Asheville startup No Evil Foods Innovates the Food System and the Workforce

Love people? Love the planet? You’ll find plenty of articles and information suggesting the best thing you can do for both might be as simple as consuming a plant-based diet. But now, one Asheville company is proving that applying the principles of a plant-based lifestyle might be a boon to one’s business, too.

The belief that spreading plant-based eating could benefit the collective good inspired Sadrah Schadel and Mike Woliansky to launch No Evil Foods (NEF) together in 2014. Over the past seven years, they’ve worked to weave this ethos throughout everything they’ve done at No Evil Foods. They say applying their beliefs has helped both the company and its people flourish.

“We believe that the best way to improve human health, sustain the environment, prevent world hunger, support social justice, and protect animals is to embrace a compassionate, plant-based lifestyle,” said co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Schadel.  “We approach everything we do through that lens.”

To No Evil Foods, going plant-based isn’t just a diet – it’s a way of life. Applying their beliefs to their business means eschewing hierarchies and thinking as one team in an effort to promote inclusivity. Their company values encourage team members to show grit, be kind, act with respect, bring a positive mental attitude, embrace learning and work as a team. These efforts appear to be working for both the people and the company, whose sales are increasing every year.

“We integrate mission and values naturally. We train our managers and supervisors to embody our core values and reinforce it through the way we do business,” said co-founder and CEO, Woliansky. “We teach listening, communication, and coaching skills to help supervisors ensure team member success. We partner with suppliers that meet our strict requirements and share our values. And we engage within our community and support causes and organizations that promote positive change for people, the planet, and animals.”

While the brand was humbly launched in the farmers markets of western North Carolina, it now employs around 100 people just outside of Asheville. And as unemployment rises in other sectors, the company regularly adds more people to their team.

Schadel and Woliansky’s vegan roots inspire them to treat their team members with compassion. Beyond innovating the food system, they’re passionate about re-thinking old ways of working. Together with their HR team, they’ve designed programs to provide income, health benefits, and support above and beyond the living wage for their area. It’s notably rare to provide living wages, access to health care, and support through life’s challenges to food manufacturing team members, but the No Evil team considers it as essential as their workforce.

Their team members report their appreciation for these innovative ways of thinking, especially as it pertains to the team’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. One employee shared:

“NEF has the kindest top-down employee culture of anywhere I’ve worked. I feel appreciated and seen as a person by the higher-ups, not just a member…I really respect and admire the way NEF has handled/is handling the Covid situation. ”

No Evil extends these opportunities to those who need them most, too. The company partners with UpSkill WNC to connect with job candidates who encounter barriers to a living wage job, including formerly incarcerated individuals. And in addition to their wages and healthcare, the company provides free healthy team meals, free No Evil Foods products, and lots of vegan snacks, coffee, and kombucha to its employees. No Evil Foods is a Certified Fair Chance Business through the Coalition for Social Justice and is proud to say they raised wages of their employees – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ultimately, the No Evil Founders liken their culture and appreciation for team members to planting, nurturing, and growing a garden.

“We are continuously attentive to the needs of our team, always looking for ways to improve our offerings and show appreciation for the skills, energy, effort and results our team achieves every day,” said Schadel.

“As a result, we are a growing, thriving, and progressive organization from our people to our products.”

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