After obtaining degrees in both architecture and chemistry, Sylvie Charles returned to her roots.
She grew up in a large extended family in Florida. “Our home was a little piece of India. Everyone gathered in the kitchen, and the house was always full of the aromas of Indian cooking. It was a wonderful way to grow up, very rooted in the culture of my family and at the same time a typical American kid.”
At Duke University, Sylvie took a double major in architecture and chemistry. “Since I had a scientific and an artistic side, I decided to develop both,” she says smiling. “I moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA and then at USC Medical School.”
Sylvie found a niche within medicine that resonated with her: the developing field of integrative medicine, which blends Western and Eastern medical traditions, through medication, yoga, and other alternative practices.
She expanded the scope of her experience even further, when she did her residency at UC San Francisco in psychiatry. “I loved psychiatry, because it was more creative and less algorithmic than other medical fields. People’s minds and brains don’t follow a strict pattern.”
Unfortunately, while she was practicing psychiatry, she had a serious spinal injury. “Medical school and residency are full-time gigs. You can’t think about much else. My injury gave me the chance to step back and ask myself if I was fulfilling my internal mission – was I happy. I started to see a gap between my artistic, creative personality and what I was doing every day.”
“While I was recovering from my injury, it was comforting to create the foods that the women in my childhood had made for me. During a challenging time, those foods kept me grounded, happy and comforted. It became a healing mechanism for me.”
Sylvie began to feel that a medical practice was no longer the best place for her. As part of her exploration of next steps, she first created Spice Mama, a line of Indian sauces, that were healthy versions of traditional Indian recipes: vegan, made with all fresh ingredients and no refined sugar.
“My mom used dates to sweeten, so I thought I’d try it in one of my sauces. When I made the date syrup and tasted it, I instantly realized that I should be selling it on its own. The marketplace affirmed my reaction, because the positive response from retailers was immediate. Within a couple of months Whole Foods brought us on nationwide.”
“It’s important to me that Just Date Syrup be both a health food and education company. I’m particularly dedicated to educating people about refined sugars and contributing to medical research on the impacts of alternative sugars. Every day, I’m inspired to put forward clear information to encourage people to lead healthier lives.”