On any given day, Annette Licitra can be found working with passion to improve her community’s perception of health, nutrition, and wellness. Some afternoons, Annette is walking through grocery aisles, adjusting her clients’ shopping lists to fit their dietary needs. Other days, Annette could be at a client’s home, explaining the nutritional effects of the ingredients in the fridge and pantry. In other moments, Annette is in Dream Hall, teaching wellness classes and running cooking demonstrations to help clients learn how to plate delicious and nutritious meals. Her company is called Passionette Palate, and it’s true—Annette is passionate about her career. What sets the company apart, however, is that her work is fueled by her personal story.
For 20 years, Annette struggled with her health, constantly feeling exhausted and sick. Different doctors put her on a series of antibiotics but nothing seemed to work. It wasn’t until Annette found a functional medicine doctor experienced in gut health that her illness began to make more sense. This doctor found that an extremely high intolerance to gluten was driving a lot of imbalances in Annette’s gut and body. Immediately, she cut out gluten, and eventually, sugar and dairy. Her symptoms began to fade and soon Annette felt her health and energy returning.
In all of her dietary changes, Annette decided to learn more about how nutrition affects wellness. She began working with her functional doctor and her associated health coach, discussing how to best determine a personalized nutritional approach to healing. “Doctor,” explains Annette, “means ‘teacher’ in Greek so you should be learning from them.” Soon, Annette was seeking the necessary certification and experience to start a job in this field. In 2015, she enrolled in culinary school at the same time she sought certification to be a health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This was all while Annette worked part-time in various culinary internships.
“When I worked in finance, I wasn’t passionate about my corporate career but I found that I enjoyed learning about nutritional medicine. I have always loved to eat and cook but I never paired it with a profession. But when I saw how the changes that I made to my plate healed my body, I knew I wanted to help others.”
Annette found Dream Hall by way of a friend who also uses Dream HUB services. At the time, Annette had begun to host wellness events which include both an explanation and a demonstration of nutrition-focused meal planning. “I was hosting these classes in two other locations but I wanted to specifically reach the community around Dream Hall’s space. Elgin is diverse, and residents range from their 20s-60s. Usually between 30-60, adults become more aware of health and they begin noticing the effects of long-term issues. They want to do something about it.”
Annette finds that Dream Hall fits her business’ needs perfectly. “I love the uniqueness of the space. It’s a big industrial loft with a dining hall and easy access to the kitchen. It’s a large room—airy and open. My clients have the visual ability to see what’s going on when we are cooking or plating food. And for marketing, it helps with exposure because the neighborhood notices the building. The location itself is on a corner in downtown Elgin with an outdoor dining patio that opens up to a courtyard. It’s a great spot with ample parking.”
With the help of Dream Hall’s space, Passionette Palate has even more community visibility, meaning that Annette can bring more clients to a state of improved health and wellness. “I love to see the light bulbs go off in my clients’ heads as they learn about nutrition,” begins Annette. “There was one grocery store tour I had done with two male clients. The two of them were like, ‘I had no idea I shouldn’t eat this! I buy this every day.’ So we continue going down different aisles and then they begin to pull stuff off the shelf and tell me why they should or shouldn’t eat it. They were learning and it was so fun to see. It’s also so cool to see the physical evidence of improved nutrition, like when clients see better blood work results or feel more energized. They tell me, “I know what I’m eating is making a difference.’ “
Annette hosts a lot of plant-based culinary experiences in Dream Hall, and provides vibrant, colorful recipes for others to take home. “It’s all about shifting the paradigm and presenting the alternative. It’s emotionally, physically, and financially possible to eat healthy.” Annette plans to use Dream Hall in the long-run to host these programs as well as a few other events. “ I do pop-up dinners, grabbing ingredients from local farmer’s markets. I did one last year for Saint Patrick’s Day. It was vegan and gluten free. I see myself continuing to use the hall for events like this one. I could even see myself using another one of Dream HUB’s spokes in the future, like Dream Kitchen.“
For anyone interested in using one of Dream HUB’s facilities, Annette believes that it’s really just a conversation away. “ Working with them is easy because the owners are really open to hosting a diverse range of businesses. They want to help you and your small business, and they want to bring unique events to the community. So don’t be afraid to talk to them about your ideas!”
As for someone who hasn’t yet taken the steps of starting a business, Annette believes that the first thing to figure out is your ”Why.” She explains, “Of course, you need to figure out finances and a lot of other things but don’t just do your “What,” you need to understand why you do what you do and then you will love whatever you’re doing. For a long time, I just went out there and did and did and did, until I realized I needed to understand why I was doing all of those things.”
It’s clear that Passionette Palate is definitely a result of a community-changer understanding and believing in the reasons behind her business. With this clearly-defined passion set as her vision, Annette is able to help restore health and wellness to her clients.