The one question I have most repeatedly and frequently been asked is about the feasibility and profitability of setting up a vegan business. I find it important to share my personal journey with Bakeart here and how we got to where we are today.
Follow your heart
I think it is the most often repeated mantra of success I have come across as a common factor in books and motivational speeches made by celebrities, business tycoons, authors and people from all walks of life. I turned Bakeart vegan because I couldn’t work any other way. Having turned into an ethical vegan who embraced veganism overnight, I found it impossible to work with dairy and eggs which are staples of any baking business. I did not have market research, consumer trends, buying behaviour analysis or even vegan recipes. I just had belief, a value system which I would not compromise on for anything else.
I chose to follow my heart and because I did, Bakeart suddenly had a very sharply defined USP which differentiated it immediately from competition in the very crowded and competitive home baking market. We definitely made our mark. I continued to follow my heart when I stopped using refined flour, refined sugar, switched to aluminium free baking powder, went preservative free and added gluten-free, sugar-free and oil-free options – all adding to our USP.
Businesses need to be profitable
While veganism is an important, essential and uncompromisable cause today, business owners need to remember that for sustenance any business needs to be able to generate profit. While pricing is an important consideration, one must be careful in selecting and targeting the potential market segment with products, services and pricing strategies which will be sustainable in the long run. When you run a vegan business it is important to lay a distinction between running a social enterprise and a profitable business.
Remember that your initial enthusiasm could well fade over time if you don’t see financial results coming from the business. If you’ve had investor back up, they will demand for returns as well. A not for profit organisation should not be mistaken for a business and expectations should well be in line with the founding philosophies of the organisation.
Consumer friendly branding
There is a constant influx of published statistics that show that veganism is on the rise. The underlying factor still is that more than 90% of all consumers today are non-vegan. Product branding should prima facie show case the kind of product or service that one represents. I don’t think that only branding of a business as vegan helps it be successful in the marketplace. Typically, in as far as food and beverage are concerned, I have found that vegans are a self catering and self sufficient group of individuals who rarely look at commercial enterprises for fulfilling their needs.
It is consequently non-vegans who have formed the bulk of the consumer base at Bakeart. In any case, it would be difficult for a vegan business to survive if it did not attract non-vegan clientele.
Quality, Quality and Quality
The reason I see new and old customers returning to Bakeart is the absolute deliverance of quality . When Bakeart positions itself as a vegan business, we prove through the entire food experience that not only are we a higher quality offering but a way healthier choice to make. The answer I think is in establishing through consistent quality that vegan choices are better than non-vegan ones.
At Bakeart we do it through taste which equals and betters the taste of non-vegan food: non-vegan customers don’t miss the taste of egg or dairy in our food . It be would be a shame to set up a vegan business that only undermined the quality of vegan offerings because customers are always going to compare you with non-vegan alternatives.
I’d like to close by saying that nothing, absolutely nothing is going to work overnight. You have to chip at it long and hard and never ever give up. Oh, it will be so easy to just shut shop and go back to that high paying, white collar intellectual job; but it will take every drop of your sweat and blood to make this work. NEVER ever give up.
Be prepared emotionally and financially for the long haul, and if you have your heart in it, believe me, you’ll never fail.