When Taylor Slaughter first met Justin Cunningham, founder of YoDish, she knew he was on to something good.
Cunningham began developing YoDish, a website that helps users quickly find vegan food options in their area, in 2013. He originally experimented with just releasing an app but brought it back to the drawing board after hitting some roadblocks with the original design.
When they met, Slaughter was working with Sprouted Magazine, a vegan magazine she founded and ran until December 2015. She saw then that Cunningham could use some help bringing the idea to market. When she shut down Sprouted at the end of last year, she reached out to him with ideas for helping make his start-up more marketable. Cunningham and Slaughter, who both live in the Charlotte area, officially launched YoDish earlier this month in its first three markets: Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charlotte.
In the week leading up to the launch, while Cunningham worked on last-minute updates to each city's vegan guide, Creative Loafing caught up with Slaughter to speak about how YoDish can help all Charlotteans, not just vegans.
Creative Loafing: How long have you been vegan and what has it meant for your life?
Taylor Slaughter: About 11 years now. It definitely made me a more compassionate person. I think that the dedication it takes to put your health first and to stay committed to that, it makes you a stronger person. I also have multiple autoimmune diseases that cause me quite a bit of trouble and, with a vegan diet, I'm able to live a normal life. I'm able to help the environment and give myself a better life. It's been the best decision I've ever made.
Does Charlotte have a lot of vegan options and have they been expanding?
I've been vegan since before there were any vegan restaurants or vegan options. That's part of the reason why I wanted to join this team. After learning about the service and what they were doing, I just knew that I was the perfect person because I know how much we need this service; how difficult it can be. And it's not just for vegans. If you want to try "Meatless Mondays" or you're not vegan but you have a vegan friend coming to town and you need to find somewhere to eat where everybody can eat, that service is so necessary. I think that it's so important to get that out there so that vegan options don't sound like such a world away.
I've been a Charlottean for about 9 years and I can definitely say that it has greatly improved. Charlotte is gaining vegan options. As a vegan in Charlotte, I never have a hard time finding food. There's a large vegan community here and there are so many restaurants that offer vegan options that it's definitely made it easier. The world and especially this country is going in a healthier direction and Charlotte is certainly an area that is stepping up when it comes to those options.
Do you plan on expanding and/or updating YoDish now that it's live?
We're working on a feature where users can add restaurants, so if there's something we missed, we can add it. The goal is to grow and make it a real user-involved experience. If there's something that's not on there now, it will be.
As far as expansion, the sky's the limit. We have partnered with the Humane League. We're partnering with them to raise awareness that also helps with our distribution. We plan to expand to every city where the Humane League is; so San Francisco, Denver, south Florida, Atlanta... we'll be in all the metro areas where Humane League is by the end of this summer.