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.
Interview with a vegan: Kate Dollarhyde! »
Vegansaurus: Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Kate Dollarhyde: When I first decided to go vegan it was absolutely for animal rights reasons. How could I see the evidence of animal abuses and torment and not act, especially when the act, for me, would be so easy? I was lucky to go vegan where I did—right in the center of San Francisco: a block from a forward-thinking Safeway, a quick jaunt from Rainbow Grocery, mere feet from the Castro farmers’ market. It was like magic, the convenience of it.
As I matured in my veganity, I read over and over about how destructive animal farming is to our ecosystems, our soils, and that’s what really sealed the deal. And health? I was never concerned with health! Do you guys know how many cupcakes I eat? I’m at like at least 1,000 per day. I might have a problem.
Vegansaurus: How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
Dollarhyde: I’ve been vegan for four-ish years. I’m not completely sure, but I know my veganniversary is in April sometime. I was a vegetarian for two years before that, though that was much more difficult than the veganism is because my family was less willing to accommodate me, especially during holiday meals. But my dad is vegan now, so it’s all good.
Vegansaurus: What do you do to make monies? Tell us all about it.
Dollarhyde: I do very thrilling desk work for a biotech start up in Berkeley; you know, research, coffee brewing, presentation compiling, dish-doing, all the exciting stuff. I was wary of taking the job because (in the interest of full disclosure) the company I work for contracts with labs that do animal testing. I didn’t have a lot of options when I graduated from college with a useless BA in a field that requires a doctorate, so when I was offered a job that would pay me a living wage with health and dental insurance included, I couldn’t turn it down.
The device they’re developing could save millions of human lives a year, but I still find it difficult to square with my vegan beliefs. Of course I’m against animal testing, but if one of my family members contracted the disease they’re trying to cure would I be glad the device existed? Heck yes I would be.
Vegansaurus: I know you volunteer with various organizations—what’s up? How can we get involved with some of them?
Dollarhyde: I volunteer at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art every Saturday, down in the museum district near the SFMOMA and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It’s a fantastic space and the people I work with are phenomenal. The museum works hard to engage the community for education and fun times, so every first Thursday we host a crafting event in partnership with Etsy called Craft Bar. It’s always hugely crowded and rowdy because of the cheap beer and is always the highlight of my month.
The best way to get involved with the museum (and other small, under-funded museums like them!) is to ring them up and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Small museums are chronically understaffed and could always use a helping hand at the front desk or during events. And unlike at the large museums with competitive volunteer waitlists, small museums will usually give you the opportunity to do a variety of work. I was asked to help with aspects our recent exhibit installation and it was too dang fun.
Vegansaurus: Do you have any companion animals? Tell us all about them!
Dollarhyde: I have two cats! Boris, a giant bruiser of cat, and Rhubarb, a feisty little spitfire my partner and I adopted from the SFSPCA. Some complete jerk abandoned her in a cardboard box in the parking lot outside of the shelter at night, in the winter. Boris is a total weirdo, really vocal, and needy in a completely adorable way. He likes to wake my partner up in the morning by standing on his chest and licking his hair. Rhuby is a much more normal cat; she’ll roll on her back and lure you in with the promise of sweet, sweet belly rubs, and then just bite your shit like it ain’t no thing. She likes to sleep under the covers with us so she’ll usually stand by my head at 2 a.m. and meow until I lift of the covers so she can come in for a snuggle. It’s too cute to be annoying.
Vegansaurus: Do you have any super-cute photos of animals to share with us?
Dollarhyde: Have you seen this video of someone’s pet fox licking a window? Because it’s amazing.
Vegansaurus: What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
Dollarhyde: I’m boring—I’ve always been a panda person. And my family was really weird about it! Every holiday someone would give me a panda stuffed animal until suddenly I was 18 and there were like 30 stuffed pandas in my room and people would come over and be like, Kate, wtf?
Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan cookbook?
Dollarhyde: That is an impossible question, Laura. You know that is like the meanest question ever. But, well, fine. It has to be Vegan with a Vengeance. When I first went vegan I, like most newly hatched vegans, had no idea what or how to cook. Isa showed me the way, and now I cook every damn day and I’m actually not too bad at it. The book is the stuff of dreams.
My other favorite cookbook is Strong Waters but it’s not exactly vegan, just full of exciting recipes for exciting alcoholic beverages. I like to brew when I have the free time and Strong Waters covers all the esoteric weirdness I love to make the most.
Vegansaurus: What’s your favorite vegan dish to make? What about for a vegan bakesale?
