SOMMER CHAKA, FOUNDER, HAPPY BODY KITCHEN
Then Story: Working in online advertising
Now Story: Founder/Owner, Happy Body Kitchen
Curb Moment: A promotion (to a job she didn’t want!)
What happens when your boss offers you a promotion? “Give your two weeks notice and quit,” says Sommer Chaka, who skipped out on the new position but created a fulfilling new career instead.
What do you do? Describe your business for us?
About a year and a half ago I became certified as a holistic nutritionist. It was the best decision in my life, because not only did I learn incredible things about keeping myself healthy, I also learned how to help others improve their lives by simply improving the quality of what they are eating.
My business is called Happy Body Kitchen and my approach is simple; I teach a whole foods, plant based lifestyle.
I believe this lifestyle has the power to strengthen the body and maintain health in addition to fighting disease and illness. This is why I feel the holistic approach to being a nutritionist is important. The focus becomes more about finding a natural means for healing the body or keeping the body thriving. It’s also about getting the body back to a place where it can do what it is designed to do. My methodology begins with determining the root cause of someone’s problem and finding a healthy approach to improving the symptoms and/or even curing the condition altogether, versus using medication that most often just masks the problem. Therefore, I work with individuals who suffer from a number of medical conditions ranging from digestive problems to heart disease to cancer, because I feel that is where I can be the most helpful.
My mission is to help individuals learn how they can make their bodies strong again and to help them understand how the quality of food we eat can either be the reason for illness or the reason we thrive. I look closely at individual eating habits, emotional triggers, work, and lifestyle activities and design the best nutritional approach to support that person’s health goals. Our bodies are designed to fight, heal, and cure so I educate people as to how to optimize our bodies ability to do these things.
You describe yourself as “a dog obsessed, sarcasm loving, nutritionist meets food blogger,”on your website. What were you doing before you started your business?
I graduated from college in fall 2010 with a BBA in Business Management and worked for an online advertising company, in Austin TX. It was a great job, but I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t doing what I was meant to be doing. There was still a void in my life and I wasn’t quite fulfilled. I denied this feeling for a long time probably because I had a steady paycheck and I wasn’t quite ready to take the risk that is sometimes required to make a change even when it’s a positive one.
What was the moment you decided to make a change; what we refer to as a curb moment?
I decided to make a change because my mother was going through cancer for the fifth time. Yep, five. It was the hardest thing to watch her go through and to see the toll it took not only on her body, but on her mind. I don’t wish cancer upon anyone even once, let alone five times. Her fight was what inspired me. It inspired me because we never know how much time we have in this life, and it is important to live the time we are given to the fullest. But, she also inspired me because I realized there had to be a better way; a way where cancer is not a common thing anymore, and where illness and disease is just something we accept. This inspired me to seek out a holistic approach to nutrition; learning how to heal and manage a lifestyle with only natural means. And, given what I know now, it makes me both angry and ecstatic. Angry because this information is something I believe we should all know and shouldn’t be covered up because big corporations want to promote their unhealthy products. And, ecstatic because I feel like I have learned, in some ways, the key to life which includes a lifestyle that truly can keep one’s body healthy and in a position to prevent unnecessary diseases and illnesses from creeping in. This is what I wanted to (and still do ) share with the world.
Additionally, I was offered a higher position to manage our department. It was an incredible offer, but it was more hours behind a desk doing something that didn’t ultimately make me happy. If I took it, I knew I would feel stuck. So, that is what pushed me to make a change. I declined the offer and also put in my two weeks. I thought to myself ‘if there was a time to make a change it was now.’ Soon after, I enrolled in a nutrition program and began my first big step towards a new passion.
Did you have any challenges or struggles?
Yes, it was not easy! I am not going to pretend that it is easier now. I gave up a consistent income, and was living off savings while also working part time at a wine bar, and other random jobs. I still work part time in addition to working with clients. I gave up a secure lifestyle and the comforts that came along with that. It was terrifying but also eye opening. I learned what was valuable in my life and more about managing my money and how to spend my money only on things I truly valued. I sold a lot of my stuff, and simplified my life. But, now looking back, there was so much that I didn’t need and I am thankful for pushing myself into the uncomfortable. You learn a lot about yourself too! I was determined to stay strong and keep pushing forward. Now I am able to sustain a lifestyle by doing what I love. It is hard every single day, but I know that it is making me stronger as a person and as a nutritionist, and I will look back one day and be proud of all the hard work. The funny thing is that even through the struggle, I am happier and healthier both mentally and physically. It’s an incredible thing.
What advice do you have for others wishing to “jump the curb?”
Evaluate what makes you happy, and don’t let comforts in your lifestyle prevent you from making a change. If you believe enough in yourself, you will be okay. You will! And one day, regardless if your dream pans out or not, taking the leap itself is what truly changes you. It teaches you how often our own limitations and fears prevent us from doing what we love. But once you jump, you realize how small those fears actually were and learn about your inner strength, and that settling for something “safe” or “easy” or “comfortable” no longer seems like an option.
I’d suggest writing down all the limitations and all the possible things that could go wrong if you make a change. Then evaluate what’s really propelling you forward. How do you envision your life or career change? What’s holding you back? Maybe you have to get a new skill. Maybe you just need to try a different organization. Maybe you can only do what you love on the side for while. The point is that the barriers that you list for yourself are most likely ones that can be overcome. It just might take a little planning and a little work, but you can do it.
To learn more about Sommer and her business check out happybodykitchen.com.
The world is waiting! Go make a difference!