You have a voice, use it. Our words are our most powerful asset and tool. For better or for worse, our words create the world in which we experience and live. A real-life example of this is bullying. When mean things are said to us — it impacts how we think, how we feel, our posture, and how we show up in our world. For example: If someone were to call me stupid, I might doubt myself, slouch my shoulders, not speak up, not act. Vs. if someone were to tell me you’re brilliant and can achieve anything you set your mind to. I’d stand tall, feel strong, speak up, and act. Use your words to lift others up and create the world you’d love to live and experience. Speak your dreams, speak your truth, speak your boundaries, speak words of love, gratitude, and encouragement. When you use your voice, you give others the courage to use their voice. Imagine a world where we spoke up and used every word to speak into existence the world we’d love to live in.
As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Tishue.
Jessica Tishue is an award-winning social entrepreneur. Founder and CEO of Cook & Culture (cookandculture.com), as well as Bliss Foods™(eatblissfoods.com). She has a huge heart for helping others and is committed to inspiring the greatest food culture in history; one that honors our planet, uplifts our health, unites our people, and celebrates the art of good food.
Previous to Cook & Culture, Jessica was the Founder and CEO of a successful full-service Digital Marketing Agency. She has worked with clients ranging from Grammy-Award-Winning Artists, Fortune 500 Corporations such as Yamaha, innovative tech start-ups, and purpose-driven organizations. During her time as CEO, Jessica won Inc. Magazine’s Funniest Startup Video of the Year, ‘Best Digital Marketing Agency’ in San Diego out of 314 agencies several years in a row, broke the industry record and achieved 80% conversion rates for credit card sign-ups online, and had several Youtube videos go viral.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town surrounded by trees in Massachusetts. Growing up French and Italian, family and food were the center of our universe. Our woodsy surroundings and serene trees were the yin to yang of my passionate and boldy outspoken family. Most evenings you could find us slowly cooking and eating heirloom recipes in the kitchen and playing poker to digest. During the days, when we weren’t in school, my two older brothers, neighborhood friends, and myself would run free playing make believe in the woods. I’d leave the house in a beautiful dress and and a pretty little bow on my head, only to come back skinned-knees and covered in mud.
My Mom always tells me how determined I’ve been from a young age. Something I probably got from my Mom as she “willed her miracle baby into the Universe’’ following two miscarriages. There was only a small percentage of a chance that I’d be born. The doctors said if I came at all, I would be a premi. But I came 3 days past my due date and bigger than my two brothers.
Growing up, I always felt different, like some sort of alien. I marched to the beat of my own drum, had a mind of my own, and a unique sense of style. On my first day of kindergarten I wore a full on mini mouse outfit because I remember it making me feel sparkly and fabulous. We are talking full on — ears, dress, socks, shoes, and purse. I also remember not really caring what others thought of me because I had such an immense drive to pursue my own path and truth from a young age. This led me to constantly dream up ideas, inventions, and new ways of doing things. In second grade I started my first business, and also invented and crafted something I called the “Stickgulin” (pronounced Stick-goo-lyn) which was a hybrid between a guitar and a violin.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There are two organizations that made a significant impact on me, and one book.
- Semester at Sea — I embarked on Semester at Sea in college and sailed around the world, visiting 15 countries in 4 months. Words fail to express how life-changing it was to meet all sorts of people, learn about new cultures and food, and fall in love with the beauty and range of humanity. I also experienced some really difficult moments on that trip, which rocked me to the core and changed the trajectory of my life. From gut-wrenching poverty in different regions of the world, an AIDS pandemic in South Africa, starving and enslaved children, to witnessing first-hand a tragic death aboard the ship.These experiences shifted my molecules and changed the way I viewed myself in relation to our world. I came home, gave all my worldly possessions away (to the sunglasses on my face), and decided from that point forward — I would dedicate my life force to making a difference in our world.
