Local entrepreneur launches unique vegan business venture in west Charlotte

Manny Lovon graduated from ‘boot camp’ for entrepreneurs through local non-profit The Boost Pad.
The Boost Pad is a nonprofit that puts aspiring entrepreneurs through a 16-week program to help launch or grow their businesses.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:44 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A pipeline of people are working together across the Charlotte community to help foster small businesses.

The Boost Pad is a non-profit organization that puts aspiring entrepreneurs through a 16-week program to help launch or grow their small businesses.

The students gain guidance from experts, the opportunity to build connections and access to startup currency.

Manny Lovon started selling his sea moss shakes and vegan delicacies in a store front in west Charlotte a few weeks ago.

He’s collaborating with another business and working to return the favor by inspiring and mentoring others with interests in starting their own businesses one day.

The Boost Pad connects underrepresented founders with the resources to build impactful businesses.

“During the pandemic I put on a lot of weight, as many of us did,” Lovon said. “So what I did was the little challenge, so I was making these shakes everyday. We use dates, we don’t use any sugar, everything’s vegan. As people noticed that I went from a 48 waist to 34 waist, of course, the frenzy happened. I started making shakes for people.”

Lovon is still making shakes, now it’s at his LILA Sea Moss Bar inside of the Love in Action Cafe, a vegan restaurant through the non-profit Love in Action.

The organization is focused on a holistic approach to transitional housing and workforce development.

Lovon is one of a handful of business owners crafting an array of vegan options inside the café.

“What we’re really trying to do is bring this all to the neighborhood together, kind of like Optimist Hall if you will, and bring all of these different, amazing chefs in every single week to show people that vegan foods amazing,” he said.

Lovon learned the importance of collaboration when he went through training with the non-profit The Boost Pad.

“He fit into our food innovation cohort and it’s exciting to see where he’s gone,” Steven Lewis, who founded The Boost Pad, said.

Entrepreneur- In Residence Charles Kearse says this is a prime example of why their work is critical.

“One of the issues with Charlotte’s upward mobility, it could be resolved if in fact we all worked together,” Kearse said. “Charlotte has great resources and great minds, entrepreneurial minds, corporate minds, academic minds. Coming together to work together is the magic.”

The Boost Pad also works with the Charlotte Legal Initiative to Mobilize Businesses, known as CLIMB, to offer free legal help. They held a Legal 101 course at the cafe on Wednesday.

“When you have questions on a contract that’s being presented to you that’s going to help your business or it could be not advantageous to your business, we can help to review that,” Kimberly Zirkle, a partner with Moore & Van Allen, said.

It’s also a rewarding experience for the attorneys volunteering their time.

Justin Knapp, an associate with McGuireWoods, helped Lovon through the legal process of kicking off his business.

“It’s super exciting just being able to work with local business owners in the Charlotte community and people who are very passionate about their businesses,” Knapp said.

First and foremost, Lovon wants to promote health in west Charlotte.

“It’s kind of a desert wasteland of food,” he said. “People are eating really horribly, and when people come in, you know, we have this oyster, mushroom, fried chicken, they’re amazed at how many products that come from nature.”

He also wants to spread hope.

“We don’t have examples of, you know, people doing this, you know, and oftentimes it’s not in your neighborhood,” he said. “It’s somebody that you can relate to. We really want to give kids an opportunity to maybe come in here and work, give them an entrepreneurial spirit.”

They’re just two weeks in, but feeling like the sky is the limit.

“We really just want to change the culture and really just embrace not only the great food, but just a a lifestyle of movement and energy transfer,” he said. “The whole world is falling apart, but the one thing we’re not pushing is this love energy. When you approach everything with love, you can taste it. You can feel it.”

To learn more about The Boost Pad, click here.