About little about my inspiration
Hello, and thank you for coming by. My name is Rey Ortega, a purely plant-based person since 1993. Throughout the majority of my childhood, I felt sick. I found no relief from the medical community, so I began a major journey in my teens to determine what was causing my illness. I eventually discovered I had an egg allergy. I cut eggs out of my diet, including those hidden eggs prevalent in almost everything, including my all-time favorite treat, cookies.
Though some of my symptoms decreased, like headaches, I was still feeling ill most of the time. I ballooned to an unhealthy 295 lbs by the time I was 23. I knew I was in trouble, making several hospital visits for chest pains and arm numbness. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and believed additional foods, especially processed meats, like hot dogs could be the culprit.
As I continued visiting the doctor regularly, I researched more about our immune system and how it works in conjunction with our digestive system. Hospital tests revealed a tumor on my adrenal glands, also known as Cushings Disease. An option was I could have open back surgery through my rib cage to look for tumors and their removal. I felt there had to be a better option! I continued my studies on immunity and digestion and became more determined than ever to find a solution to my lifelong illness.
I decided a vegetarian diet would be the best option to try. I wasn’t excited about this new way of eating and giving up the foods I loved, but I had to find out if what I was eating was the root cause of my weight gain, fatigue, diarrhea, and overall malady. I noticed the difference within weeks. I started feeling better and rapidly lost weight. I was vegetarian for about 7 months when I realized I lost 95 pounds! That’s when at the age of 24, I ate my last pizza bagel with cheese while working at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop. I quit my job as a drywall contractor just as the Iraq War was ending and went to work for the Sacramento Coop. I was inspired by the fact that their bakery baked their own delicious, dairy- and egg- free cookies. I had not eaten a cookie or cake for 7 years! This was my chance to learn how to bake alternative cookies that I could enjoy without the negative consequences that traditional cookies delivered.
I saved $5,000 and started my own vegan baking business called The Alternative Baking Company. I was learning vegan baking from another employee I met working at the coop during the 9pm–3am shift. It was hard, but I loved what I was learning. I love learning new things, even to this day.
At my new business, I developed my own recipes for commercial sales. I had to figure out everything through trial and error myself. From formulating to packaging and even delivering with my own van, I did it all, including the accounting. Sales started to rise within a couple of years and I found a financial partner. Regrettably, this partnership proved to be very dysfunctional and a business decision that was to my detriment. I chose to part ways and because of my inexperience and naivety, I ended up with nothing for my efforts in building an almost $1 million dollar vegan cookie brand. I would have to start over completely.
I opened Sun Flour Baking Company with a $300,000 loan from a trusted friend who had faith in my business after seeing the dramatic increase in the cookie labels I was purchasing from his label business. He saw how quickly my sales rose and thought I was worth investing in. I paid him back in 3 years with an SBA government loan in 2000.
Over the years, I’ve sold and still sell into retail chains all over the US, including major airlines, hotels, restaurants, schools and c-stores. I opened the Plum Cafe/Garden to Grill restaurant in Sacramento with a good friend. After 5 profitable years, I sold the location.
Sun Flour Baking Company acquired Michy's Foods in 2021, a cookie company sold in Ralph’s Markets in SoCal along with hundreds of independents. My experience the last 3 decades includes producing products from start to finish, package design and materials for products, UPC, formulations, food development, marketing, sales, accounting, machinery and more! Some call me the "one stop shop" for manufacturing.
Join me for your first venture into owning your own vegan business. Avoid the mistakes that I made, and learn from my experience. I am here to save you money and time and help you create a profitable, successful business.