Interviews with Vegan Business Owners & Entrepreneurs and Latest Vegan Business News, hosted by journalist, media trainer and vegan business coach Katrina Fox, author of Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business.
In this episode I interview Simon Newstead, founder of Bite Society, a new vegan food product company in Melbourne, Australia.
A vegan for more than 10 years, Simon’s background is in technology. He’s a co-founder of Frenzoo, a mobile games studio in Hong Kong that has been in operation since 2008.
In addition, he’s an angel investor and supporter of other companies including Ocean Hugger Foods, Shiok Meats, Kinds of Grace and Hungry Planet.
Bite Society, a zero-profit company, was started in 2018 and launched its first products, milky chocolate balls and a chocolate block earlier this year.
Simon’s goal is to lower the price of vegan goods and he hopes to inspire other founders and projects through transparency and open sharing, including the company’s financials. To this end, he’s charting the journey of Bite Society via his Vegan Startup podcast.
In this episode Simon discusses:
• The key mistake many startups make and how to avoid it
• The pros and cons of either you or others promoting your products as the vegan version of well-known non-vegan products
• How to find a co-packer that helps you to keep costs down
• How to calculate your margins and profit – and what costs to include that many vegan entrepreneurs don’t do which can result in a business failing
• How to sell direct to retailers – without going door-to-door in person
• The low-budget marketing strategy he used to gain traction for Bite Society and how to do this right
In this episode, I give you some tips on how to respond to queries and callouts from journalists who are working on stories and need expert comment or case studies.
It’s one of the easiest ways to get free publicity for your vegan brand. You don’t even have to pitch the journalist or producer a story from scratch – they’re already working on something and are looking for experts in their field to comment or to showcase products.
In this episode, I cover:
• Where you can find queries and callouts from journalists – for free
• The differences between the different query/callout platforms
• How to choose which queries to respond to
• The key strategies you need to use to maximize your chances of being chosen and featured
• What you must include in your responses to queries
Video of panel discussion Know Your Legal Rights & Responsibilities featuring Plant Based Foods Association’s executive director Michele Simon and other legal professionals, recorded at the Plant Based World Conference & Expo in New York, June 2019
In this episode I interview Annie Ryu, founder of The Jackfruit Company in Boulder, Colorado in the US.
Annie started the company in 2011 while traveling to India as a pre-med student and trying her first jackfruit. She discovered that this large fruit had many nutritional and ecological benefits, but also that the majority of jackfruit grown in India was going to waste.
Passionate about global health, Annie saw this as an opportunity to improve lives so while she was still attending Harvard, she began building distribution systems, improving market opportunities for farmers, and creating a working international supply chain to make jackfruit more available around the world.
The Jackfruit Company currently works with over 1,000 farming families to supply jackfruit to over 6,000 retailers in the US.
The company makes a range of vegan products from jackfruit – which has been compared to pulled pork and other shredded meats – that are positioned as healthy, ethical and sustainable.
In this interview, which was recorded live at the recent 2019 Plant Based World Conference & Expo in New York, Annie discusses:
• The challenges involved in creating a company based on a product that few people know anything about
• Why marketing a product solely as being ethical isn’t always enough for consumers and the changes she had to implement to make jackfruit more appealing
• The importance of hiring local expertise to scale up the supply chain
• The different stages and methods she’s used to raise capital and hire key strategic staff
• Why she avoids using meat-based names for the company’s products
In this episode, which was recorded live in person in New York at the inaugural Plant Based World Conference and Expo, I interview Michael Schwarz, founder of Treeline Treenut Cheese in upstate New York.
Michael’s discovery of the cruelty involved in dairy production and the harm animal agriculture causes to the environment were key drivers for his decision to give up not just milk, but his entire career as an intellectual property attorney, and focus on vegan cheese making.
Raised in South Africa, Michael inherited his activism from his parents. His father, Harry Schwarz, was a key figure in the fight to end apartheid and a long-time friend and colleague of Nelson Mandela.
Michael moved to the US in the 1980s at the height of apartheid’s power, went to law school and for over 25 years, practiced IP law in Dallas, London, New York and Washington.
