For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Margaret Coons ‘08, who has developed a unique alternative to dairy cheese using cashew milk and is now selling her products throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.
Margaret began her Ridley career in 2006, as a Grade 11 student. Passionate about sports, she joined the harriers, rugby and swim team; enjoying the physical activity that was and is such a crucial part of a Ridley education. After graduating from Ridley in 2008, Margaret attended the University of Western Ontario and pursued a degree in English Language and Literature.
It was while she attended university that Margaret found a job that combined her love of cooking, vegetarianism, and acute business sense. She began work at a vegetarian restaurant in London, Ontario and quickly assumed the role of chef and restaurant manager.
“I had the opportunity to perform cooking demonstrations on the local television stations and at the annual ‘Veg Fest’… in London and over the years of working as a chef greatly enjoyed creating recipes and alternative versions of more conventionally available foods” – Margaret Coons ’08
The retirement of the restaurant owner and the imminent closing of the restaurant granted Margaret the opportunity to begin designs on owning and operating her own business. The result was Nuts For Cheese, a product-based food manufacturing company that makes artisan dairy free cheeses from cultured organic cashew milk. Margaret was making many of these cheeses for the restaurant and for her own enjoyment so, in May of 2015, she decided to open a farmers’ market booth in London to sell the five varieties of vegan cheese.
The demand for this cheesy alternative was high and Margaret soon found she was renting out kitchen space late at night to make cheese for the farmers’ market and the retail accounts she had accrued. From there, Margaret has grown her business to include its own manufacturing plant distributing to nearly 50 retail locations across the country. Margaret hopes to continue to grow Nuts For Cheese into a product that is available in specialty food shops across the country as well as show people just how delicious vegan cheeses can be.
Margaret says her time at Ridley taught her a lot about discipline and focus.
“The skills that running my own business requires are backed up by an ability to be dedicated to my work and passionate about what I put my time into.” – Margaret Coons ’08
Working with food and creating new recipes are Margaret’s favourite aspect of her career. Having been a vegetarian since age 12 and having always possessed a love of cooking, she feels this is the ideal career for her to channel those passions. Margaret also enjoys working as a business owner with her great team and connecting with the “supportive and inspiring” small business support network. Her love of great vegan alternatives continues to motivate her personally and professionally.
“Consumers of products like ours have for a long time been faced with the decision to purchase low quality alternatives, giving vegan food products a bad name, or to forgo consuming a certain type of food for a variety of ethical or health reasons. Making cheese products available to people who can’t or don’t eat dairy for whatever reason is very exciting for us.” – Margaret Coons ’08
Margaret’s advice to any young Ridleans about to explore their academic and/or professional careers is to throw yourself at whatever you’re doing without overthinking it too much. While she says her unique career in vegan cheese was “almost by accident”, the success she has enjoyed thus far was a result of passion and deliberate dedication to her project.
TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.
Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to firstname.lastname@example.org.