Seeds of Inspiration

Brennah Lambert, a self-taught vegan chef and a 2020 graduate of the Rutgers School of Business–Camden, followed her taste buds to launch LesbiVeggies, a popular café in Audubon, New Jersey.

By Christina Hernandez Sherwood

Brennah Lambert turned to a vegan diet when she was in high school as a last-ditch effort to combat health issues. Eschewing animal products made Lambert feel better, and she knew she was a convert to veganism after a few months when she wasn’t tempted by the chicken at her favorite wing night.

Her family was supportive, but unfamiliar with plant-based cooking, so Lambert began experimenting in the kitchen. Before long, Lambert’s “meat-and-potatoes” grandfather was taking a second helping of her tofu scramble on Christmas morning. “Cooking is my creative outlet,” Lambert said. “It just happens organically. I feel like I can taste with my mind. You know that some flavors are going to taste good together.”

In 2018, after an aunt shared Lambert’s dishes with health-conscious friends at the gym, they became the first customers of Lambert’s meal prep and delivery service. For her new business, she quickly settled on the name LesbiVeggies, which gives a nod to her lesbian and vegan identities.

A year or so later, Lambert enrolled in Raising Capital, a course taught by Rutgers–Camden business school professor David Vance. In his course, she learned how to dig into her business’s finances, using formulas and crunching numbers to ensure the venture had enough money to sustain itself. “It made me start to think of things from a business perspective, rather than a consumer,” Lambert said. “I feel like that gave me a leg up in owning my business.”

Just weeks before her spring 2020 graduation, Lambert decided to turn LesbiVeggies into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Between classes, Lambert, a Lindenwold native who now lives in Marlton, scouted locations and finally spotted a listing for a storefront in downtown Audubon.

After eight months of prep work, which included buying restaurant-grade equipment and developing brunch and dinner menus from scratch, LesbiVeggies opened its doors in February 2021. Restrictions on indoor dining as a result of the pandemic meant that the new LesbiVeggies—like the original—was primarily catering to takeout customers for the first several months. “People were super excited about what I was doing,” Lambert said. “When the first tickets started rolling in, I was kind of in shock. I wasn’t prepared for that type of response.”

By a weekday brunch in late June 2021, when dining restrictions had eased, the café was so busy that Lambert didn’t need to draw on her business school training to know that business was good. Indoor diners were savoring the blackened Cajun cauliflower sandwich and the BBQ chickpea salad. Outdoor tables on Merchant Street were laden with sweet breakfast dishes like the strawberry cheesecake waffle made with cashew cream. And other customers popped in to pick up takeout orders and smoothies.

As for Lambert? She was at the stove behind the frosted glass doors of her kitchen, putting her passion—and her business degree—to good use.

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