- Landmark Worldwide — If you Google it, some nay-sayers say Landmark is a “cult” (most of the people saying that haven’t even participated), but for me — it completely changed my life for the better. It helped become a better leader, meet incredible people from all around the globe, and cut the weight of anything holding me back so I could run free and fast on the road towards my dreams. It actually helped me cut the weight of an eight-year eating disorder, and the anxiety and trauma I was holding onto from the 2006 war. My partner at the time was deployed in Iraq where he was blown up by an IUD with 3 other men. I spent a month in Bethesda Hospital with him, met Cher there, and gave up my summer plans to help him rehabilitate. Though, no one warned me that the worst of his wounds wouldn’t be visible, and PTSD would take its toll on both him and me. Something I was able to break free from through Landmark.
- Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever by Judge Judy. My French grandmother gave me this book when I was hitting puberty. Both she and this book taught me the importance of not prioritizing or relaying on your looks. Rather, it taught me the importance of leading with character and doing what I could to nourish my mind.
You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?
I am currently leading 2 organizations helping to make a positive social impact.
1 . Cook & Culture (cookandculture.com) and the Power Up Program© — Cook & Culture is an online magazine and resource where people can explore healthy recipes to food sustainability hacks, cultural traditions, and a virtual ‘food lab’. Our mission is to unite the world through food and inspire a thriving planet for generations to come. One of my favorite aspects of Cook & Culture is our Power Up Program© where I empower students globally with the skills they need to thrive in the workforce. In just 6 months, our program has impacted the lives of 40 students ranging from regions of Nigeria, Taiwan, Ireland, India, Germany, Carribean, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Canada, NYC, Boston, all across the US, and schools such as NYU, University of San Diego, CSFU, UNC Chapel Hill, Wesley College, UC Berkeley, UPenn, and more!
As a minority-owned business myself, the journey has been anything but easy and I have struggled a lot to get from where I was when I graduated college, to where I am today. It was deeply put on my heart to launch the Power Up Program© and carve a path for minority and female leaders around the world, and even more so put on my heart to launch this program during the COVID-19 pandemic because the gap between the academic world and workforce became that much more magnified. I found it impossible to sit back as students everywhere shared their stories of how they lost jobs, study abroad opportunities, internships, and were feeling totally isolated and depressed because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does our Power Up Program© empower students globally with the skills they need to thrive in the workforce, it’s a space where people can come together from all different parts of the world, bond over a common purpose, and learn and grow together.
2. Bliss Foods™ — Bliss Foods™ is the world’s first edible plant-based tableware. We’re talking sweet and savory cups, bowls, and cutlery that are delicious, nutritious, and zero waste. Our products are full of nutrients and are gluten-free and grain-free too. Bliss Foods™ is a really easy and cool way people can uplevel their health and do something good for our planet, simply by indulging in something delicious. The whole mission behind Bliss Foods™ is to transform how our world thinks about, produces, and consumes single-use plastics. Our Hairy Audacious Goal is to inspire 1 billion people to go plastic-free and co-create a world in which we never see another piece of plastic pollute our precious oceans, our food systems, our bodies, and the air we breathe. That’s why I invented and innovated the products the way I did — I want to make sustainability sexy, convenient, and make the world feel like a real-life Willy Wonka experience.
Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?
I feel like my entire life and all my experiences led me to my passion, purpose, and to start Cook & Culture and Bliss Foods™. Every book I read, place I traveled, person I met, and the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments in between.
From a young age, I’ve had a deep connection to nature. My fondest memories were forging paths in the woods and taking in the beauty of the tall trees. Our forests and natural landscapes have always felt like home to me. As an environmental empath and HSP (highly-sensitive-person), when our land hurts, I hurt. I keep a pulse on the research, the data, and have an unrelenting awareness where I see and observe how we are polluting our planet, and seemingly entering the 6th largest mass extinction. From the disappearing bees and our butterflies responsible for ⅓ of our world’s food production, plastic-packed oceans, fish and water streams, to the use of unnecessary chemicals, and the overconsumption and overproduction leading to mass degradation and unnecessary health issues and suffering.
I can’t just sit back. I have an innate desire to nurture, to love, to heal, and co-create a healthier and happier planet. I have an unyielding desire to inspire, awake, and transform. My Dad has called me a visionary since I was 9 years old, and told me I had the gift of seeing things others couldn’t and the way our world could be.