In 2012, he began to experiment with fermenting cashew nuts, culminating in the launch of Treeline, which is now a national brand, available in grocery and specialty stores across the US, including Whole Foods, Kroger, and many independent health food stores and small chains.
In this interview Michael talks about:
• How he got his first distributor and retailer (a process that involved losing a lot of money but was necessary)
• Why learning to say no if you don’t have the capacity or finances to fulfil orders is better for your brand in the long term
• How a negative experience at trial during his lawyer days is the reason why Treeline has never failed to fulfil an order to date
• Why the company doesn’t use dairy cheese names such as ‘brie’ or ‘camembert’ for its products
In this episode I interview Melissa Hobbs, co-founder of The Vegan Company in New South Wales, Australia. Launched in 2018, although the business was registered in 2017, The Vegan Company is the go-to destination for vegan fashion and beauty in Australia.
Its aim is to make vegan living stylish, desirable and accessible by connecting people with an ever-growing collection of sustainable, cruelty-free vegan fashion, beauty and feel-good news.
The content hub shares inspiration, ideas and information while the online store sells a curated range of vegan fashion, beauty and home-wares.
Melissa has enjoyed a successful career in magazine publishing, holding senior positions in advertising and strategy on leading mastheads, including Vogue Australia, GQ, Elle, Delicious and News Limited.
Melissa is also a founding partner of efragrance, one of the first digital beauty retailers.
Prior to launching The Vegan Company, Melissa co-founded Meat Free Week, an award-winning global campaign aimed at raising awareness of the impact excessive meat consumption and production has on animals, the environment and human health.
In this interview Melissa discusses:
• Why she left the world of mainstream media publishing to start a vegan fashion website
• How and why the original vision for a global content hub morphed into a more localized version
• Why she chose an affiliate sales model to monetize the site, instead of drop shipping or other methods
• How she decides what types of content and brands to feature on the site
• How the site has been funded to date
• The benefits the company has gained from content retargeting and native advertising
In this episode I’m sharing with you a talk I gave recently to a group of vegan business owners and entrepreneurs on what to include on the ‘About’ page of your website.
It’s a question I get asked a lot by people, including my coaching and consulting clients and students on my Vegans in the Limelight online PR course and group coaching program, so I thought it would serve you to share this as a podcast episode.
It’s also available as a video and as a blog post below.
Among the things I discuss are:
• Why the ‘About’ page of your website is so important
• What NOT to include on your ‘About’ page
• How to make your ‘About’ page compelling for your customers and clients
• Why your ‘About’ page shouldn’t be all about you
• Examples of an ‘About’ page for a service provider and for a product maker
• Why your story as the business owner is important and you can no longer hide behind your company or brand
• And much more
Watch a video of this presentation:
What to include on the About page of your vegan brand's website - YouTube
And here’s a blog post based on the presentation:
First of all, everybody’s ‘About’ page is going to be different, depending on you and your business, the type of business, whether you’re a solo practitioner or you’re a larger company, and whether you sell products or services.
I don’t believe there’s a ‘one size fits all’ kind of template that you can use to create an About page because it needs to be personalized to you and your venture, but I’m going to give you some ideas about what to include and how to structure it.
Why your ‘About’ page is so important
The reason your ‘About’ page is so important is that it’s one of the most visited pages on websites.
There’s been some anecdotal research done and it’s been found that people will often click onto your ‘About’ page, anything from the second, third or fourth page as they’re going through your site.
One of the reasons for this is that nowadays, people want to know who they’re doing business with, a lot more than they used to in the past. People want to know a lot more about a business and about a company.
If you think about it, it’s true for us as consumers, so even though you’re reading this and you’re a vegan business owner, you’re also a consumer. We’re all consumers.
Some of the questions that your customers or your clients may be asking when they get to your ‘About’ page are:
How big is the business? Is it an SME or a solo enterprise?
Who owns or runs the business?
How long has the person or company been in business?
Where is it based, and does it service my location?
Why should I buy from this particular business?
Don’t hide behind your business
It’s really important not to hide behind your company. I see this quite a lot with vegan entrepreneurs, and you just can’t get away with that nowadays. In the past, this was a thing that large, multinational corporations in particular would do. The CEOs would be very much behind the scenes, whereas nowadays, if you look at a lot of big companies, the CEO has got their own blog, and they’re much more prominent because people want to know or who they are.
