When it comes to a niche, a Cincinnati-based purveyor of vegan treats is challenging norms three times over.
Like Mom’s Only Vegan (LMOV) is a woman-owned, Black-owned, and family-owned enterprise that’s taking the Queen City’s food scene by storm.
Naimah Sams, LMOV’s communications and branding manager, is the daughter and granddaughter of the co-founders, Naomi Sams and Sakile Chenzira, respectively.
The mother and daughter team started the business, and eventually Naimah’s immediate family found themselves in the mix, too.
According to Naimah, her mother’s natural knack for the culinary arts was evident to her from a young age.
“My upbringing was always a very exciting food journey,” she says. “My mom would make conventional staples of the American diet, like mac and cheese — only vegan. And for birthdays we always had cake and ice cream. So, I never felt left out of anything.”
Eventually the word got out about her baking prowess and Naomi decided to take her hobby to the next level. She made a name for herself with her cookies — in particular the chocolate chip version — by setting up shop at Northside Farmers Market.
The cookies proved to be a good foray into commercial baking, says Naimah, as they were portable and scalable. And perhaps most importantly, they exposed people to the accessibility and versatility of vegan food.
“People were like, ‘Man, this is amazing,’ she says. “And thankfully, the people were already pretty open to the idea of veganism even if they weren't vegan.”
Naimah says eventually they expanded with a booth at Findlay Market and they’ve further cemented their brand identity, while building a loyal following and adding cupcakes to their lineup.
Speaking of identity, Naimah says being Black-owned and vegan makes them a bit of an anomaly.
“I think that there is a misconception in a way about Black people and veganism,” she explains. “We don't get as much exposure as maybe our white counterparts do. But we're out here and we are having fun with our food and we are making a lot of waves through our creations.”
So, what’s next for this cruelty-free brand? According to Naimah, the booths at the farmers markets have been a great way to learn how to run a storefront, on a micro level.
“It’s been a great learning experience working out of an incubator kitchen and then also working out of Findlay Market to give us an understanding of how it would look if we got our own spot, which of course is our ultimate goal,” she says. “But looking to the future, we'd really love to have a complete LMOV-branded bakery. What we want to do is create a gathering place for people to come in and eat all the vegan sweets they want.”
Regarding community building, Naimah says they would also like to forge more partnerships with local restaurants and stores to further expand their reach.