Traveling the world on Semester at Sea, learning about global food cultures and systems, growing up French and Italian where food and family were the forefront of my life, to experiencing tragedies and adversities which left me with a great sense of empathy for our world and our people. To indulging my curiosity and creative pursuits, and witnessing first-hand how art has the power to transform, and love has the power to heal.
I carry with me each day that you have to leave every space and person better than the way you found it. And when I saw the single-use plastic bowls and cutlery utensils overflowing from an Acai cafe’s trash bin and blowing into nature, I couldn’t just sit back. I know that as one person, I could make a difference. I could use my creative and inventive skills and appreciation for the transformation of our planet. Inspired by leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Oprah, and Albert Einstein — I knew that as one person all I had to do was to stand up, share my voice and vision, and take action wherever I possibly could.
When I got hit by a car while standing on a sidewalk in 2017, the experience further aligned me with my purpose and reminded me just how precious our life is, and to make every moment count. From that moment forth — I went full force into using my talents, skills, and life’s inspirations towards fostering a healthier and happier planet.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Cook & Culture — The opportunity to collaborate with brilliant minds from all different regions of our world such as Nigeria, Taiwan, Carribean, Ireland, Germany, all across US, Saudi Arabia, and make a tangible impact in their lives.
Bliss Foods™ — Either discovering the edible coffee cups I invented could hold hot coffee for 120 hours+ without leaking, or presenting Bliss Foods™ to the Board of Trustees at my alma mater, University of San Diego, and catering a whole menu for them. From appetizers, to main course, to desserts using our edible tableware products.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Yes! She participated in our Power Up Program© through Cook & Culture. She came to us after searching tirelessly for a job for one year straight. She graduated from a top-tier school, but the persistent rejection and impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic left her feeling lost and low in terms of her self-esteem. Behind it all, I saw something great inside her and accepted her into our Power Up Program© where I coached, mentored, and trained her. Not only did I teach her the hard skills she needed to thrive in the workforce, I worked on helping her develop the soft skills, and coached her to unearth her passion, purpose, and dream career. Within 6 months, she was able to secure her dream job working for Women’s Health Magazine. They specifically said they chose her because they were impressed by her experience and training with Cook & Culture and that it was spot-on with what they needed and were looking for.
She is just one of many success stories and individuals we’ve been able to impact in such a short amount of time. Here are some specific quotes from her:
“I was so excited to get accepted into the program with Cook and Culture. It gave me a sense of worth when I was struggling for one.”
“Before C&C, I didn’t know how I would apply my writing skills to a job. I really struggled with just having the confidence in a professional/work setting, but being in this community helped me realize that I have the skills and abilities to not only exist in a workplace but be able to thrive there.”
“When I saw this job description, I was so excited to see a job that aligned with my skills and experience. It is the first time that I felt like I am so qualified for this job and I am confident that I would thrive in this position. And these thoughts are largely thanks to my experience at Cook & Culture. I was able to express in my cover letter and interview how I had done all of these things at Cook & Culture — and they were very impressed with my ability to gain such great experience during a pandemic!”
Other Quotes From Team + Participant’s:
“It’s pretty amazing to see so many women from all around the world come together and create this beautiful vision and make it a reality. The one thing I have been most moved by is how much I feel heard on this team. It reminds me of how liberating it feels to be in a room full (or a zoom full) of so many incredible women. Women rock.” — Emi Zerr
“Seeing so many women with different backgrounds and cultures all collaborating together made me instantly feel like I was part of a community where I could feel free to express myself and be comfortable. Prior to Cook & Culture and the Power Up Program, any tech-related camp or program I had gone to had always been predominantly male, and it was so refreshing to see women taking the lead and coming together to make an impact in society. It’s been such an amazing experience to be able to meet and work with some of the best role models and mentors I could have ever asked for. I’ve learned so much, not only about web development but also about what it means to work in a team where I could have my own unique voice but also be supported by a talented group of women. Working on a predominantly-female team has truly inspired me to reach above and beyond and strive for a future where all women can feel empowered and confident to make a change in our world.” — Aditi Kashi
“Having a female CEO and founder sets Cook & Culture apart because of the support, resources, and community that are provided for everyone at the company. The team is predominantly female, but the men on the team are just as supported as the women. I really love working in a space that champions equality and recognizes that women have been systematically underprivileged in the professional space for a long time. It’s refreshing to work in a space where women work together and support one another, rather than competing against one another.” — Cambria Sinclair
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
For better or for worse we ‘make a difference’ everyday. Just by existing we make a difference because we are living, breathing creatures — moving, shaping, and shifting through our existence. We can’t come in contact with anything or anyone without making a difference — for better or for worse. Knowing this I’ve made a conscious decision to leave every person and every place better than the way I found them.
