Bay Area business owner has big resolutions for the new year
Ten years ago, Sway Soturi woke up to find that her face had swollen “to the size of a watermelon.” After speaking with doctors and friends, she decided to cut out inflammatory ingredients like gluten and dairy from her diet.
After 15 years working in the restaurant industry and battling an eating disorder, Sway had to re-define nutrition and her relationship with food. Over the next few years, she shifted to a wellness mindset becoming a personal trainer and cooking with more natural and local ingredients.
Sway didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur, but when her gluten free breads became a hit among friends and family, she decided to look into selling them at Bay Area farmers market. In spring of 2019, she launched Soturi Kitchen.
She explains, “Working with food and ingredients from nature really helped me re-connect with myself. That is what Soturi Kitchen is really all about. We are working with how nature wants us to eat.”
Soturi Kitchen’s menu is full of gluten, dairy, soy and corn-free breads, cakes, meals and more. After losing 40% of their profits in March due to stay at home orders, Sway has built her business back over the last nine months, operating out of her home kitchen with a Cottage Food Operation (CFO) permit and selling at socially distant farmers markets.
Because Soturi Kitchen was a new business in 2019, Sway ended up reporting losses on her taxes, which made it difficult to obtain funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other state relief programs. She did, however, receive an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) that helped make up for March losses and enabled her to keep her employee on payroll.
While the CFO permit has been an excellent way for Sway to continue operating within shelter in place orders, it is also limiting. The permit caps her income and prevents her from being able to ship out orders or work with wholesale vendors, which is why Sway has big plans to ditch the CFO permit and expand her business in the new year outside of her home.
Once she finalizes a contract with a local commercial kitchen, she will be able to grow her operations. Currently, Sway works alongside her husband and her Farmers Market Director Jacque, but she has big dreams to start employing as many people as she can—specifically formerly incarcerated people in her community.
Sway explains, “When I was growing up in Taiwan, I was the ‘labeled’ child. I was always getting into trouble and even spent some time in a juvenile detention center. I want to make sure that others get the same second chance that I was given.”
Mental and physical wellness is more important than ever, and Sway is doing her best to spread the word about how food can play an integral part in maintaining and achieving this.
She advises her fellow business owners, “When you feel that you can’t go through another week of this, I am here to tell you, ‘Yes you can.’” She continues, “Remember that you are also someone who needs taking care of.”