And they want to know who you are, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and let us know who you are.
One of the key things you want to do with your About page is to inspire trust and connection with your audience. The way you do that is to let people know about you, who you are and what you do. They have to get to know you.
It’s a bit like meeting people in real life. You get to know somebody, and the more you get to know them, you start to like and trust them. That’s the kind of relationship that you’re wanting to build up with your About page. It’s the online version of doing that.
It’s not all about you
Now, having said that, your About page shouldn’t necessarily be all about you. What do I mean by that?
I’m going to give you a couple of examples, and I’m going to start with my own ‘About’ page on my Vegan Business Media website.
So, see how in those first few paragraphs, I haven’t talked about myself. I’ve kicked off with a question and made it about you, my audience. So, think about how you can do that on your own ‘About’ page.
Note in the image above how I’m answering the question, “How long has this business been going?” in the first sentence. After that I reveal my background bring in some social proof and credibility: I tell you that I’ve been a journalist for 18 years, and this is how I’m using my skills now to help vegan brands like you to promote yourself.
I also answer the question about what’s unique about me and why you should buy from me: I’m letting you know that I’ve been vegan for 22 years, so I’m not someone who’s just entered this space recently as it’s started to become trendy, and that I’ve actually spent the past few years doing the very thing that I’m helping you to do as well.
I then weave in some more social proof and credibility, and after that I answer the question about where I’m located and who I work with. I’ve made it very clear there that I’m originally from the UK. I say that because sometimes I get on a consulting call with someone, and they’re expecting me to sound all Aussie, and they hear this British accent. I explain that I’m currently based in Sydney, Australia but that I work with vegan entrepreneurs, authors and so on from across the globe.
I then include a sub-head with a list of ways that you can get free help from the site, within links to those internal pages, followed by another sub-head and list of how you can get more tailored, individual help.
The reason I’ve put those in is you don’t know who’s going to land on your website and who’s going to be looking at your ‘About’ page.
So it could be that I’ve got people who are quite new, maybe they haven’t started their vegan business yet, and they just want to gather some resources and get some free stuff. But other people may have heard about me and they’re actually ready to buy and keen to find out how they can work with me perhaps one-on-one, or they might want to inquire about some done-for-you PR services or join my online PR course and group coaching program. It gives people an option no matter where they’re at in their particular stage of their journey to start a relationship with me.
You do NOT want to list your entire resume on your ‘About’ page as you’ll send people to sleep! What you can do is add a link to your LinkedIn profile (if you haven’t got one, set one up!). This is probably more applicable to you if your main market is corporates who may be keen to know your work history.
If you want to expand on your story, you can either have a ‘My Story’ or ‘How I Got Here’ sub-head, and talk a little bit more in depth about you and yourself and how you got here, how you got to running your business.
Alternatively you can create a separate page for that and link to it from your ‘About’ page because some people will just want to scan your ‘About’ page, while others will want to read all of it and really get to know you.
I also have some testimonials on my ‘About’ page, which I’ll talk a bit more about later in this post, followed by a link to my online media kit for journalists, producers and event bookers, which has all my official bios of different lengths, information about me, my business, my book and photos in one easy place.
I’ve just given you an example of my ‘About’ page, but you might be thinking, “Well, that’s all very well, but you’re a service-based provider, and what if I just sell products?” So, I’m going to give you another example, which is Pana Organic, a vegan, organic, raw chocolate brand from Melbourne, Australia and sold internationally.
See how they’ve created an image in your mind. They’re telling us a story on their ‘About’ page. They’re really hooking us in. When I gave a talk on this topic recently to a group of vegan business owners that I hosted, and when I read this out, people were gushing “Oooh, ahh’ and having a visceral reaction to the description. That’s another way that you can use your About page to tell your story to hook people in.
Then, when you scroll down Pana’s website, we’ve got a subheading and a section called Our Story, which explains where the business started and its aim. See how they’ve weaved in the fact that while it was founded in Melbourne, it’s available worldwide.
What to include on your ‘About’ page
You want to be very clear:
What does the business do? What do you provide?
Do not be cryptic on your ‘About’ page. There’s nothing worse than landing on a company’s website, and it’s not clear what the business does, so don’t try and be clever or cryptic. Everybody’s time-poor nowadays. We want to know what it is that you do.