For me, making a difference happens in each and every moment we are alive. From talking with my Mom on the phone in the morning and every person I engage with throughout the day, to voting with my dollar, supporting local, treading light, and indulging my creative pursuits.
I live to explore, create, and inspire — and as cliche as it sounds — I know that the difference I want to see in our world starts with me. So I do what it takes to fill my cup, nourish my health (mind, body, and spirit), muse my curiosities, work through my fears/hardships/BS, and live a happy and fulfilled life.
Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Start small. Focus on the here and now, who you know, and where you are. If you can make a difference or inspire change in your immediate sphere of influence, that change will organically spread. It’s all about the butterfly effect. Even if you know one person, that one person knows another person who knows another person, and ultimately you end up being connected to every individual in our world. Just through 1 person! To bring this concept to life, think of our world like a web or a network, we are all connected somehow. You don’t have to stress yourself out worrying about how to make it all happen or crafting up these grandiose plans. Start here, start now — with who you know and where you’re at. If you can make a difference right here, right now — the change you wish to see will spread like yummy chocolate sauce.
- You have a voice, use it. Our words are our most powerful asset and tool. For better or for worse, our words create the world in which we experience and live. A real-life example of this is bullying. When mean things are said to us — it impacts how we think, how we feel, our posture, and how we show up in our world. For example: If someone were to call me stupid, I might doubt myself, slouch my shoulders, not speak up, not act. Vs. if someone were to tell me you’re brilliant and can achieve anything you set your mind to. I’d stand tall, feel strong, speak up, and act. Use your words to lift others up and create the world you’d love to live and experience. Speak your dreams, speak your truth, speak your boundaries, speak words of love, gratitude, and encouragement. When you use your voice, you give others the courage to use their voice. Imagine a world where we spoke up and used every word to speak into existence the world we’d love to live in.
- Collaboration is Queen/King. Change and making a difference in our world requires the participation of others. So involve them! Use your voice, and invite others to play too. You’re going to be that much stronger, that much more fierce when you collaborate with minds from all different walks of life. They are going to see solutions to problems, help you think outside the box, lighten the load, make the whole change-making process awesome and fun, and take you to places you never dreamt you could go.
- There’s no such thing as failure, just keep going. Every opportunity is a learning experience, strengthens us, and equips us to better execute our passions and dreams for ourselves and our world. Failure is a self-limiting perception, and when you get hung up on it — it slows you down and hinders your progress. When you fall down, dust yourself off, stand back up, and just keep going. Don’t let “failure” or fear of “failure” stop you. Realize we live in an imperfect world and nothing is ever going to go according to plan, and the most rewarding things in life take effort. The most successful changemakers are those who don’t stop in the face of failure or adversity. Rather they see every moment and experience as an opportunity to achieve their goals.
- It’s never too late. No matter what has happened, how much time has gone by, it’s never too late to start. Start here, start now. With who you know and what you have. As long as you’re alive and you’re reading this, it’s never too late.
What are the values that drive your work?
- Passion / Merakai
- Proactive Communication
Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?
- Morning & Evening Power Questions — from the Law of Attraction Planner
- Daily gratitude and prayer
- Making time for daily walks and trips in nature
- Consistent connection with my family, friends, and support circle
- Taking a few moments here and there to read the graphic novel “Unflattening”
- Writing down, visualizing, and revisiting my WHY on a regular basis
In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!
I see a world where our people are vibrant, healthy, and free. Lit up by life, and enamoured by the beauty, wonder, and awe of our world. I see a world where our planet is thriving and our people are striving to express their natural abilities and human potential. I see a world where our water streams are crystal clean, and appreciated like a precious diamond. I see a world where our lands are lush, our trees are green, and everywhere we look we see Earth’s bounty. I see a world where our people feel happy and safe. Our needs are nurtured. We provide for our Earth and one another. In return, our Earth and our people provide for us.
