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Conversations with the Inspiring Norma Perez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Norma Perez.

Norma, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My journey begins unfortunately when my 20-year career as a choreographer/dance instructor ended due to a condition that prevented me to continue but ultimately ended up being a blessing in disguise. In 2015, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis on my lower back which led me into a deep depression not being able to be mobile and active as I used to be. When I found out that meat consumption contributes to arthritis, that led me to get as much knowledge as I could on my next steps to try to recover my passion back. It wasn’t until I saw the documentary Earthlings that led me to change my lifestyle completely overnight. The film was extremely eye-opening and traumatizing that as soon as I composed myself from the emotional mess, I was in after watching the images, I made a major change. I went into my kitchen, grabbed a huge trash bag, went into my fridge and threw away all meat products and any animal by-products that were there. Next, I went into my bedroom and into my closet and threw away any and all clothing that used any animal fur and skin.

Afterwards, I went outside and threw away everything, and with a new perspective, I embraced a new lifestyle in veganism. As with a new lifestyle, many changes come about which one of them was cooking more in the kitchen and there is where I discovered a new passion for cooking. I had always cooked with my mamá when young (though at the time I hated it), so I was familiar with bringing flavors packed into dishes. I owe everything to her in my knowledge around the kitchen. Sure enough, my family and friends began tasting my food and were pleasantly surprised about how it tastes very similar to what they are used to now. I started to enjoy losing myself in the kitchen and experimenting with veganizing dishes I grew up with. It wasn’t until I got a good amount of feedback from my food that I started to think maybe I could pursue this as a new career. In 2016, I decided to go into business and created The Salvi Vegan.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road with many struggles especially financially due to doing this business alone. Unfortunately, I was also laid off from my 11-year job right after my diagnosis which led me to the financial crisis. I opted to do Lyft and Uber to make ends meet working anywhere between 8 to 12 hours a day but also to be able to have freedom with my schedule to be able to still pursue my new culinary career. I became so passionate about this new career that I was willing to work myself to the ground if it meant I would have a chance to show the world what these Salvi hands could do.

There’s a few tips and advice that I would give to young women trying to pursue their dream as well. Do as much research in your business and make sure that you organize yourself because as creative as you can be is great but knowing the business aspect of that field is just as important. Make sure that you have all the legalities in place to protect yourself in case any problems should arise. Also, it is okay to ask for help if needed and don’t feel you have to go at this alone, because that is something I’ve had to still learn even today as I go further into my business. Surround yourself with the right people, the right team and make sure as well with the right collaborations. It is okay if mistakes are made whether it is on the creative side or business side, just learn from it, move on and do better the next time.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am simply a Salvadoran vegan cooking traditional dishes from El Salvador with plant-based ingredients fully packed with flavors authentic to the country. I have veganized about 40 dishes which is something I am very proud to have been able to accomplish. I am proud to know that I have been able to continue my mom’s recipes with a compassionate twist. Being able to present this food not just to my community but to non-vegans to show them flavors will not be missed as long as the ‘sazón’ is there. Even as I had veganized many of my mom’s dishes, with starting with her tamales, she had 13 original ingredients which I only changed two to make it vegan. I asked her to try it to see what she thought. She said, “Mija, they came out delicious.” I thought, “O.k. I got my momma’s approval so I’m good!” That is why I then decided to do my slogan for my company as “It’s Mamá Approved” as an homage to her.

I don’t know what sets me apart from others because we all come with our own unique special qualities but I do know when people taste my food or meet me, I always am told they can taste and sense the passion and hard work I put into it. From my name, The Salvi Vegan to my unique logo to what I plan for the future for this business, I know this will be a little spec of changing our community needs. And it does not stop with me but with all others trying to do the same thing. We are here to change the world one dish at a time to bring that awareness in many avenues.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
There are many opportunities that have come to light for women these days that we are living today. From trying to get equal pay to being taken more seriously and given higher positions within organizations. More and more female entrepreneurs have emerged showing the power we pose as women and how we can handle any situations our male counterparts can do. Positions such as CEOs, to directors within companies to many more.

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   Image Credit:
ASpiritualNatural.com/Tia-Marie Brown/headshot of me

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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