What’s unique about you or your business?
Remember, I answered that question on my own ‘About’ page, the fact that I’ve been vegan for 22 years and I’ve been a journalist for 18 years. And with Pana, we saw what’s unique about their business: these original and unusual ingredients they put in their chocolate, as well as it being raw, organic, and some other free-froms as well.
What benefits do customers or clients get, or what problem do you solve?
Remember, people want to know what’s in it for them from doing business with you.
How long have you been in business?
I often hear from new businesses and startups, who say, “Oh, I don’t want it to sound like I’ve only just started out or that I’m quite new.” Don’t shy away from that. For one thing, startups are perceived as quite cool, and what you can do there is just own it and say, “Hey, look, we’re a new company. We’ve been going X amount of time. This is what we’ve got on offer at the moment, and these are our plans.” There’s no need to shy away from that.
Also, from a media perspective, it’s important to include this. For example, with my podcast, Vegan Business Talk, one of the criteria for guests is that they have to have been running their business for at least three years – ideally more, but at least three years because I want them to have been in business long enough to share really useful and important nuggets of wisdom, experiences and strategies.
There’s been too many times where I’ve seen a business or a company, and I thought, “Oh, they might be a good guest for the show.” I’ve gone onto their website and I can’t find how long they’ve been in business. With some, I’ll check their social media, and I still can’t find it. Often when that happens, I just think, “You know what? It’s too much trouble. I’m going to go on to somebody else.” They’ve lost out on a potential media opportunity.
So don’t be afraid to let people know how long you’ve been in business and when the business started.
Where you’re based and who you service
I touched on this earlier in this post. So on my ‘About’ page, you’ll remember that I let people know that I’m currently based in Sydney, Australia, but I work with people from across the globe.
Why do you do it?
Include your ‘why’ on your ‘About’ page: a couple of sentences or a short paragraph why you do what you do. If you’ve got a longer mission statement or a vision statement, or a statement of purpose, what you can do is put a link from the ‘About’ page with text such as, “To read our full mission statement or vision statement, click here,” and then you take visitors to a separate page.
You can also include your values. Again, you can do the same thing there, with a short paragraph about your values, or you might include on your About page your top five values, or if you’ve got a much longer document, then again, you can put, “Click here to see our values,” and send people to a separate page for that.
What this does is give people the option to find out more about you without making your ‘About’ page massively long.
History/timeline of the business
This is for those of you who’ve been in business for a long time. You’re not charting every single year, but just take some of your key milestones. If you’ve been in business for quite some time, then your business will have evolved over time. There’ll be developments in it, so just highlight some of the major ones. Again, you can do this by creating a separate page, and then linking to it from your ‘About’ page.
Remember earlier, I said don’t hide behind your business or your company? We want to know who you are. What’s your story? We love stories. Human beings love stories, and we want to know what yours is.
If you’ve got a family business, for example, tell us who you are. Don’t just say, “We are a family-owned business.” Who are the members of the family that are involved in running it? What do they do? What are their particular tasks? Where are you from? If you’ve emigrated from one country to another, tell us a bit about where you’re from and why you emigrated, why you love working together.
We want to be entertained and we’re curious, and we want to know who you are so that we can get to know, like and trust you. Did you leave a high-flying corporate career to start your own business? People love this kind of transformation-type story. Recently, I was pitched a vegan business to be a guest on the Vegan Business Talk Podcast, and it was a particular type of business that I already had a couple of other similar ones in the pipeline to do an interview with, but then I noticed in the pitch, it said that the person who runs this business actually left a high-flying career as a senior executive from a well-known finance company, and so that immediately grabbed my attention.
I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. I wonder why they left that to do this”, because it was quite a big change. If that’s you, then make sure you include that on your ‘About’ page. Again, it’s helping us to get to know you as a business owner.
Think about some anecdotes that you can include. For example, if you’re in health and fitness, if you suffered from a particular condition, and then you’ve overcome it yourself, and now, you help people to do that.
It could be an interesting incident that happened in your life. Maybe you met somebody famous, or perhaps some achievement that’s quite monumental such as climbing Mount Everest. This adds color to you and makes you a bit more interesting as a business owner.
