· By Carla Bragagnolo
Miki Talebi is a Badass
The Japanese word for plum blossom, oomé, conjures thoughts of new beginnings and Spring.
For Miki Talebi, the founder behind one of BC's most exciting new food brands, it was a perfect name for her business as is encapsulated some of the main reasons why she started making her delicious tofu in the first place.
We caught up with her to learn more about her strong ties to family and the impacts its had on her as an entrepreneur, as well as the challenging and rewarding parts of every day life running a food business.
Tell us about oomé and what inspired you to start your business.
oomé was born from the loss of my father and paying tribute to my Japanese identity on my mother’s side.
My father was a food broker and truly the best salesperson I’ve ever known. He had a passion for good food, great company, and life in general. He loved using his smoker to make delicious family meals. But in the summer of 2020, he suffered a significant accident. That moment changed so much for all of us.
Over the course of the next few months, my sister and I would meal prep dinners for our respective families and spend the evenings at the hospital with our mother. This was during Covid and so we would wait in the waiting room while our mother would visit our father during visiting hours and then spend the rest of the evening with her. Throughout this time my sister and I would regularly exchange meal ideas to keep each other motivated. Our children are big fans of smoked tofu, and during the height of the pandemic we could not find it anywhere. Having been given my father’s old smoker, I light-heartedly told my sister I would smoke tofu for our kids. Then, in November of 2020, after many ups and downs, my father passed away and I found myself unable to let go of the idea of making smoked tofu. I did not know the first thing about smoking tofu, running a business, promoting a brand, or anything in this industry. I come from academia and, although I always admired my father as an entrepreneur and a great salesperson, I truly never thought that I had the fortitude for being in this kind of industry.
But going through a life altering experience such as this lit something inside of me and I wanted to take this experience and turn it into something positive – I wanted to honor my father and his love for family and really good food, while working with a product that aligns with my values and has the potential to shift us towards a brighter future.
What's been the most fun part about running your business?
The most fun part about this has been meeting everyone in the industry! Everyone is so kind and giving – giving of their time, of advice, of collaborating on projects together. I’m so grateful that I get to work with such likeminded people in this business! I’ve especially enjoyed getting to know all the amazing women entrepreneurs in the business. There are so many people that I look up to and that are so incredibly successful. These women inspire me to keep pushing my limits!
What about the most challenging?
To be totally honest, every day is a bit of a challenge. Of course some days are better than others, but there is something new to learn every single day in this business. And since I did not come from a food background, each step of growing this business has been met with learning something new. But I think the biggest challenge is seeing the potential in myself and continuing to press forward. And then realizing that it’s happening. That I’m really running this thing.
What has oomé taught you about yourself?
Running this business has taught me to believe in myself. Of course I still second guess myself – all the time! But seeing oomé grow and seeing the feedback from customers and retailers has taught me to believe in my instincts and lean into the parts that I would not have allowed myself to do in the past. I think this business has given me an opportunity to see what it looks like to listen to those gut intuitions and trust that the decisions I’m making are taking us down a path that has a lot of potential.
What's been the most important thing you keep in mind while juggling your business and all of your other life responsibilities?
Juggling the business and life (i.e., being a parent) has been the most challenging part about all of this. I know that this is a phase and that’s just what I keep reminding myself. I’m in an exciting, but very hard season with a brand-new business that requires all of my time, and also with little kids that require all of my time. And there will come a time when both of these areas mature and things will become more manageable.
Think about yourself in the first month after you launched oomé: what advice would you have for her?
I would tell her to stop second guessing herself so much. And, be patient! Things are going to come together.
What do you do to nourish yourself?
Nourishing myself means giving myself time in the morning before anyone else is up. Ideally, I have a chance to move my body early in the morning. And then nutritionally, I’m a firm believer in enjoying whatever the body wants! I think it’s important to have a balance between eating well and allowing yourself to have whatever brings you joy.
"This interview is part of our Bad Ass Human series where we lift up other people and businesses doing amazing things in the world. Do you know someone we should interview next? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org