vegansaurus!

08/08/2012

Guest post: Vegans in spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!  »


Last month, we learned that yet another governmental agency turned its back on initiatives encouraging healthy behaviors. This week, NASA’S Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars. We could spend all day talking about how the government has screwed us. Instead, let’s talk about space.

Even though the President’s budget detailed cuts to NASA, there’s still a lot of experimental preparation going on in hopes that missions to Mars will happen—eventually. It’s no secret that NASA’s been lusting to set foot on Mars for decades. We’ve even had some successful robotic missions dating back to the 1960s! NASA scientists are excited about Mars, not only because it would be rad, but also because most of the scientific advancements that have been made in relation to future Mars missions are also relative to us here on Earth.

If we were to successfully gain funding and launch a manned mission to Mars, the journey to get to the “extreme planet,” as some call it, due to its harsh environment, would take approximately six months (compare to the three days it takes to get to the moon). NASA expects the initial manned missions to last a year and a half, not counting the year it would take to get there and back. The duration of such a lengthy mission is a hurdle that overflows into all other aspects of the mission, making its overall sustainability a big concern.

A big hurdle is food. It’s not all dehydrated ice cream and strawberries (or apple slices with cinnamon, if you’re fancy). Earlier this month, some interviews with Maya Cooper, a senior research scientist at Lockheed Martin, leaked some interesting information about the experimental menu planning for longer duration missions in the future. Excitingly enough, most of their menu items lack dairy and meat!


[Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!]

Many subsequent articles came out reporting that all the Mars mission food items would be vegan, but the initial interview, which detailed examples of breakfast, lunch and dinner options, included the following items that may not be entirely vegan: pancakes, spiced caramel coffee cake, lemon cake, spinach bread, soup, and peanut butter cookies. Also, Cooper states that scrambled eggs will possibly be a menu option.

Aside from how rad it is that vegan meals are becoming the easiest option to send to space, I’d also like to point out that our NASA base here in California (NASA Ames Research Center) is an incredibly vegetarian- and vegan-friendly place! There’s a café that has at least one vegan option every day. The cafeteria staff have never rolled their eyes at me when I ask if the bread they offer for sandwiches is vegan. They even sell California Suncakes and Heart Thrive cakes in the café!

The next time someone questions the vegan lifestyle or tries to rain on your vegan parade, just say, “When we’re all living in space, you won’t have a choice but to be vegan!” So there!

Elysse Grossi is a scientist at NASA and the owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Other than that, she’s kinda boring.

[photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr]

12/09/2011

Guest post: Hosting vegans: tips and etiquette for the holidays  »


It’s that time of the year, where people start pretending to be social: family get-togethers, work potlucks, dinner parties, and holiday festivities. This can also be a pretty uncomfortable time for vegans, too. Unless you’ve been blessed with a cohort of family and friends who are also vegan, you’re usually the odd one out. So here are a few tips for omnis on how to be the best host when serving a mixed crowd.

1. Avoid conditional invitations
I recently endured the most uncomfortable birthday party invite of my life, and I suddenly realized that my vegan diet literally scares some people. Instead of “Hey, my mom is throwing a birthday dinner for me and I’d like you to come,” my friend said, “My mom is having a birthday dinner for me and there won’t be any vegan food.” …OK? My friend tiptoed around my dietary restrictions and ended up uninviting me to his party before I was officially invited! All directly to my face! SO AWKWARD! Don’t do this!

The point of sharing this mildly embarrassing exchange is to remind you that you are inviting your friend to your party, not their dietary restrictions. Vegans are still people, so invite us as you would anyone else!

2. Be a good host
This is a direct tip from my mom, the hostess of all hostesses. My mom is a red-blooded Italian woman who loves to host dinners and serve lots of different types of meats to her guests. It broke her heart when I came out to her as vegan, but she eventually stopped trying to sneak cottage cheese into every meal (for “protein”) and supported my decision.