It’s a good idea to include some testimonials on your ‘About’ page. On mine I’ve got a sub-head called ‘What Previous Clients Have Said’. What I’ve done is just taken a handful of testimonials from the various other parts of my site and put them on the ‘About’ page.
This is particularly important if you offer more than one service or product. In my case, I’ve got testimonials relating specifically to my speaking. I’ve got testimonials related to my online PR course and group coaching program, Vegans in the Limelight, and I’ve got testimonials for my consultations. I’ve got those on the relevant pages on my website, but what I’ve done is just taken a couple of each of those and put them on my ‘About’ page. Again, it’s about adding that social proof and credibility.
Call to action
Then, you also want to include some kind of call to action on your ‘About’ page. Your ‘About’ page is not a passive page. You actually want someone to take action while they’re on there.
If you remember with my ‘About’ page, I’ve got several call to actions because I’ve got different ways to get free help as well as how to work with me for more tailored options.
Your call to action on your ‘About’ page could be something quite simple, like, “Sign up for my newsletter here,” or, “Sign up for my free item,” so you might have a lead magnet, which is a free product, usually a digital product, that you can set up to go out automatically every time someone opts in to your email list.
Your call to action could be, “Book now to make an appointment.” It could be, “Click here to find out locations of where our products are sold.”
Order and structure of your ‘About’ page
As I mentioned earlier, every ‘About’ page is going to be different, but one thing I will say to you in terms of the order and structure is:
Make sure you put your best and most relevant information for your audience first
When people land on your ‘About’ page, some will scroll the whole way through and read every word, while others are just going to very quickly scan, and others might not go beyond just the first part of your ‘About’ page, so you want to make sure you’ve got your really good stuff at the beginning, and it has to be for what’s most relevant for your audience.
In journalism, there’s a phrase called, “Don’t bury the lead,” and that means don’t bury the juicy part ie the main story three paragraphs in. If you look at news stories, they follow what’s called an inverted pyramid structure. The most important information goes in the headline, and then the intro, then the first paragraph and so on in descending order of importance. That’s what you want to be doing on your ‘About’ page.
Again, that’s going to be different for everyone. For example, my partner, Tracie, who’s a clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist, asks everyone who comes to see her how they found her and why they chose her. The vast majority of them say her credentials, her experience and her qualifications.
Now, that’s going to be different for me. Most people don’t care about what my qualifications in journalism are, or what professional associations I belong to, whereas with Tracie, for her clients, that’s important, so she’s got that quite high up on her ‘About’ page.
So, have a think about what the most relevant information for your audience is, and make sure that you lead with that.
Write for your audience
Make sure you write your ‘About’ page and every page for your website actually, for your audience, so using language, style and words that your audience recognize.
For example, if your audience is predominantly male baby boomers, you’re going to use very different language, style and words than if you’re writing for millennial women.
If you have a broad audience, a good rule of thumb is to keep your ‘About’ page conversational and friendly. Even if you’re your audience is corporate, yes, you obviously going to want to use language and words that they recognize, but you’re still writing it in a conversational way, and so that you’re addressing the person who’s sitting reading your site.
Use ‘I, we and you’.
If you’re a solo practitioner or there’s just you, then say, “I do this,”, “I am this,” or if you’ve got a small team, then you might say, “We do this,” or,..
In this episode I interview Dr Nadja Pinnavaia, founder and CEO of Plantable (originally Euphebe), a vegan food delivery service and nutritional coaching program in New York.
Nadja has an undergraduate degree in chemistry from King’s College, London, and a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry from St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge.
The company launched in 2016 under the name Euphebe before undergoing a name change and rebrand recently to become Plantable.
Plantable is a 28-day program that delivers nutrient-dense plant-based meals to customers’ doors, along with personalized one-to-one coaching and support by phone or text with a team of coaches.
