The path to SOLEA began with Michael Ledbetter and Laura Lomax Gaines being entrepreneurs in the technology and health care field, respectively. Upon joining forces in 2002, they made a commitment to uphold the principals of the sustainability - ventures that are profitable, as well as good for people and the planet.
One of their first ventures was as owners of a successful restaurant - Soul Vegetarian in Los Angeles. After preparing and selling organic, vegan, soul food throughout Los Angeles farmer's markets, Michael and Laura decided to make their 'soul delicious' foods available at a their restaurant. This expanded to catering and selling prepared foods throughout Southern California at Whole Foods and other natural food outlets.
When selected to cater a LOHAS Conference held a few miles from their restaurant, they connected with many like minded souls, all busy with businesses and various projects to green up the planet. Michael and Laura accepted several invitations to travel around the world exploring the innovative work in which their new friends were engaged. The trip took them to far reaching places in India, Israel, Africa. They observed first hand the many sustainable practices being used to help communities flourish and heal.
While in Ghana they both became ill. Their host graciously shared an antidote, a super food called Moringa used throughout Africa and India for centuries.
He explained that the tree had many incredible attributes and assured them, it's healing properties would make them better. The result was instant! Michael and Laura were beyond impressed. They wanted to come up with a way to share the benefits of Moringa with the world. That ambitious thought had to be banked as their trip came to an end. The restaurant was calling them back but the idea was planted and very soon would grow.
They returned home as global citizens, anxious to make an impact on the quality of life in the many places they'd visited. Their busy restaurant satisfied the desire to give back for the time being. It gave them the opportunity to continue educating the community about the merits of plant based, locally sourced foods. After each workday it made perfect sense to clean the space with the greenest products, safe for people and the planet.
Gathering gold from each community and experience, Laura began experimenting making her own cleaning products like she'd seen others do in the places they'd visited around the world. She wanted a formula that killed germs without bleach for food safety, smelled good and worked better than any she could find on the market. Remembering the miracle Moringa tree in West Africa Laura added a bit of its potent oil. She tried the mix out on every appliance, surface, mirror and dish in her kitchen. Not only did it clean better than any product she'd ever used but it smelled wonderful!
Michael was excited. This could be the way to fund projects, support others, he added. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work. An outgrowth of their years of commitment and mission-centered service, SOLEA was founded in the fall of 2011. The leaves were changing back East outside of their home in Philadelphia and so was their future.
SOLEA stands for "spread organic living and environmental awareness" and this is what they do on their weekly radio show, The Green Hour, on 900AM WURD in Philadelphia and online.