold my composure or bite my tongue because I realize that maybe its not personal, and the person that is treating me a certain way is doing so because it’s the way they were programmed. It’s daunting and discouraging, but you have to say “my vision is a lot bigger than the way people are programmed and I’m going to push through this anyway.”
Many women want to have their own business and the title of CEO, what would you say are the top 3 characteristics all aspiring entrepreneurs should possess?
You have to be purposeful, passionate and persistent. So many things will stand in your way just because you are a woman. If you are living your purpose, nothing can stop you. If you are passionate, that is going to be your drive and if you are persistent, you are going to keep pushing no matter what.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I am my biggest accomplishment; That’s a bold statement, right? I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. So, before people misinterpret what I’m saying…let me explain. When I reflect on my past mental and emotional state, and the decisions that I’ve made in that state of mind, in comparison to now, Oh my goodness! You have no idea! I was able to pull myself out of that slump. If I didn’t my business wouldn’t survive, and I would’ve been a terrible mother to my child. Nothing positive would’ve happened for me if I didn’t look at myself and say, “Ok Nola, you have to get serious, about your life, become the achievement first, before you can expect to receive one.”
You were fortunate to be raised by an entrepreneurial and business savvy mother, what is the greatest lesson you learned from working alongside her?
My mom is so strong. I’ve seen her go through some unthinkable things just because she’s a businesswoman. But what I love most is that my mom always remained kind, and continued to be a beautiful woman that a lot of people may have folded or become bitter. It is very inspiring to see that no matter what happened she’s able to keep going.
What is the most important piece of advice/insight that you would share with aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Don’t stop, no matter what! A lot of times we see people who are doing well and we assume that they don’t have a little voice in their head that says, “you’re not good enough, you’re going to fail.” Sometimes you think you’re the only one going through this, but this is something that we all go through, and I battle it everyday. I make it a point to wake up in the morning and forgive myself for whatever mistakes I made yesterday so, I can have the strength to do better today. Also, I’d say to run your own race, and keep pushing no matter. Ignore the lying little voices in your head and trust, in your talents and cultivate your skill. The difference between success and failure is persistence.
What can we expect next from Nola Ro/Sumptuous Bites?
There are so many things that are going to happen, but what is very exciting for me right now is that I am going to begin filming an online cooking show; we will begin filming the end of August/beginning of September. Also, I have a few local TV spots/interviews with a focus on healthy cooking later this year.