When I told my mom I was writing this article, she said, “Well, it’s not so much about being vegan as it is being a good host. When you invite people into your home to eat, it’s your job to ask if they have any dietary restrictions, allergies or preferences.” With that, she told me that she always asks ahead of time, and does her research. If you don’t understand what vegans eat, find out before planning your menu. Either ask your guest directly, or if you’re too shy, a simple Google search can help you with definitions and such.

Stick with the guidelines, too. Vegans have different levels of gastrointolerance to certain foods (such as dairy or meat), because your body adjusts to the diet it’s actively fed. With that being said, you may think we won’t notice a dab of butter or a splash of chicken stock, but we will. Oh, we will.

3. Look at it as an opportunity, not a challenge
You’ve made it through the first step and officially invited a few vegan buddies to your mostly omni party. Good for you! Here’s the next step: planning your menu. In this task, you have to accommodate your guests. Come up with something that everyone can enjoy, and get excited about trying a new recipe or two. This is an opportunity for you to learn a new skill, and to put a proverbial feather in your chef hat for future dinner parties. If you’re really intimidated by the prospect of cooking a vegan-friendly meal, ask your guests to help you. Ask for advice, ask for recipe suggestions, or ask them to bring something, such as an appetizer or dessert (but if you do this, make sure you offer other things for them to eat. As good as eating cake for dinner sounds, we need more than that).

4. Make it easy on yourself and your guests
Don’t worry about what you’re going to feed those damn vegans that you invited. Instead, remember that you’re inviting people over to eat, so it’s important to make sure that everyone can eat. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to a dinner party where I could only eat the bread, because even the salad had cheese on it (seriously, Caesar salad? Why do you need to put cheese on lettuce?). Avoid making a big meaty dinner, because that will alienate your non-meaty guests. If you’re stuck on serving meat, try making a vegan entrée with omni sides. It will be less awkward for your guests, and less work for you in the long run.

If you’re worried that your omni guests will complain about having a vegan entrée, well screw them, it’s your house. Kidding! Avoid that situation altogether by providing a “make it yourself” meal. Try having everyone add their choice of toppings to individual pizzas, or have a pasta bar with different mix-ins. Or tacos! Everyone loves tacos! This eliminates any uncomfortable feelings from both your vegan guests and your omni pals, and minimizes your work as the chef. Win-win-win! 

5. Avoid awkward situations
Sometimes, people are so intrigued by the vegan lifestyle that they ask endless amounts of questions. That’s totally fine, but it’s not the only thing we want to talk about. It can be alienating, or really intrusive, neither of which you want to experience when at a party. As the host, it’s your job to make sure your vegan guests aren’t the entertainment for the evening.

Set the stage by treating your vegan buddies like all the other guests. We don’t want to be a spectacle, and we don’t want special treatment. Avoid saying things like “Here’s your super-special, one-of-a-kind VEGAN DISH that I made just for you and no one else!” If you do this, I guarantee that someone will comment on how “My cousin used to be vegetarian but gave it up for health reasons” or “I eat vegetarian most of the time, but oh heck, I just love me some cheese!” I’m pretty sure I can speak for most vegans when I say that we hate these conversations. Your guests didn’t come to your party to defend themselves, they came to eat the delicious food you prepared.

If you’re hosting a self-service meal like I suggested previously (yay, take my suggestion!), label everything, but be discreet. Use a universal sign, like a little “v” in the corner of your label. This will prevent embarrassment when you walk your vegan guests past each dish and proclaim loudly “This is VEGAN, oh and this is VEGAN TOO! Oh, that has cheese in it, but you can eat this hummus” (OH THANKS, MOM)!

Whether it’s your first or 50th time hosting a semi-vegan crowd, remember that you’re throwing this party to have fun, and if your guests are anything like me, they will not be fun with an empty stomach.

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter.