Prior to founding Plantable, Nadja was a managing director at Goldman Sachs in London. She holds the Certificate in Culinary Nutrition from the Natural Gourmet Institute and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
In this episode Nadja discusses:
• Why she left a high-flying corporate career in finance to start Plantable
• How she kicked off the business in the early days by driving a massive food truck around New York City to allow people to pick up their orders
• Why she changed the name of the company, what the rebranding process entailed and the challenges it posed
• The particular way she chooses her team of coaches to hire
• How collaborations and partnerships have been instrumental in the success of the business
• How she got to appear on the Today show in the US which resulted in many new customers
In this episode I’m sharing a recording of a panel discussion I hosted last year at the 2018 Adelaide Vegan Festival in Australia, called the Future of Plant Based Business.
My guests on the panel were Seth Tibbott, founder of iconic American vegan meat brand Tofurky which is sold internationally, and Cale Drouin, a plant-based consultant in Brisbane, Australia who works with food retailers and distributors.
Among the topics we discussed are:
• What’s driving the take-up of vegan/plant-based living
• What plant-based products are currently ‘hot’ right now
• What to be aware of when dealing with large supermarket chains
• Strategies for getting your products into retailers
• How will ‘clean’ meat compete against plant-based meat?
• Pushback from animal agriculture industries in banning terms like ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ on products unless they come from animals
• What’s happening in non-food-related vegan business sectors and the opportunities this provides
• And more
You can also watch a video of this discussion here:
Future of Plant Based Business Panel with Katrina Fox, Seth Tibbott and Cale Drouin - YouTube
In this episode I interview Damien Clarkson and Judy Nadel, co-founders of Vevolution, a plant-based events and media start-up in London, UK.
Damien has spent the past decade primarily working on social change projects for some of the UK’s biggest NGOs and brands. He’s previously ran a creative agency and in fact he’s been on this show before, back in 2016, in episode 35 talking about digital strategy, but since then he and Judy have taken Vevolution forward and now work on it full-time.
Judy is a creative tour-de-force. She’s passionate about the sensory arts, promoting women via her platform Badass Vegan Women and She Loves Plants and encouraging people to care about animals and the environment. She’s worked with some of the biggest organisations in the UK in creating digital work and curating hackathons. With a background in events management, her main aim for each project and event is to bring people together to connect and create unique, one-off experiences.
In this episode Damien and Judy talk about:
• How they’ve managed to secure some of London’s most prestigious (and expensive) venues and still break even on their events
• What the most popular events have been and how they decide what kinds of talks, topics and events to run
• The marketing strategies they use to attract crowds to their events
• What’s involved in pulling together their ‘Pitch and Plant’ event (a vegan version of Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank)
• How they work with sponsors and brands over and above the typical stall/table/booth offering to achieve a win-win that helps both parties’ businesses grow
• How they got onto an accelerator program with one of the UK’s largest banks
In this episode I interview Heather Mills, vegan entrepreneur and owner of VBites plant-based food company in England.
After being fired as a young teenager for eating too many croissants at the bakery store she worked at, Heather decided she didn’t want to work for anyone else. Since then she’s run a successful bra company that made her a millionaire at the age of 19, a model agency and many other businesses.
In the early 1990s on returning home from charity work in the Balkans, a road accident resulted in her losing her leg. Far from letting this hold her back, it kickstarted additional careers in the development of prosthetics, public speaking, television commentating, and alpine ski-ing – in which she broke several world records.
In 2009 Heather bought the Redwood Company, a plant-based food brand that made vegan meat and cheese alternatives and rebranded it as VBites.
As well as opening several VBites cafes throughout the UK, Heather has scaled up the VBites brand which now makes 130 plant-based meat, fish and dairy products that are sold in 25 countries.
She also invests heavily in other vegan brands and recently launched VBites Ventures, an incubator and investment vehicle for vegan and plant-based businesses.
Her most recent venture is the upcoming launch of an affordable vegan beauty brand Be at One.
In this episode Heather discusses:
• Why she decided to buy an existing plant-based food brand, instead of starting one from scratch
• Why most startups fail to scale up – and how VBites Ventures is providing a solution
• Why she requires business owners she invests in to relocate to the north of England
• Why she has bought and continues to buy plant-based factories
• The one thing she looks for when deciding whether to invest in a vegan brand (Hint: It’s not the business plan, which she says most people get wrong most of the time anyway)
• Why there has been a plant-based boom and what that means for vegan entrepreneurs
• How and when to use the word ‘vegan’ versus ‘plant-based’ and how she does this with VBites