Since May of 2011, when she quit her job to dive headlong into launching Spark of Life Healing Foods, Pam Daley has been moving at warp speed. Spark of Life Healing Foods, a vegan and gluten-free ready-to-eat food company, was Pam’s answer to an internal calling to provide healthy, delicious, grab-and-go foods in Nashville. Her seeming overnight success makes us think Spark of Life is one of those things that was literally meant to be.
Starting in mid-season in 2011, Pam set up a booth at the Nashville Farmer’s Market, and a mere two months later, on the last day of the season, was discovered by a Whole Foods local food liaison. Seven short months later, Pam’s products are on the shelves in this country’s largest natural foods chain. This is a story we love to tell, and we are thrilled that Pam joins us today as our FACE of Nashville!
How long have you been in the culinary business?
Over 30 years! My career in the food industry began in 1980, just after my high school graduation. I first discovered my passion for preparing meals for people’s enjoyment in a little seaside Restaurant in Newport, R.I. Over the past 32 years, I’ve held a variety of positions in a number of busy restaurants and catering companies. In 2001, I became a Certified Personal Chef and stared my first business, Pammylou Cooks for You.
What life moment made you seek the power of healing foods and how has this direction altered your life?
About four years ago, I was suffering from various ailments that I couldn’t figure out. I was already on a dairy-free diet due to being lactose intolerant for many years, but something else was clearly amiss. I went the traditional route of having allergy testing and blood work done, which didn’t reveal anything significant (except a big dent in my wallet). Then one day, I heard a voice in my head say “It’s gluten.” So, I removed all gluten from my diet, and voilà, my symptoms went away! Shortly thereafter, I first learned about the healing benefits of a raw foods diet and lifestyle though my dear friend, Keith Little. He had completely reversed a serious illness he had been suffering from and had lost a bunch of weight through juicing and eating raw foods. I was amazed at the transformation, and very intrigued. I went out to California to visit Keith and his lovely wife Phyllis (both raw food purists) and they prepared the most amazing dinner for me. They also turned me on to Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley, a raw foods restaurant, and the experience I had there changed my life forever! The food was fresh, vibrantly beautiful, raw, vegan, and so delicious. I felt as if I were on a spiritual “high” after our meal. During my flight home to Nashville, I heard a voice (once again) say “You have GOT to bring this concept to Nashville!” I “heard the call,” as Joseph Campbell would say, and Spark of Life Healing Foods was born out of that incredible experience.
What is the best professional advice you’ve been given?
(1) Find a mentor. A mentor is someone who has been down the same or similar path that you are taking. They are successful and willing to provide advice and guidance — for no real personal gain. (2) Find someone who believes in you and ask them to help you get started. I called one of my best friends and humbly asked her to loan me enough money to become a vendor at the Farmer’s Markets. She said she would be honored to help me and that the money was a gift, not a loan. I will pay it forward someday.
What is one piece of advice that you would want anyone to know who is considering starting a business?
It’s never too late. This quote says it all: “I dare you, while there is still time, to have a magnificent obsession.” Be prepared to make great sacrifices in your life as you pursue your dream business and never, never give up on yourself.
What do you say to people who complain about the high cost of eating in a healthful manner, and do you have suggestions to take that cost down some?
You’re worth it! You’ll either pay the cost up front in the manner of prevention (shopping/eating healthy) or you’ll pay for it later with compromised health and doctor bills piling up.
I suggest that people learn to make simple, healthy foods for themselves and that they educate themselves on the benefits of making even subtle changes to their diets that are not costly. Never underestimate the powerful benefits in a bowl full of greens, beans and grains. Get a rice cooker, a steamer basket and a pot, and you’re well on your way.
As a business owner, how do you balance your personal life with your business needs?
<Shrug> I’d have to say that I have not been successful at finding that balance this past year or so. I try my best to carve out Sundays for my family and to re-charge my batteries that run non-stop all week long!
What brought you to Nashville?
I am a singer/songwriter, and music brought me here in 1992 when I arrived in town to record my first album with my former Bluegrass band, Cornerstone. I totally fell in love with Nashville the week we were here recording and decided to move here shortly thereafter with my two little girls (ages 5 and 7 at the time).
Do you have some favorite things about living in Nashville?
The music culture of Nashville is unique and precious, and I don’t take it for granted one bit. Perfect example: In 2008, I got a call on a Monday night that Nanci Griffith wanted me to sing background vocals for her on the Opry the following Saturday night. She knew I was a big fan through a mutual friend and that I knew all of her songs. Amazing experience I will never forget. Bonnie Raitt hopped on stage one night at Douglas Corner when my friend Pat McLaughlin was playing. I got to sit next to Emmylou at the Station Inn another night. These women are my musical heros! I simply love living here.
Are there any places, inside of Nashville or within a short road trip, where you like to go to recharge?
I love to steal away to the Smokey Mountains with my cowboy and rent a cabin in Townsend, TN. I find nature and solitude to be the best sources of relaxation and rejuvenation. I love going to Leiper’s Fork to stroll in and out of the shops and cafes and take in the genuine southern charm that Tennessee is so well known for.
Where is your favorite place in Nashville to go on a Saturday night?
The Station Inn for the best live acoustic music in the country.
If there were one thing you could change about Nashville, what would it be?
I’d like to see Nashville have a large food co-op, which I believe would allow more people to have access to affordable healthy foods and other items that are locally grown and produced.
What books could be found on your nightstand (or Kindle) currently?
Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Do you have any fears?
Many, but faith and perseverance have seen me through some very, very dark days in my life, so I always trust that the will of God won’t ever lead me where the grace of God can’t keep me.
Please tell us the 3 things you can’t live without excluding God, family and friends.
Music, sunshine and unconditional love.
Thanks, Pam! And thanks to Ashley Hylbert for these beautiful photographs!