Dollarhyde: Call me Garfield, baby, because I love lasagna. For a bakesale? Carrot cake! Always! Carrot cake is my second favorite food; it should be a food group all on its own. And it should have the biggest part of the food pyramid.
Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
Dollarhyde: How could you do this to me? How could you make me choose? Southern fried tofu and collards at Souley Vegan, or curry soba soup at Cha-Ya? Is there even a God?
Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan restaurant?
Dollarhyde: Ugh, it’s impossible. Souley Vegan.
Vegansaurus: Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
Dollarhyde: Yes, absolutely! Party at my house! You bring the booze, I’ll make the tacos!
Vegansaurus: Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
Dollarhyde: Is there a secret clubhouse I can visit? [Ed.: We wish! Someone finance the rent on a secret clubhouse/large cardboard box we can use as a mobile office!]
Are you a great vegan? Are you doing great vegan things? We want to to know more about you! Email Laura for more information on The Vegansaurus Interview!
The Vegansaurus Diet: Laura! »
Monday, Jan. 24.
Vega shake (chocolate flavor mixed with water) and coffee with coconut creamer. The thing with Vega is, it tastes DISGUSTING but makes you feel SO ALIVE. I’ve never had a protein shake make me feel the way Vega does. Seriously, I feel like I could punch out Superman! I want to puke while I’m drinking it (it does not help that it looks and smells like puke) but afterwards, my head is clear, my eyes are bright, and I have weird amounts of energy. Freaky.
Lunch is my patented “Couscous Surprise.” Actually, Jonas patented it but I innovate on the base so ANYWAY. What I do is, I put Israeli couscous, half a Field Roast Chipotle sausage, some broccoli, a dash of olive oil, a little vegan chicken broth powder, some nutritional yeast, spices galore, and water into my rice cooker and BAM! half an hour later, Couscous Surprise! This dish is very tasty and delightful. Highly recommended. My lunch dessert is a pear. BORING, it’ll get sexier/fatter at dinner, I promise.
For snack I had one of those high-fiber fruit bars from Trader Joe’s. They’re all right-tasting and full of fiber!
Dinner was the new Loving Hut on Irving in the Inner Sunset with the lovely Eve Batey. We split the Ocean Basket (deep-fried vegan fish and green beans and mushrooms), a mango salad, and this tofu veggie vermicelli thing. Oh, and fried bananas and ice cream. Everything was okay, if a little bland. And then later when I got home, I had a piece of leftover Maggie Mudd ice cream cake. Delicious. God, I love that fake frosting flavor, I have such horrible taste in everything.
Tuesday, Jan. 25
Since it probably took you half an hour to read about my Monday, I’ll get more succinct up in this bitch. For breakfast today, I had a vaginal exam. After that, I enjoyed two cups of coffee with coconut creamer, a molasses cookie, an apple, and a pear. Lunch is chia seed gravy with tofu, spinach, and broccoli over quinoa! Love that chia seed gravy. I snacked on TJ’s fruit leather and one of those delicious maple leaf cookies they sell. Dinner was cooked at my parent’s house so we could watch
downloaded legally recorded Big Love. We made spaghetti with a zucchini and mini heirloom marinara and the Trader Joe’s meatballs and a big salad with Sabra spinach and artichoke hummus and some herb slab bread. It was all very delicious and OMG BIG LOVE SO SCANDALOUS.
Wednesday, Jan. 26
A bowl of Trader Joe’s Oh’s (or whatever the fuck they’re “cleverly” named) with almond milk, a pear, and coffee with coconut creamer. BAM! For lunch, I had last night’s leftover spaghetti and two diet Hanson’s sodas. I love soda, one of my new year’s resolutions was to drink more of it and I’m no quitter! Except when things are hard! Then, I had a TJ’s Laxative Fruit Leather. For dinner, homemade Mac and Cheese with quinoa pasta and loads of broccoli (my own recipe, it’s the bomb, one day when I’m feeling less lazy, I’ll share it with you)! The last of the Maggie Mudd ice cream cake which ended up giving my funky tummy. I will also say that I was at Maggie Mudd’s the other night and they only had TWO vegan flavors on the board WTF? Oh, and BEER. I enjoyed some beer.
