“If you can imagine it, we will try to make it vegan,” Allen Howard proclaims during our Zoom call. But don’t be deceived by his use of the word “try.” Allen Howard speaks with total confidence in his and co-owner Maria’s ability to “veganize” anything your heart desires. And as the name implies, Plant Based Sweets by Lotus is dedicated to making all your favorite desserts vegan-friendly.
This small home-based company is the creation of charming married couple, Maria and Allen Howard. After adopting a vegan lifestyle, they realized that the dessert options were severely lacking, so they set about recreating all their favorite sweets with vegan ingredients. Already avid cooks and bakers, the Howards were excited to take on the challenge and after about a year of working on recipes, they began posting their creations on social media. “We put it out into the universe and hoped that people would take notice, “Maria recalls. “The rest is history,” they say in unison.
The two Army veterans started the company in March 2019 with the mission of making vegan food “available and accessible and showing that it can be tasty!” Maria tells me. “It doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary,” Allen adds. The pair bring their individual backgrounds, cultural traditions and foods (Maria is Latina, from New Mexico by way of Long Beach, California and Allen is Black American originally from Kenner, Louisiana) and infuse them into the recipes they create. Maria views it as a chance to get back to their roots by incorporating, “how we were raised and the foods we grew up eating and loving.”
Maria and Allen enjoy the flexibility that working for themselves offers. They value the chance to travel, meet people new people and learn about their vegan lifestyle journeys, but running a business is not without challenges. In addition to the normal ups and downs of business, COVID introduced numerous uncertainties from ingredient shortages to their normal pop-up locations shutting down. Despite these hurdles the couple remain positive about what the future holds for Plant Based Sweets by Lotus. Maria tells me, “We’ve managed to make it work and it feels really good. We’re not in a rush to have a bakery. We’re letting everything flow and happen on our own timeline.”
When they’re not busy working, the Howards take time to relax and explore nature (they love camping), but even during downtime it always comes back to food, whether they’re cooking together or coming up with new dessert ideas. Maria visits the library to research the history of a dessert before she attempts to make it. “I like to know the history and where it came from,” she says. The Howard family has a long history with libraries. “The library has been thoroughly engrained in our family since the beginning,” Allen tells me, fondly recalling frequent visits to the library from the time their kids, now teenagers, were born.
A truly community-minded business,
Plant Based Sweets by Lotus regularly prepares desserts for It Take a Village Baton Rouge, a local non-profit that provides meals for those in need every Sunday. “They make people feel like people no matter how hard life has hit them,” Maria says of the organization that holds a special place in her family’s heart.
The Howards are brimming with optimism and wisdom when they offer advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Maria urges people not to focus on getting ‘likes’ on social media, remembering that it took over a year for their business to gain 1000 followers. Allen suggests, “Stay focused. Stay consistent. Stay positive. Because it’s going to be hard. There will be days that you want to quit and ask yourself ‘why did I start this?’ But when you’re doing something that you love doing, those days won’t be so bad.” When they need a morale boost or a bit of motivation Maria and Allen remember the words they learned during their time in the Army: “Suck it up and drive on.”
Order vegan treats for your holiday celebrations online at plantbasedsweetsbylotus.com.