Justine Carmine experimented with vegetarianism her entire life, but a three-day all-fruit diet with a yoga program inspired her to go vegan—and to spread the word about it.
After leaving her corporate job as an administrator, Carmine founded Happy Hippy, a vegan and gluten-free food catering and distribution company. As of the first week of the spring semester, Happy Hippy’s pre-packaged foods are now sold at Temple’s Student Center and Morgan Hall food court.
Carmine’s business venture started out as a shared plan with alumna Nicole Beddow to start a self-sustainable, vegan-friendly food truck on Main Campus. But the same day Carmine applied to be a mobile vendor in Philadelphia, Drexel University contacted her about selling her food through Sodexo in ready-to-go packages for students.
“I don’t think there’s a better place for me to get a following than a college campus,” Carmine said. “The change starts with students. When you’re in college, you not only pick where you want to go with your life, but also what your lifestyle will be. You grow into the person you’re meant to become.”
After Carmine and Beddow teamed up with Blackstone LaunchPad, a program that helps to develop entrepreneurs and aid startups within the Temple community, Happy Hippy foods became available at Drexel and Temple’s campuses, fulfilling the founder’s initial goals for her company.
Despite expanding the catering company to include distribution, Carmine still produces all of Happy Hippy’s food with the help of alumnus Nicholas McNamara, who graduated from the Boyer College of Music and Dance in 2015.
Students who follow meat-free and gluten-free diets are happy to see their options expand on Main Campus.
“Coming into college I knew I wanted to try to maintain the mostly plant-based diet I ate back home, but I’ve basically just been eating salad and cereal,” said Pearl Joslyn, a freshman theater and history major who follows a vegan diet. “I’ve definitely seen a lack of fresh, healthy, filling meals that don’t have some kind of meat or dairy.”
Carmine views healthy living as a lifestyle, and she incorporates fitness into her company through free outdoor pop-up yoga and wellness classes. These classes will return to Main Campus in the spring and summer, along with a “food tricycle,” which will serve smoothies and on-the-go treats.
As for the future of the company, Carmine hopes to have her foods served at even more universities and to eventually branch out to whole sales in grocery chains, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. She’s also still interested in pursuing one of her original plans for Happy Hippy—going mobile by running a food truck.
“In the end, it’s not about me or Happy Hippy, it’s about the individual person with a story,” Carmine said. “I just want to be there for people, engaging with them and seeing their reactions when they eat my food and say, ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe it’s vegan and gluten-free!’ Those are the moments that reassure me that I’m doing what I set out to do.”
Casey Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.