Thursday, Jan. 27
Coffee with coconut creamer, laxative bomb fruit leather, and Trader Joe’s Oh’s with almond milk. I totally forgot to have lunch because it was a crazy crazy day and was starting to feel shaky, so I stopped at Whole Foods and picked up some cucumber and avocado sushi (what’s up, Rascal!), a Synergy kombucha, a banana, and a ProBar. Ate everything but half the ProBar but not because it’s gross, just because I was full. I stopped in the downstairs cafe to eat like a proper human and they were doing wine tastings. Nobody else was indulging so the wine lady poured me three giant glasses of wine. No clue what the wines were but this is probably because I had three huge glasses of wine. Cheers! For dinner, I met with two wonderful ladies, Amanda and Leda, for Vietnamese food in the place that’s where Yum Yum House used to be on Valencia (it’s now on Divisadero!), Thanh Tam II; we split spring rolls, tofu with string beans, white rice, and veggie noodles. It was pretty all right. I think if I still lived nearby, I might get it for delivery, but no, in this neighborhood, I prefer Sunflower for Vietnamese food. Sometimes people complain about our mainly positive restaurant reviews but the thing is, we mainly review the places we really love. Or that really suck. Maybe we should do more places that are like, O-KAY. I dunno? Thoughts? I AM VERY SLEEPY, GOODNIGHT.
Friday, Jan. 28
Vega + coffee with creamer! Lunch is chia seed gravy over broccoli and multi-grain crackers with eggplant garlic dip. Late afternoon snack is roasted Brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar; roast at 425 for 20 min!). 6 p.m. rolls around and I’m craving chocolate like crazy so I make a pan of Fat Bottom Bakery fudge. Waiting for that cool because I want some before I go see a movie with my mom tonight. I’m gonna fall asleep during it, guaranteed. Now, MORE WORK! Goodnight, sir.
Saturday, Jan. 29
Coffee with coconut milk creamer. A million episodes of Breaking Bad. Made some chickpea “tuna” salad (YUM) and ate that and Sabra Spinach and Artichoke Hummus (YUM) with multigrain crackers. Then, I indulged in some of yesterday’s fudge. I packed it in. I really love FUDGE!! Then, I cuddled Hazel and took a nap—not really food-related but digestion-related. Next, picked up sushi and soba and goma-ae and edamame and miso soup from Cha-Ya in Berkeley and took it to Minty and Damien's house to meet their 3 day old baby, who is named Sally, and is beautiful and perfect in every way. I wish I was a baby, what a life! All just eating and sleeping and people cleaning you and hugging you constantly. It's like I always say: It's a baby's world, we're just living in it! Oh, this is a good time to mention that I also had two glasses of wine. Red wine! Heart healthy! Anyway, delightful visit with delightful people (and dogs and cats) and then so, we came home for more Breaking Bad and cider and garlic fries. GARLIC FRIES!!! Now, fudge? Or, sleep?
Sunday, Jan. 29
Coffee with vanilla soy milk! Then, some dried mango and a carrot. Fast-forward to lunch, which is Souley Vegan gumbo (delightful spiciness with okra, tofu, and seaweed), collard greens, southern fried tofu, and mashed potatoes with gravy, split with Jonas. Followed by some vegan gummy worms. For dinner, we made Red Curry with Rice and Purple Kale. I’m really loving that recipe, except I used hemp seed oil as the oil and it’s my first time cooking with it and it has a gross-ass fishy smell. NO ME GUSTA.
Monday, Jan. 31
Having a down day today so it’s time to eat! Actually, today didn’t motivate me to eat so much as cry in a corner. Anyway, I made myself hot chocolate for breakfast and ate some leftover red curry for lunch. I had an apple and four Candy Cane Joe Joe’s and then I wasn’t super hungry or motivated so I had some chickpea salad for dinner and a big glass of soy milk. Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!
Groupon’s $12 for $25 worth of food at SOULEY VEGAN! »
OH HELL YEAH! Get this groupon RIGHT NOW and you can eat at the most delicious place on earth, which happens to be in Oakland just a few blocks from Bart (and my apartment, COINCIDENCE?). You can get dinner! Or brunch! OR THE BEST BURGER EVER, THE TOASTY CRISPY! Girl, it is fried tofu on top of BBQ tofu topped with their house-made garlic sauce and OMG GIRL, it will BLOW YOUR MIND ONE MORE TIME IT IS SO FREAKING GOOD. Ever since I started eating Toasty Crispy a week, my outlook on life has improved 100 percent, along with my ideal weight. It’s alllll good!
Further, Souley Vegan is serving BEER and WINE now so DO IT.
Souley Vegan IS DOING BRUNCH IT IS OFFICIAL OH HELL YES »
Well, we’re not sure for how long but for at least the next couple of Sundays SOULEY VEGAN IS SERVING BRUNCH. It goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the menu includes:
*scrambled tofu with tomatoes, onions and spices
*pancakes—choice of maple, blueberry, or banana nut
*biscuits & gravy (!!!!!!!!!!)