[Pics by Megan Rascal]

08/16/2011

Guest post: Ignoring PETA is hard to do  »

I try my best to ignore PETA in my day-to-day existence. It’s bad enough to hear about them from every omnivore with contemptuous questions and stupid jokes on an oh-so-clever t-shirt (we’ve all heard “people eating tasty animals.” A thousand times). But sometimes I can’t ignore the fact that PETA goes out of their way to represent the veg communities as awkwardly or offensively as possible—the sexism and objectification, the racism, the fat-hating(check out the bio of their female Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door 2011). Yet occasionally PETA will do something good, like compiling a list of veg celebrities to make it easier to find celebrity crushes without any lingering guilt. Every time I talk about PETA, I feel as if I’m talking about that one family member that’s embarrassing and says horrible things but still remembers to send you a card on your birthday.

I got pretty concerned about the two PETA employees that were each charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty in 2005. The employees were caught repeatedly dumping the bodies of cats and dogs into dumpsters behind a Piggly Wiggly. Even Anderson Cooper covered the story! According to the Animal Veterinary Medical Association, the two employees were acquitted. No-Kill advocate Valerie Hayes wrote a reflection piece for the Atlanta Examiner discussing what PETA had done five years after the 2005 situation, which apparently wasn’t a whole lot. I couldn’t even find a response from PETA about the incidents and news coverage.

On top of that pretty sketchy situation, I discovered that PETA used the Ka Yang trial as a basis for a billboard campaign. Earlier this summer, Ka Yang was arrested for microwaving her six-week-old daughter and then claiming the baby died from a seizure. PETA’s billboard plans had likened Yang’s microwaving her child to microwaving a piece of meat: “Everybody’s somebody’s baby.”

Fox40 reporter Andria Borba was not amused, calling PETA an “attention-whoring animal rights organization.”

I don’t know, guys. I just don’t know anymore.

Less depressingly, PETA has grouped People’s “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive,” Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, with likes of Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, Pamela Anderson, and Andy Dick, which is clearly offensive to science as a whole, but I’m more surprised that the writers for People know what an astrophysicist actually is. Dr. Tyson joined PETA for one of their printed PSAs, which states, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that kindness is a virtue” (pretty cute, I must admit).

Dr. Tyson also sat down for an interview with PETA’s president, Ingrid E. Newkirk, wherein he explains that he allows his children to watch nature shows but will not take them to the circus. Can you imagine having a father that has 12 honorary degrees!? Check out PETA’s video featuring highlights of the interview:

I appreciate PETA, for their campaigns that state the obvious (Kentucky Fried Cruelty), and for convincing hot high school girls that by “go[ing] veg” they can do more than just love puppies, but their awesomeness is hard to see behind all the embarrassing stunts they pull while claiming to represent the veg community.

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She’ll gross you out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter.

08/02/2011

Guest post: Mercy For Animals calls out those jerks at the Milk Board  »

About a week ago, I was working in my lab when one of my fellow scientists started asking me about the articles I’ve been writing about the sexist milk debacle. This scientist is originally from India and is vegetarian. We started discussing the differences in milk products in India versus those found in the United States, and how the milk itself is collected.

I was floored by his comments. It’s well known that cows are considered holy in India, and that they are respected creatures. But my colleague told me that they collect milk from their cows “respectfully” and that the local communities came together and created almost a “milk co-op.” No competition, no harmful conditions, and pretty expensive milk.

I felt stupid explaining the methods widely used in the United States after hearing that. I was embarrassed to explain the concept of veal. I felt rude talking about “rape racks.” I felt mortified explaining all the reasons milk is so cheap in this country.

After hearing all that, my colleague decided that he would not consume dairy any longer. The next day, I saw him sipping a little container of soymilk. Six days later, he told me he was still sticking with it, and asked about non-dairy ice cream options. My favorite part about this story is that it just took the truth. He listened, he understood, and that was it.

