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The Hustle

Name: Ray Milton (Ray’s Vegan Soul)

Posted By Graham Colton

Since last December, Ray's Vegan Soul has flourished at 169 Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. in St. Petersburg. True to its name, Ray's Vegan Soul offers, well, soul food, of the vegan variety: mac and cheese, "tuna" salad and quinoa meatloaf, to name a few selections. Ray Milton, owner of Ray's Vegan Soul, has successfully parlayed his background in boxing and training into creating vegan food that packs a punch. Ray stuffs his vegan creations full of flavor, using only the finest whole grain flours, milks, oils and other ingredients. Ray's vegan, gluten-free masterpieces appeal not only to vegans and vegetarians, but also to carnivores. Ray's Vegan Soul hits the sweet spot, where veganism meets rich, flavorful food.

Years in Tampa Bay

I was born and raised here.

Hustle (job)

I’m a chef and also an aspiring author. I’m writing cookbooks.

What do you do?  

I create the recipes for Ray’s Vegan Soul, and it started when I wanted to reverse my diabetes. I wanted to make something that was friendly to the palate. That was very important to me. I was a vegetarian for 12 years prior to being vegan. A lot of people who would become vegan think that the food doesn’t have any flavor, but that’s not right. I love showing people that vegan food can taste great. Not good, but great.

Why do you do it?

I do it because it helps me reverse my diabetes, it helps my health. I also enjoy helping other people, that’s very important to me. I want to share what I have. Everybody can have a journey, I just want to share the journey that I’ve been on. Inspire some young kids to reach their goals and plan out things in their life. That’s very important to me.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I had a bakery. Once the bakery closed, originally I wanted to do a health food restaurant, and so I started doing a juice cleanse. And then I told a couple of my friends, you know what, I’m going to become vegan. Because I was vegan before. They called it vegetarian back then. All of a sudden I said I’m going to become vegan. The only problem I’m going to have is the cheese. Once I got past the cheese, it was an easier thing for me to do. And then next thing you know, I started writing all these recipes. Then I get all these recipes in my head and I’m writing them down. From that I started doing events, all over in St. Pete. So I did that, and it kept growing and growing. One day, I decided I needed to get a space.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

How early I have to get up sometimes. I use a lot of organic and fresh ingredients, and I don’t think sometimes people really grasp how much effort goes into making food taste great. Also they got to understand the financial part of things as well. You’re not going to start making a bunch of money. You got to know about food cost, and know about labor. So those are the things that people don’t know about. Fortunately, I have some good people around me to watch out for that.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

I tell people all the time: This guy named Success came up to this one guy and he said, “You want to be successful?” So all of a sudden he had to do 100 pushups to become successful. The first 25 pushups were easy for him, the second 25 were a little harder, the third 25 were really hard, and the last 25 were difficult. Finally he got to 100, and the guy named Success told him, “Now you gotta hold it.”

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

I listen to my heart. Listen to my heart, and also to be in demand or put something out there that is a need, not just a want. In business, you've got to put something that people need, or a special niche, not what people just want all the time. You can have a little bit of both, but the thing about it is there’s gotta be a need. There was a lady, her name was Emily. She said “Ray, you make outstanding food. But the problem is you’re going after people who are not ready for what you have. Focus on people who are ready for what you have, and you’ll be better off.” And that was the best advice somebody gave to me. Focus on the clientele that benefit you and what your business does.

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