Welcome to The Dean’s List! The Dean’s List will profile up-and-comers in Memphis who are certain to be the next group of leaders in the nonprofit, corporate, government, and faith communities. The Dean’s List is curated by Kevin Dean, the Executive Director of Literacy Mid-South.
As the owner of Memphis’s own Pink Diva Cupcakery & Cuisine, Cassi Conyers spends her days creating recipes, cooking, baking, and being a “bosschick.” Her Pink Diva menu teems with unique menu items that run the gamut from avocado wontons, to cupcakes, to Cassi’s own creations: the pho-rito (a pho-and-burrito affair) and her infamous totchos (nachos with a tater-tot base). The most interesting part? It’s all vegan! Cassie went vegan in 2013 and has devoted her career to making cruelty and allergen free dishes.
Cassi is a self-taught chef and businesswoman, a passion she was drawn to after studying film at the San Francisco Academy of Art and Education at The University of Memphis. Cassi loves nothing more than to support other fierce women in business. She hosts a monthly women’s event called Cupcake, Cursing and Cocktails at the Cupcakery, teaches cooking classes, does speaking engagements at schools and does everything she can to cultivate a supportive, collaborative network of entrepreneurial “bosschicks” in Memphis. We chose Cassi for the Dean’s List for her entrepreneurial spirit and her commitment to the city of Memphis!
Why do you choose Memphis over another city?
I went to college in San Francisco, but there is something about Memphis that keeps me here. I also believe in planting seeds where you live first.
Name three mentors in your life and what they have done to help you become who you are today.
First and foremost is Chef Gary Williams of DeJaVu. He keeps my business meltdowns in check, and I have my fair share. I am also beyond grateful for the faith that he has in me to help me bring my dream to the world. He is always encouraging and is just as excited if not more excited than I am for every business victory. It’s an amazing feeling know that my victories make him proud.
She doesn’t know it yet but I look up to Ms. Edna of Mot and Ed’s. During her start it was just her running the show, meaning she did the cooking, cleaning, serving EVERYTHING. Seeing where she is now and how she started is one of the things that keeps me going because I am in the same boat. And just like Chef she is genuinely wishes me well and concerned with my well being.
Lastly is Elizabeth Lemmonds. I was introduced can to her while she was getting Forge off the ground. In the past year she has been a cheerleader, encourager and supporter. She has taught me that even though we are women, we can still be a force to be reckoned with in the business world. Be kind but take no….. you know how the saying goes.
Your company is known for its delicious vegan cupcakes. Which one is your personal favorite?
By far my favorite cupcake is my signature cupcake called the Diva Delight. While creating cupcakes as a thank you to my friends I created cupcakes based on their personality and of course I had to create one for myself. The Diva Delight is a chocolate cupcake filled with a chocolate mousse, a whipped topping and a chocolate drizzle. It’s me in a cupcake!
Memphis, a town known for its BBQ and deep fried everything, isn’t known for being vegetarian/vegan friendly. Why did you decide to open a vegan bakery?
I actually fell into the whole vegan baking thing. My original dream was to have a vegan restaurant that focused on breakfast and I didn’t have a dessert item on the menu. Go figure, right? I was asked to bake a little over a year ago for another restaurant, and now that is what I am known for. The focus of the Pink Diva Cupcakery is cupcakes but I have a full food menu where nothing is priced over $8.99.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard about being vegan?
The strangest and funniest is people ask is if I can eat potato chips…… It’s a potato. Or they will ask if vegans drink. We only drink on days ending in Y.
What would a perfect day in Memphis look like for you? A perfect day in Memphis would be a 75 degree day with a light breeze and every locally owned restaurant has a full house. No one complains and every Yelp review that is posted is 5 stars.
What’s the name of a book that has inspired you or changed the way you live your life?
That would have to be Eat, Pray, Love. (The book, not the movie.) There is a line in the book that says, “Don’t ask questions because you’ll only end up upset.” I wrote it down and it is on the mirror in my bedroom. My biggest flaw is attempting to figure out why people do the things they do, so I ask questions and my feelings get hurt. Now when madness comes to me I say, “Not my monkey’s not my zoo.”
What’s the one part of the city that you couldn’t live without?
I grew up in the North Memphis/ Crosstown area so that’s home base. Everything I need is in Crosstown. There is a real sense of community because the neighborhood is so old. We know each other and we support each other. I seriously have the same postman that I had when I was a little girl. What other neighborhood can say that?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I have a hard enough time thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner each day so I haven’t really thought that far ahead. The list of things I want to see happen are making it to the Food Network, being featured on Unique Sweets, being Lisa Simpsons’ best friend. Yes, I want to do voice over work for The Simpsons. I would also love to have another spot in Crosstown as well as St. Louis.
What can residents do to make Memphis a better place to work and live?
Support each other! Don’t be afraid to try something different. We have so much talent in this city, and we have to embrace it or we will lose it. That is the only way that Memphis will continue to grow in my eyes.
Anything else you’d like to add? Yes, Make sure you come by the Cupcakery and see me. Don’t let the word vegan scare you.