*vegan sausage made from scratch
They’ll also be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving with their regular menu, plus some special holiday treats! YES! The cost for either Sunday brunch or Thanksgiving are the usual prices (2 items for $8, 3 items for $10, etc.).
We’ll see your hot fat asses there! Or not! More for us!! Also, if you want to call and double-check to make sure they are serving on the Sunday you want to go, holler at 510/922.1615! Ow!
So, you guys, a new beer store/drinking place/garden/awesome place to chill, Beer Revolution, has opened right next to AMAZING RESTAURANT OF DELICIOUNESS Souley Vegan. Best part? Beer Revolution has a crazy awesome beer selection featuring a million and one unusual brews (okay, 14 kegs, plus a selection of bottled beers that makes City Beer Store look all amateur hour OH SNAP).
PLUS DUDE, Souley Vegan will deliver your food to you while you’re sitting in the delightful sun of Beer Revolution’s outside beer garden. You can even bring your dog! Dogs are the best!
If there was ever an argument for East Bay livin’, this is it. Well, that and the rents, the sunshine, the winning attitudes of the inhabitants, and the fact that the streets are made of gold. Seriously, San Francisco SUCKS. If only I weren’t so lazy, I would totally move. Getting out of bed is hard enough, can you imagine moving across the Bay??? Thinking about it has given me a stress headache THANKS FOR NOTHING, DREAMS.
Photos by Laura, Image by Jonas! TEAM WORK!
Souley Vegan re-opens! »
MAC N CHEESE AND BBQ TOFU AND POTATO SALAD AND HOLY SHIT SHOOT ME IN THE FACE THANK YOU JESUS.
It’s at 301 Broadway at 3rd Street in Oakland. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Check out our Souley Vegan review and go go go go go GO!
Review: Souley Vegan! »
BETTER HAPPIER NEWS: Souley Vegan is now on sale at Rainbow Grocery in SF! Ow! They’re selling red beans & rice, collard greens, mac ‘n cheese, BBQ tofu, and full meals, ranging in price from $4.29 to $9.99! Completely worth it!
BAD SAD NEWS: Souley Vegan has shut their doors permanently. I guess some shit went down with the stability of their building so unless some rich vegan (you?!) gives them tons of money, they will stay closed. Super sad. Bright side: they still sell at the farmers’ market in Oakland on the weekends so for sure stop in and buy their delicious food and let them know that we will raise funds and fists to get them back into a storefront!!
Souley Vegan is vegan soul food. I know, the name is kinda lame. What can you do? Not every place can be named “Magical Unicorn Palace” like it should be. I don’t know why exactly. Anyway, Souley Vegan is family-owned-and-operated with mom in back cooking, dad helping to run food and the adorable, almost-competent son as the cashier. He is very adorable and ALMOST good at working. Whatever, the kid is like 12 and has a more demanding job than I’ve ever had so I’ll cut him some slack. I just had a minor personality split right there. Pray for me.
The menu consists of BBQ tofu, crispy tofu, yams, collard greens, MAC ‘N CHEESE, POTATO SALAD and MASHED POTATOES (the holy trinity of hard-to-find vegan foods! I hear angels weeping! Or singing! Which is it, I don’t understand religion!) Homemade drinks like ginger-strawberry lemonade (SO GOOD) and usually a peach cobbler in the cold case (they will heat it up for if you eat there!). No alcohol but you can go next door to Radio if you need a drink to get through the day, I’m not judging you!*
The only thing I could see someone complaining about is the ambiance, which resembles the mess tent in M.A.S.H. I guess I wouldn’t recommend this place for a first date or to impress your parents. Unless your dad is a major cheapskate like mine and has an entire storage unit in his closet to store all the various shampoos and shower caps he takes from hotels (read: motels) so that he never has to buy toiletries and therefore, save a measly buck.**
Oh and one more bit of advice: I would call ahead to make sure they are open! Although their hours are supposed to be Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., I’ve been by during those hours, only to be forced to “eat” a soy latte at the cafe next door for lunch! Not cool!
*You are pathetic!
**UGH IT KILLS ME! DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY AMAZING DYE JOBS WERE RUINED DURING MY YOUTH BECAUSE I HAD TO USE SUPER-8-BRAND SHAMPOO?! THAT IS BASICALLY LIKE WASHING YOUR HAIR WITH PAINT THINNER UGH!
UPDATE: Now open for brunch on Sundays! Pancakes, tofu scrambles, potatoes and sausage are all available… plus rumors of biscuits and gravy!?
[photo via yelp]