GOOD Spotlight: Nicole Marquis, Hip City Veg

If you live in Philly, you must know the vegan restaurant empire Nicole Marquis has built here. She hails from Temple University (GO OWLS) where she studied communications and theater. She then went on to study classical drama at the California Institute of the Arts.

Then, she became an entrepreneur.

Nicole opened her first restaurant (HipCityVeg) in 2012 after helping her father adopt a plant-based lifestyle to combat his type 2 diabetes. From this challenge, came her idea to change the perception of vegan food with a comfort food menu full of favorites like "chicken sandwiches", fries and "burgers". All complete with a kale smoothie, naturally.

Nicole has since opened 3 total HipCityVeg locations, plus full-service restaurants Bar Bombón and Charlie was a Sinner. (you MUST try the cauliflower tacos at BBB and the tofu ricotta bread and cocktails at Charlie, omg) Her mission is to make delicious plant food convenient and accessible to people everywhere.

Nicole will be joining us at The GOOD Fest Philly on our incredible female founders panel, but we wanted to chat with her and ask a few questions to get to know her PRE fest.

How did you change course from neurosurgery to restaurant biz?

Some people stick to the first course that they plot out in life as children but like most others, I changed my career goals as I grew. After working in the restaurant industry and developing my own ideas about nutrition, animal rights and respect for the environment, I came to believe the most effective way to accomplish what I wanted in life was to try and make it possible for more people to live a plant-based lifestyle.

Neurosurgeon aside, did you always know (deep down) you were destined to be an entrepreneur? Did you ever envision yourself working with food?

At a fairly young age, I started trying to set up businesses. I created a business staging children's parties in high school and later I taught Latin dance. Growing up my family always loved food and always loved restaurants. I guess it was always there in me to combine my love of business and love of food. I made the decision to go into the food business when I realized what we eat has the greatest impact on our health, the environment and other living things. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for females looking to launch their own business?

I would say the same thing to either a woman or a man which is to plan, plan, plan. It is important to have a mission because your mission is what helps you get through the tough times in a business. As for women specifically, don't be afraid to be the smartest person in the room and to assert yourself in the presence of anyone else who might be there.

Entrepreneur life is tough. What do you do to keep yourself grounded? How do you balance this now with being a mom?


In the early stages of the business, I don't know if it's possible to have a balanced life. When you have a young child, it becomes even more difficult. It's easier now to be grounded because of having acquired experience over the years. So, I just keep plugging away. 


Which single item on one of your menus is your favorite?

I love the Ziggy burger because it's very satisfying and has the flavors I loved growing up. I also love the BFG, our organic green smoothie, because I know that when I drink it I'm getting all the cleanest nutrients and fiber I need for the day - that feels good.  

What is your favorite part of owning your own business?

For me, it's effecting change. It's the knowledge that I am accomplishing the goal that I set years ago to increase the popularity of a plant-based diet. 

The GOOD Festival LLC