Afro-Latina entrepreneur and chef Lyana Blount makes waves with her delicious plant-based creations. She successfully merged Black and Puerto Rican cultures to create a groundbreaking vegan cookbook. Blount aims to revolutionize the food industry and cultural representation within the vegan community.

Blount was born and raised in the Bronx and became a vegan in 2016. She knows first-hand that transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle can be challenging. Blount grew up with an African-American father and a Puerto Rican mom who made all the classic dishes. However, she wanted to change her lifestyle and chose veganism as the right path. 

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Blount let FIERCE in on how she is redefining what it means to embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle while honoring her roots during Latinx Heritage Month. Vamos! 

An idea in the midst of chaos

She became the founder and CEO of Black Rican Vegan, the plant-based business she launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Blount turned to cooking as one of her hobbies and started creating vegan alternatives to traditional Puerto Rican and Southern dishes. At the time, she operated the business from home and made food deliveries throughout the tri-state area.

Since then, Blount has taken the business to new heights and garnered a large following on social media. Black Rican Vegan represents two similar cultures she has unified by adding a vegan twist to some of our favorite dishes.

The Bronx native remains humble as she reflects on turning a typical hobby into what she describes as a “full-blown business.”

“As far as where I’ve taken [Black Rican Vegan] now, I didn’t know it would be a full-blown business,” Blount said. “It honestly was just a name that I had and something that I was doing as a hobby in my kitchen.”

However, there was no shortage of obstacles at the beginning

Starting a business is a rewarding experience for someone embarking on a new chapter in their life. Like many business owners during the early stages of their brands, Blount faced several obstacles with Black Rican Vegan. When asked about her most challenging moment, Blount says there are so many she’s had “to deal with” in the past.

“Sometimes not having enough food or equipment breaking down on you for events, even cars breaking down on you, elevators not working, [running] up and down the stairs to bring food up and down,” Blount explained.

Black and brown business owners ultimately face more challenges as business owners than their white counterparts. In February, Intuit QuickBooks released its findings on the difficulties Black-owned businesses encounter with funding.

The report shows that “57% of Black respondents indicate that they were denied a bank loan at least once when they started their businesses—compared to 37% of non-Black business owners.” Additionally, “it cost Black respondents approximately $21,000 to start their businesses—compared to $16,000 for their non-Black peers.”

Blount says funding was an issue to keep her business thriving.

“Black Rican Vegan has been self-funded for the past two years, and it’s hard to get grants and stuff to continue to run the business, but I’ve been making it work so far,” Blount said.

“I would say it’s always some obstacles and challenges,” she added.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is advocating for yourself as a minority entrepreneur

Despite the hurdles, Blount has gained strength from her cultural background when navigating the entrepreneurial world. She says “speaking up for herself” is one way she handled big brands wanting to collaborate with her for small compensation fees.

“It’s a lot [about] speaking up for myself and knowing my worth and going back and forth with them about negotiations on what I feel like I deserve,” Blount said.

Blount has showcased her culinary skills at various events in the city. From the 116th Street Festival in Harlem to Curlfest on Randall’s Island, she shared her passion for Puerto Rican and Black culture with vegan and non-vegan communities.

In August, she was a food vendor at the Rock the Bells festival in Queens, New York, celebrating 50 years of hip-hop. The event was her top favorite since she’s a big hip-hop fan.

“[The event] was aligned with who I was and just having my brand there and seeing that we had a long line all day, representing the culture and people being open-minded to trying the vegan food and actually liking it,” Blount said.

Nevertheless, the Black Rican Vegan cookbook is a big hit! 

Blount realized the need for more representation of diverse cultures within the vegan community. She saw an opportunity to create a cookbook celebrating plant-based eating and her cultural background.

“I was offered a deal, and at first, I was skeptical,” she said. “I’m like, ‘this is too good to be true’ because I know I wanted to write a cookbook.”

A Black Rican Vegan cookbook was in high demand from her customers. After countless hours in the kitchen, Blount crafted recipes that tastefully merged Afro-Caribbean spices with plant-based ingredients. 

The result? A beautiful harmony of flavors that pays homage to both cultures. She spent a year writing the book and released it in July.

“I’m so grateful to have this art out into the world, and people can now have a part in me in their home,” Blount said. “They don’t have to wait for my next event or in a three-hour line for my food.”

Puerto Rican and Black people may have their own favorite recipes from the cookbook.

“The recipe that might stand out for a Puerto Rican person is the vegan corned beef hash or the vernil [pernil only vegan!],” Blount said.

She continued: “If you’re black and reading the book, I would say it’s between the mocktails [oxtails] or maybe the savory waffles recipe.”

A diet that can positively impact the Black and Brown communities

Choosing to change your eating habits is the first step towards good health. In a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure than non-Hispanic white adults. 

Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with a plant-based diet can prevent these disorders.

Blount says if you’re looking to transition to veganism, you don’t have to start all at once.

“Try a new vegan spot in your neighborhood, or pick up a vegan and try a new recipe,” she said. “[You] have to take it slow and start step by step.”

As more people embrace plant-based lifestyles, cookbooks like Blount’s become essential resources for those seeking diverse options within the vegan community.

With her growing success, Blount says maintaining faith over fear is a quote she lives by daily.

“I think as long as you have faith, you can have faith,” she said. “Like they say, as small as a mustard seed, and it’s going to get you so far in life.”

Blount is currently at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends. She will be there every Sunday until the end of October.