Stephanie Redcross, founder of Vegan Mainstream, reports for Vegan Life on how to turn your passion into a business.
Picture you’re sitting in a room full of vegan business owners. What do you imagine they do? If you’re like most people, you might think, “restauranteur”, “food product developer”, or maybe even “cruelty-free clothing designer.” The truth is there are probably lots of those, but there are likely also a wide variety of other professionals…anything from web designers to financial advisors to real estate professionals. Because while people might enter the vegan movement thinking about food, they soon realize that true veganism touches every part of life. No matter what work we do, most of us want it to be meaningful and in alignment with our values, and that often means transitioning to a vegan profession of some kind. What does that mean? It’s not about quitting your career and going to work in a vegan cafe – it’s about using your strengths and skills to strengthen the vegan movement.
Our passion at Vegan Mainstream is driven by the desire to create a mainstream vegan movement. This means ensuring that veganism is accessible to everyone, everywhere. To achieve this we need an infrastructure to support society so that choices made on a daily basis will support the ideals of veganism. How does that happen? It starts with the development of businesses and organizations that provide products and services that support the vegan lifestyle. This obviously points to businesses like restaurants and other food-related products/services, but the world’s cruelty-free needs are much larger than food.
How to turn your great idea into a concrete business concept
So if you’re not a chef or a foodie, is there space in the vegan business world for you? Hopefully by this point in the article, you know the answer….absolutely!
If you are an accountant, artist, musician, seamstress, motivational speaker, nurse or engineer we need you too! No matter the profession the love that defines the true heart of veganism can be applied. We need art to bring attention to animal cruelty issues, and reflect the care and love we should show all living beings; we need authors to create stories with characters making important ethical decisions and filmmakers to show the diverse representation of the vegan movement. We need spas that offer vegan manicures and cruelty-free products; we need health coaches and fitness instructors to teach the benefits and realities of whole foods plant-based diets. We need financial advisors to help us invest in brands that support our ethics, and developers who consider the environment and all the affected creatures on a site, instead of just the profit to be made. You can see where I’m going with this…the list goes on and on.
The fact is there’s room for everyone in the vegan business world. The vegan business landscape needs to be just as diverse as the people who make up this amazing movement.
All it takes is one idea.
A great way to get started is to brainstorm three lists. First, what are your skills? Second, what are your passions? And third, what group do you want to serve? I’d recommend taking about 15 minutes to brainstorm each list. Then, converge these ideas to find your unique combination of skills, passion and audience. This should provide you with some solid business ideas to consider!
A word of caution while you are doing this: when you are brainstorming your potential audience, it may be tempting to think that your business can, or even should, serve everyone, but as a long-time business coach who has seen a lot of startups through their early days, I really want to caution you against that approach. A more streamlined, focused approach will get you to the first phase of success much more quickly, helping you yield targeted results faster. Then, once you’ve found a successful business model, you can scale your business to help more people.
Back to the drawing board! Now that you’ve identified some solid business possibilities, you need to ensure there’s a market (aka potential customers) for what you want to offer, as well as a path to profitability. You may be taking steps into the vegan business world because you want to do good and change the world, but you can only be that change agent if you can stay in business. One of the easiest ways to see whether there is a niche for your business idea is to do a Google keyword or Amazon search. If you see that a similar product or service exists, and that people are reviewing it, it has a respectable social media following, and articles are written about it, then you know the market exists. Now all you have to do is find a way to fill a gap that the current providers aren’t filling. Next, it’s time to test your idea and start getting your first group of customers.
3 tell-tale signs of a vegan business that will find success
As you get started there are a few things you can do to avoid some of the pitfalls that are so common in the first year of a new vegan business. Taking the time to get the skills and structure in place to avoid these can save you time and money!
- First, make sure you establish a strong customer feedback loop. You can (and should) start this from day one, so you are always able to take a pulse from the market — what are your customers’ needs, and how well are meeting them? For example, many people use Facebook groups to preview new products or services, and to gather support in advance of their next launch.
- Second, understand and leverage the metrics in your business to make timely decisions. This means not just being aware of your monthly income targets, but also early indicators in your business that let you know if a campaign, promotion or marketing are on track. Metrics and numbers intimidate a lot of new business owners, but do yourself a favor and get comfortable with them early on. You’ll have to face them sooner or later if you’re going to be in business for any length of time, so the sooner you do it, the better. The fact is that without knowing your numbers, it’s easy to miss warning signs that your business needs are shifting with the times, or when something that was working isn’t working anymore. Some key metrics to monitor are conversation rates, click-through rates, cost per acquisition and lead generation.
- And third, understand that the vegan movement needs you to make money. This is a pitfall I see talented entrepreneurs fall into time and again. The passion that inspires vegan entrepreneurs to start a business is the same passion that make us vulnerable to this. If it’s helping the animals, how can we charge for it? If it’s making people healthier, or helping the environment, how can we worry about money? But this thought pattern is destructive because it can make you feel bad when it’s time to charge for your product or service. It’s true that many vegan entrepreneurs don’t start their businesses to get rich, but we all deserve a living wage. More important, if you don’t earn one, you won’t be in business for long, and the world will be one vegan business poorer. Remember, the more successful your business is, the more work you can provide for other vegans, which helps to keep the love going. So, right off the bat, recognize deep down that your business brings value and you deserve to be compensated fairly for what you are offering.
Using your business to become an ambassador for veganism
So, you’ve done it. You’ve created your vegan business! You’re seeing some success, and making a bit of money. Now, thinking back to the original reason you started this business, you may be struggling to figure out how to give back without losing your shirt. I often advise business owners to create a give-back goal in addition to their business goals. This really helps to provide a place to funnel the desire to help the community and become an ambassador for veganism. By establishing “giving back” as its own goal, it shouldn’t compete with other business goals, thus removing the common tug-of-war between keeping your business afloat and helping others. Keep in mind when you are brainstorming ways to give back that it is important to be creative since new business owners often have less cash on hand. So, instead of offering a direct monetary contribution, you may be able to offer your location to other vegan organizations to host events or community activities. To help other organizations fundraise, you could donate a couple of free tickets to your next cooking class. Another option is using the visibility or tools you already have in place to help spread news, information and ideas about veganism. The key is finding a way to help others without stretching your resources too thin, or overcommitting yourself or your team.
We all know that money talks, and that means if you are offering your services as a Vegan [Whatever] you will be raising awareness for compassion in all the circles you travel in. On the other side of the transaction, when you seek out other vegan businesses you will be supporting other vegans in their livelihoods, no matter what they do. And all of this means supporting the movement and standing up for veganism in one of the most powerful ways you can.
BIO: Stephanie Redcross is the Founder and Managing Director of Vegan Mainstream, a unique marketing consulting & coaching company especially for vegan entrepreneurs and professionals. Since 2009 Stephanie has been developing tools, training and support for the brave individuals who are starting and running vegan businesses all over the world. To access a free Passion-Based Business Success Bundle offer especially for Vegan Life readers, visit https://www.veganmainstream.com/veganlife, and kickstart your vegan business dreams today!