Mercy for Animals (MFA) decided to create a vegan spin on the sexist milk ads that we’ve been vomiting over for the last few weeks. The MFA ads show ladies holding blood-splattered milk cartons (which instantly reminded me of this ad for Dexter), stating “PMS? No, I’m livid with milk industry for abusing and killing cows.”

The ads are meant to “set the record straight about the milk industry’s true relationship with the female reproductive system,” according to an MFA blog post. The ads will run in Ms. magazine, the feminist magazine that headed up the change.org campaign that helped get the original milk ads removed.

A few weeks ago, the Milk Board responded to the criticism of their idiotic ad campaign by taking down their website everythingidoiswrong.org and replacing it with gotdiscussion.org, which displays carefully selected comments from their supporters and critics. Despite the unrelenting voice of many animal rights organizations, as well as individuals that commented on the Milk Board’s Facebook debate, the new website lacks representation of such comments. So, it should be interesting to see how the Milk Board responds to the new Mercy for Animals campaign. We can only hope they won’t take legal action like they did when PETA did essentially the same exact thing.

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She’ll gross you out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter.

07/27/2011

Guest post: the Milk Board is still rude  »

Two weeks ago, the Milk Board launched an incredibly sexist ad campaign claiming that chugging a buttload of milk will cure PMS woes, both for the ladies experiencing the symptoms, and for their heteronormative male partners. These claims were based on a research article published in 1998, which the Milk Board called a “recent study.”

In those short two weeks, the Milk Board learned that PMS isn’t the only thing that can make women irritable and blood-hungry—being insulted and attacked makes us that way too! (but, apparently we’re that way all the time, right? Oh wait…). In response to all the negative media coverage of the campaign, the Milk Board changed strides. The previous everythingidoiswrong.org has been changed to gotdiscussion.org (oh, witty!) as they attempt to clean up their mess. They also issued on of the weakest apologies in the history of corporate fuckups:

The sincerest part is the sentence that says, “Others thought it was funny and educational.” Let’s not forget that this is the same Milk Board that told us “happy cows come from California.” They tried to sue PETA in 2007, too.

Don’t be fooled, though. This group of sexists still thinks they deserve a pat on the back and a cookie for their irrational campaign. Our buddy Steve James told the New York Times, “Taking down everythingidoiswrong.org is not a failure in any way. I don’t see it as ending it or pulling the plug. We accomplished what we set out to accomplish.”

The Milk Board is also encouraging people to “join the discussion” on their Facebook page (which you have to “like” before you can participate). If you are hungry for some mindless arguing and repetitive banter that insists that “milking cows relieves the pain in their swollen utters”, and “Some girls get cranky when they’re on their periods. Some don’t,” then by all means, join in!

Also, this is some bullshit:

There’s really nothing I love more than watching a pair of harpies throw floppy slices of cheese at each other. [Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com]

If you’d like to voice your concern about the Milk Board’s consistent attempts to encourage sexist stereotypes and mask the real issues within the milk industry, feel free to contact Jocilyn Preskar, director of public affairs for the California Department of Food & Agriculture at (916) 654.0317. While Steve James’ phone number and email address are conveniently missing from the internet, his LinkedIn account is fully available!

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter.

07/13/2011

Hey ladies, the Milk Board thinks you’re a bitch!  »

Yesterday was a rare occasion: I ventured away from my home in the East Bay to take a leisurely stroll through San Francisco with my partner. The sun was out; no one had mindlessly shoved past me on the sidewalk. I naively thought that nothing could ruin this perfect day.

Then the dairy industry swooped in and took a giant, sexist shit on my day with their new ad campaign that is plastered all over the city.

As if “Got Milk” ads and posters weren’t disgusting enough with their trademark milk mustache, the Milk Board has decided to also explain that women are horrible, moody and unreasonable because of our menstrual cycles. To broadcast their views, they’ve created the Everything I Do is Wrong campaign, claiming that milk can ease symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), based on a “recent” (1998) study. This isn’t the first time they’ve cited such studies and used depictions of panicked, fearful and powerless men frantically purchasing milk for their untamable female partners.