I see a world where people are celebrating. Each new day, each moment, each blessing. I see a world where people are dancing, creating, dreaming, visioneering, and playing. I see a world where we honor our differences, yet come together as one. I see a world that is fun and expressive. I see a world that is a real-life Willy Wonka Factory where everything is eatable and edible. Made from Earth’s healing superfoods, yet is out-of-this-world creative and delicious.
I see a world where science meets age-old tradition and tribal ecosystems. Where we are fascinated by the greatest mysteries of our Universe and unearthing its natural laws. Where despite our uniqueness, we find our common rhythm, and harmoniously coexist.
I see a world that embodies the magic that already exists within. A world that is light, that is love. Where East meets West. South meets North. A world where every heart, mind, and soul knows peace.
We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?
- I’d put laws in place to stop plastic production and fine the polluters.
- I’d invest in: Ocean clean up and land restoration projects, solutions to eradicate the microplastics in our world, develop a never-ending and natural energy source…as well as water source, the research of how energy sources can be created through the nanoparticle and atomic level, food insecurity projects and ensuring no human goes hungry ever, enrichment and access to education for all, housing and rehabilitation projects, women and minority owned businesses and projects. I’d invest in finding natural cures and medicine. I’d invest in composting facilities and all sorts of vertical, urban gardens, and soil restoration programs, as well as social-well being programs.
- Rather than measure the GDP I’d have us measure the GDH — gross domestic happiness, and evaluate metrics that measure our quality of life and well-being, in addition to our economic health.
- I’d reimagine the healthcare system and ensure every human has access to healthcare. I’d also make sure that no human has to stress when they have cancer, get into an accident, or are sick about paying for the medical bills and worrying about their quality of care.
- I’d surprise random strangers with random gifts. Such as paying for their college, or gift them a 1960’s Austin Healy convertible just for fun.
- I’d get into sustainable architecture and housing projects.
- I’d dance on stage with Ellen DeGeneres.
I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?
Lot’s. I’d like to see our educational system be more hands-on and experiential, and have a variety of subjects taught that would support our people in thriving. From gardening, composting, food waste, to how to pay your bills 101, save money, goal setting, time management, well-being, mental health, somatic therapy, Qi Gona, dance, art, cooking, economics, history, science, math, engineering, sustainable textiles, digital storytelling, teamwork and collaboration, music, and beyond!
I’d like to see an educational system that is custom-tailored to people’s learning styles and natural gifts. Whether that be visual, audio, or kinaesthetic. I’d like to see an educational system where bullying does not exist and school is a safe space for people to thrive, explore their natural abilities and human potential, and thrive. I’d like to see an educational system where the space is conducive for collaboration and the teachers teach and also learn from their students.
I’d like to see an educational system that is accessible, affordable, and equips people to thrive in our world. I’d also like to see more cross-collaboration between Universities and regions of our world.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
As long as you are alive, for better or for worse, you are making an impact. Might as well make it positive and use your energy to create a world in which you’d love to live, and leave every person, place and thing better than the way you found them.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Yes! There are two actually…
- Michelle Obama. I’ve been inspired by her child nutrition programs since 2010. Her programs and leadership have greatly shaped my perspectives, and encouraged me to unlock my passions and pursue the path I am on. I’d love the opportunity to sit down with her, noodle over our shared passion, and discover how I can support her vision for healthier food options in our school systems.
- Kimbal Musk. I admire him greatly as someone who has committed their life force to improving our food systems and the health of our planet and people. I respect him for using his celebrity, resources, and personal efforts to build hundreds of outdoor learning gardens and classrooms, launching incredibly-tasting farm-to-table restaurants, raising awareness for soil regeneration, and unapologetically rocking a cowboy hat like a boss.
- I’d also really love to have a dance party with Ellen DeGeneres
How can our readers further follow your work online?
- Cook & Culture — cookandculture.com
- Bliss Foods™ — eatblissfoods.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!