Lauren Wright Cooks her Way to Plant-Based Health at Conscious ComfortsDec 30, 2021 11:51AM ● By Tara Spencer
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
After being diagnosed with psoriasis at 19, Lauren Wright decided to take control of her own health. She had looked into some online support groups, and a lot of what she read concerned her. Members said that certain medications or steroids would work, but then symptoms would come back and get worse. “And I was like, ‘I cannot have this get worse. I can’t do that,’” Wright said.
People in those groups also discussed how cutting out certain foods had helped them. She experimented with eliminating dairy, gluten, and meat. As she learned, she thought about how there must be other people in her community adjusting their diets to help with health issues. Wright realized maybe she could make it a little easier for them. That’s how Conscious Comforts was born.
“Lauren approached me—she was vegan by that time—and she approached me with the idea of a plant-based business,” said Alexis Jensen, Wright’s best friend and business partner. Jensen was in.
They had met through their then-boyfriends, now-husbands. The two women quickly became friends and eventually roommates. When they lived together, Jensen said they stayed up late at night, talking about one day opening a restaurant.
“We wanted an avocado-based restaurant, because we both love avocados,” she added. “Then it was just kind of like a pipe dream. We never really did anything with it.”
Then, Wright decided she wanted to share her newfound interest and expertise, so she started a cottage bakery out of her kitchen. By January 2020, Jensen had joined the team, and they were in a rented certified kitchen.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and then COVID happened,” Wright said. “We learned as we went.”
During that time, they added family-style pan meals to their menu, and the orders for cakes and other baked goods continued to roll in. Wright said a lot of what they have on their menu came from customers inquiring about items they could safely eat without worrying about food allergies. “I’d say our customers have really kind of told us where we need to be,” she added.
Wright said while she had always found cooking to be a comforting experience, it wasn’t something she was passionate about. Becoming a vegan pushed her to branch out, and she realized she loved recreating the comfort foods she’d grown up eating. “It was like…almost a challenge for myself to do that,” she said. “I was definitely self-taught but [it] came out of necessity.”
Some of those foods were items that were popular in her family. Her mom would make her own version of runzas using croissant dough, and her dad made a delectable potato salad, which Wright has incorporated in her menu. “It’s just like how I remember my dad making it,” she said. “But we do a lot of dill pickles in ours, and he never measured. He’d just keep tasting until it [was] right.”
As a child, Wright said she spent a lot of time at her grandparents’ houses two blocks away from her childhood home. Her grandmother’s specialty was chicken salad, and Wright said she would make “huge vats” of it to eat throughout the week, or for family events. “She always put smoked almonds in it, and then mayo and celery and all that kind of stuff...I do pumpkin seeds to avoid nut allergies, but I kind of recreated that as an ode to her.”
While Wright feeds the creative side, Jensen handles the day-to-day running of the business. Her work as an assistant to Milton Yen of Hiro helped inform her on what that entails.
Conscious Comforts started as a pickup and delivery service, and while they would like to expand their pickup area, opening a restaurant is no longer on the table. Jensen said having seen how much it takes, the cost and the risk, it’s not something they are interested in doing.
“We’re fortunate enough to be almost two years into this,” she said. “We’ve got our own kitchen now, and we don’t have a business loan…and we have no intention of doing that.”
Wright’s advice to anyone thinking about starting a business is to “just go for it,” and those who are presented with no answers and what appears to be a dead end should keep looking.
It’s the same philosophy she employed when she was first diagnosed and her treatment options seemed limited. The dermatologist she went to tried to get her to use steroids, and that wasn’t something she wanted. “I had read that they [could] thin your skin and stuff like that, and simple scratches would take a little longer to heal,” she said, adding that it was frustrating, as she felt like she wasn’t being heard. “There are the right doctors out there, and I could have kept looking,” she said. “But I, at that point, felt discouraged and ended up finding what worked for me.”
Ultimately, what worked for her was veganism and taking probiotics, which she regularly does. And she has found that she can eat gluten, within reason. “Different things work for different people,” she said. Now her goal is to help others find what works for them in their journey to better health.
Visit consciouscomforts.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.