[can’t see the video? watch it on Vegansaurus.com]

Let’s look at all the things that are obviously wrong with this campaign:

  1. The Milk Board doesn’t say how much milk ladies would have to consume to have an effect on their PMS symptoms. According to the 1998 study, women would have to drink at least four glasses of milk per day, every day, to show some ease of PMS symptoms (fatigue and insomnia were not affected). On top of that, noticeable changes wouldn’t even begin until after three months of your daily milky medicine.
  2. According to the World Health Organization, the amount of calcium absorbed into your system decreases the more of it you consume.
  3. Milk and dairy products aren’t the only available sources of calcium, but are the unhealthiest! Leafy greens, soy, grains, beans and some fruits are incredibly high in calcium. In order to meet the daily recommendation, you’d only need to consume one cup of tofu, or two cups of cooked spinach, or a feast of figs! And don’t even get me started on quinoa and kale.
  4. Oh, Milk Board? None of the above foods have cholesterol or the saturated fats that are associated with milk! Actually, while I’m at it, let’s also mention that consuming excess fats is actually bad for your menstrual cycle, too. Speaking of excess crap, the “Got Milk?” website claims that drinking milk will make you prettier and “less frumpy.”
  5. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Milk Board Executive Director Steve James says that they went into the ad campaign with “a little trepidation” because PMS is a “sensitive subject.” Other members of the Milk Board claim that the ads are “tasteful,” “fun,” and “effective.” Sure, effective in pissing us off and insulting our intelligence! Hey dudes, maybe it’s a sensitive subject because the media continues to play on blatantly sexist stereotypes that all women are blood-hungry bitches during their periods?

James’ interview ends on a high note: “We did it in the past, but the women just didn’t drink enough milk. If they’d only drink enough, we wouldn’t come back.” Instead of encouraging women to exercise regularly, drink enough water, and eat a balanced diet, the Milk Board wants ladies to consume 1,460 glasses of cholesterol-loaded and cruelty-derived milk a year with the weak promise that it might help you not be a huge bitch all the time, and that it will save your heterosexual relationship from the mighty curse of monthly menstruation.

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter.

05/24/2011

Guest post: Adventures in DIY ice cream! Plus, a recipe!  »

You know those types of friends that you bond with specifically over one thing? Maybe it’s a particular TV show or a band that you secretly love? That’s the type of friendship that my buddy, Jack Shirley, and I have, except we bond over food, or more specifically: desserts.


Jack owns his own recording studio, The Atomic Garden Recording Studio in East Palo Alto, Calif., but he is also on a covert mission to single-handedly take down the ice cream industry and give all of his friends diabetes. Jack has been making his own vegan ice cream for about a year now, after getting an ice cream maker for a gift.

“I love ice cream, and when I went vegan, I realized that there is no good vegan ice cream,” explained Jack. He’s right; there’s always something off about it, and it never quite tastes like the real thing. Ask anyone who’s tried his ice cream, and they’ll tell you that he’s definitely on to something. “It’s way easier than anyone could imagine,” he said.

About a year ago, Jack and I started creating a master list of possible flavors, just in time for summer. Since then, the list has grown, and he’s still eagerly taking suggestions. He even offers it as a perk to bands who record with him. The first flavor he ever made was Orange Chocolate Chip, which he got out of the vegan ice cream cook book Vice Cream.

Vice Cream focuses on making dairy-free ice cream from a cashew- or a coconut base. “Cashew–based ice cream is pretty rare,” Jack said, as he explained why he thinks his ice cream is different from the other vegan ones sold in stores. “Cashew is a very neutral base, so I try to only use a coconut base when I want the flavor to taste like coconut.”

