Until a few years ago Monika Luczak was just another New York City lawyer dissatisfied with her job. Now the co-founder of Saucy by Nature and food artisan alliance Fare Trade NYC spends more time in a hair net than in a power suit. And she’s happy about the change.
“Being a lawyer wasn’t a passion of mine. Like many people you just pick a career that you think is going to be successful and you fall into that path. Then years later you’re like, wait a minute – why am I doing this? I’m not even happy,” said Luczak of her pre-sauce days.
The seeds of Saucy by Nature were first planted 11 years ago, when Luczak met Przemek Adolf through a mutual friend at a party in Astoria. They were both of Polish origin, they both loved food, and they became friends who traveled together. Luczak’s schedule as a freelance lawyer gave her free time each year, which she used to travel to South America, the Caribbean and Europe.
“What made the travel experience for me was trying all the different foods and Przemek had a similar passion,” she said. “We bought one-way tickets to Southeast Asia and it was all about the food and the local ingredients. Then we started recreating that.”
Adolf moved to New York from London in early 2011, when Luczak stopped working full-time as a lawyer. The two launched Saucy by Nature in July 2011 and were daunted by the amount of investment needed. “Say you get a huge order. You have to invest in the jars, the labels, the boxes, the cost of an 8 to 20 hour kitchen shift and then when you finally you deliver your order a big retailer can have as many as 60 days to pay you back,” she said.
Other challenges included shifts in the kitchen that last over 20 hours, the capricious nature of seasonal ingredients and the steep learning curve of being an entrepreneur. But Luczak says she has no regrets. “It’s just instant gratification. It’s amazing to have people try your food and love it and come back for it every weekend. That feels amazing.”