We’re blessed to not only be business partners, but life partners. In 2010, we decided to adopt a vegan diet after losing Erika’s father to cancer. Erika began experimenting with “veganizing” family recipes to bring that wholesome familiarity to her new found cuisine. The food became a hit with family and friends and she began planning menus for what would become Detroit Vegan Soul meal delivery and catering. Two years later, with a shared entrepreneurial spirit, Erika’s culinary creativity, and Kirsten’s marketing acumen, we opened Detroit’s first 100% vegan soul food cafe in historic West Village.
CO-OWNER & GENERAL MANAGER
Kirsten Ussery, co-owner & general manager at Detroit Vegan Soul, is a North Carolina transplant who got her entrepreneurial skills from her mother. Her mother operated a textile toe seaming contracting business for many years and owned and operated Irene’s Classic Breads & Cakes in North Carolina. She has since moved to Detroit and is currently the in house baker for Detroit Vegan Soul.
Kirsten is a graduate of the D:hive BUILD program which is based on a nationally recognized curriculum, constructed especially for Detroit, to support entrepreneurs in the process of turning their ideas for a program, project or business into action. In eight weeks, BUILD participants focus on sustainability, durability, scale and potential replication; hear from community experts on entrepreneurship; and create a business plan in a collaborative environment.
She worked in food service businesses in high school and throughout college and operated her own business serving coffee at festivals for a year after moving to Detroit.
Kirsten earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Masters in Education from Wayne State University. She has over ten years’ experience as a Communications professional.
CO-OWNER & EXECUTIVE CHEF
Erika Boyd, co-owner and executive chef at Detroit Vegan Soul (D.V.S), first became interested in cooking at the age of twelve when her mother began teaching her to prepare family recipes. Born and raised on Detroit’s northwest side, her early cooking influences were from her mother, grandmother, and father.
At the age of 13, Erika was required to cook for the family, a responsibility that included weekly meal planning and grocery shopping for ingredients. She also shadowed her mother, a nutritionist who worked as a food service manager for the City of Detroit running a community food service program. While assisting her mother, Erika was able to observe and learn all about how to prepare balanced meals and manage food inventory.
From her grandmother, a gifted and talented cook with Georgian roots, well known for her delicious food, Erika learned to prepare soul food dishes. Her father was co-owner and cook at a popular lunchtime café which served comfort food and operated in Downtown Detroit’s Book Tower building for several years.
It is these influences and experiences that have helped Erika to refine her skills and become an excellent cook. She’s been able to reinterpret traditional soul food meals into vegan delights.