Jack told me that it wasn’t the easiest in the beginning because he didn’t follow the instructions very well. But, with constant practice, creativity with flavors, and a little bit of trial and error, he’s got it down. So here we are, a year later, and Jack doesn’t even bother to greet me at the door anymore. “Try this,” is what he usually says to me as he forces a spoon towards my unfortunately large mouth, knowing I won’t refuse. Little does he know, I’ve used our food-dependent friendship in order to get exclusive ice-cream-making tips!

Tip 1: Let the base sit in the fridge overnight.
Vice Cream claims that you can also stick it in the freezer for a short amount of time, but apparently overnight in the fridge is the way to go. Jack says this helps the cashew taste to dissipate, leaving an even more neutral base.

Tip 2: Use alcohol-free extracts.
The book calls for alcohol-free extracts for a reason! When you use alcohol when cooking, the strong taste of alcohol burns off. When you’re making ice cream, the lack of heat leaves the alcohol in, and it can change the flavor of your ice cream.

Tip 3: Use real vanilla bean!
Using real vanilla beans instead of extract actually tastes better, and will help overpower any residual cashew taste.

Want to try it yourself? Here are two basic recipes, adapted from Vice Cream.

Vanilla—Makes about 1 quart (average home ice-cream-maker size)
Ingredients

2 vanilla beans
2 cups organic cashews or cashew pieces
2 cups water
1 cup maple syrup (Jack uses agave nectar and it works pretty darn well.) 

Instructions
Cut the vanilla beans into small pieces, and grind them to a powder in a coffee grinder.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute, or until smooth.
Place the mix in the fridge overnight.
Pour the mix into your ice cream maker and use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Chocolate—Makes about 1 quart
Ingredients
1 3/4 cups organic cashews or cashew pieces
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup maple syrup (or agave nectar)
2 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. alcohol-free almond extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  

Instructions
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute, or until smooth.
Place the mix in the fridge overnight.
Pour the mix into your ice cream maker and use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
You can serve it immediately (it has a nice soft-serve texture when it’s fresh out of the maker) or place it in the freezer to devour later.

If you’re bored with plain old vanilla and chocolate, get creative! Jack has made tons of different flavors. His favorites? Strawberry, blackberry vanilla chocolate chip, piña colada, key lime pie, and eggnog. If you’d like to suggest a flavor for Jack to attempt, go ahead and send him a friendly email.

Jack says it’s really a trial-and-error process, though. “Not every recipe in that book will give you amazing ice cream,” he said, but I think he was just being his usually cocky self.

There are two things that Jack knows really well in this world: music and ice cream. Now you know why I want a shirt that says “I visited Atomic Garden Recording Studio and all I got was this amazing album and some shitty love handles.”

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter @glassheart.

04/27/2011

Five tips for starting a vegan business!  »


You have to admit, the vegan community has come up with some pretty awesome ideas and businesses. Ten years ago, we didn’t have Souley Vegan, Pepple’s Donuts or Never Felt Better Vegan Shop. But now, there are vegan businesses and vegan products popping up all over the place. But what is it,exactly, thatmakes vegan businesses different (ie- more special) than other business ventures? Over the past few months, my best friend and I have been going through the steps of starting our own vegan business, and it’s been quite the learning experience, lemme tell you.

So, if you’re thinking about starting a vegan business, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Be legit.
I’m sure you read that and thought “oh, OK, sure! Check!” but that’s not what I mean. This is one of the most important pieces of advice that I’m going to give you, so if you decide to stop reading this article at any point, just make sure you get through this point.

By starting a vegan business, you are representing the vegan community as a whole. You might be the first real vegan or the first exposure to vegan products that one of your customers experience, and you know how quick omnivores are to write vegans off. Here’s your chance to stick it to them.

Step 1 in being legit: Make sure you have a plan. Call it a business plan, call it a DIY guide, call it your business [insert religious book of choice here]. I don’t care what you call it, just write one. Your business plan will help you map the ins and outs of your business before you get started, and will help you predict situations and, that’s right, plan for them. You can be as detailed as you want, but just having something is a start. This will force you to realize what you’re about to do, how big you want to do it, and what you need in order to get it that far. What happens if you don’t make enough money to keep your business afloat? What are you going to do to market your business?

Starting a vegan bakery or restaurant? OK, what forms do you need to turn in to the county? What protocol do I need to go through so I can avoid being shut down? A lot of vegan businesses involve food, and rightfully so because we love food and we make awesome food! So make sure you follow your county’s specific regulations. This will probably involve finding a production kitchen or cafe/restaurant space, taking some food safety handling classes, getting an inspection of your production space or storefront location, and turning in a buttload of forms.

Step 2 in being legit: Make a solid budget. It’s important to plan ahead in these types of situations. Don’t expect to start a business and suddenly be rolling in money. A good budget will include things like startup costs and the first six months to a year of production. Add everything into your budget, like business cards, internet hosting and domain names, marketing supplies, ingredients for your food, the costs of any certifications or forms that you’ll need to turn in to your county, insurance, etc. Another thing to account for is employees! Will you need help? Is it feasible to do this all by yourself, or will you have to look at hiring some help? If you’ll need help, then make sure you account for a competitive wage for your employees. You don’t have to pay them $100 an hour, but make sure you offer them enough to where they can live comfortably, and represent your business happily.

If you’re budget is suddenly huge, and your having a hard time coming up with the money, your business plan will be a key solution. If you are going to apply for a loan, a lot of banks will ask to see your business plan to make sure that you’re not just going to take the money and blow it on a lifetime supply of Pepple’s or something.

2. Be a proud vegan business, but don’t be obnoxious.
Here’s the kicker: don’t be an asshole. Use your business to spread knowledge about veganism, but don’t shove it down your customer’s throats. The vegan community is really tight-knit and supportive of each other, so you’re almost guaranteed to have vegan customers, but you have to consider your omni customers as well. You don’t have to praise their dietary choices, but don’t alienate them. If you force-feed them vegan information or make them feel stupid for not being vegan, they won’t be regular customers. Also, I’m sure they’ll leave a detailed comment on Yelp, and we all know that word of mouth is huge in recruiting new customers to your business. Enlighten, don’t alienate.

If you’re not sure about how to go about doing this, turn your passion toward your product. What are the benefits of your products being vegan? Maybe it’s that your products are naturally cholesterol-free. Maybe it’s because you donate a percentage of your profits to a vegan charity.

3. Start small and expand.
Starting a business is really exciting, and once you really starting thinking about it, ideas start piling on top of each other. But don’t get in over your head. Start with a reasonable goal or product base. Not only will starting small help keep your budget small, but it will also allow for easy expansion. Also, don’t burn yourself out too quickly. You’re starting a business because you want to enjoy the benefits of loving what you do, not hating every moment of your life because it’s too much to handle.

If you start small, it will also be easier for you to network without being overwhelming. Find out what other vegan businesses in your area can help you with, and what you can do for them. Get involved in vegan events, and build up a strong following!

4. Know your competition.
This one is easy: If you know your competition, it’s easier to do things differently or better. There’s nothing simpler than doing competition research with a quick Google search. If you make vegan muffins, Google “vegan muffin companies” (be location-specific), and see what comes up. Finding your competition will alsohelp you set your prices. You may think $10 for a cookie is a good price, but if someone else is offering the same flavor cookie for $2.50, well—you know how it goes.

5. Love what you do.
Starting a business involves a lot of hard work, but it can be really satisfying when you make progress. Celebrate your little achievements, and remember to reward yourself. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with the stress, and don’t feel like you have to do everything overnight. Give yourself time, and don’t forget to factor in time to do things for yourself.

If you have questions about starting a vegan business, or want more info on any of the five points above, feel free to email the Sweet Cups team at vegansweetcups@gmail.com.

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