Nine tips for starting a vegan business
Do you dream of starting a vegan business?
A report in 2021 found that the vegan business sector, in particular plant-based foods, is set for “explosive growth” with the market value predicated to soar by 451% by 2030.
This is a fantastic time for vegan businesses to get off the ground as more and more people are worried about ethical consumption and looking for ways to reduce their harmful impact on the natural world. You can be there to meet that need.
In today’s blog, we’ve put together nine tips for starting a vegan business to help you realise your business dreams:
1. Define your target market
When starting any business, it’s essential to know your target market. A vegan business is no different in this respect.
Your target market should be made up of the type of people who will be passionate about what you plan to sell and will become future brand ambassadors by making word of mouth recommendations and leaving glowing reviews.
If you’re not sure where to start, search for your products or services on a search engine (or as close to them as you can find) and see what you can find out from news articles, industry reports, governing bodies, company websites and their associated social media pages.
Are there any newspaper articles explaining industry trends, for example? These often explain how a trend has come about or feature direct quotes from people who might be in your target market talking about what matters to them.
This can provide you with valuable insights. Knowing your target market means you know who your marketing should be speaking to and what their “pain points” or aspirations are.
This understanding is essential to make your vegan business a success.
2. Have a clear plan and well-defined goals
What’s the saying? “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. In order to successfully launch and grow your vegan business, it’s vital that you have a clear business plan and well defined short, medium and long-term goals.
Think of it as a road map that will take you from where you are now to where you want your business to be in the future.
Having a clear set of goals backed by a plan will also help you make the most of your budget because you will be able to make decisions based on whether they will take you closer to your goals or further away from them.
A clear plan will also help you to understand the different segments of your audience, your business model, revenue sources, resources, supply chain, values and much more.
3. Develop a clear brand
A brand is a marketing or business concept that helps people identify a company, product, or individual and how they differ from everyone else in the marketplace.
In this way, developing a clear brand is about more than designing a logo, choosing what colours to use, where to advertise or even the tone of voice of your marketing. A brand is a combination of all of these things and more. It’s intangible and yet it will be what defines your business identity.
In developing your brand, think about what matters to your target audience. Talk to them in a style that resonates with them and make sure that all of your decisions are true to your brand.
Identify your values and stay true to them in everything you do. Have a mission statement at the core of your business plan and of your brand, as this will help you to create a clear look and feel for your business.
When you get your brand right, existing and potential customers will be able to recognise it whether they come across a post on social media, visit your website, read an article in the press about you, visit your shop or interact with your business in any way.
4. Research your industry and competitors
Although you don’t want to get too bogged down by what your competitors are doing or become a carbon copy of a business that’s already out there, it’s important that you develop a strong understanding of who your competitors are, your industry and where you fit within it.
What is it that will make your vegan business different from your competitors? Sometimes, this difference can come down to how you approach customer service or how you follow up with people.
Of course, it may be your vegan products or services that make you different. Is there a story behind why you decided to create your business? Think about how you can share this to connect with your audience – after all, your story is unique to you and might be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors.
5. Embrace social media
Veganism is growing in popularity, especially among 18-34-year-olds. This group has a huge influence over society – they have money to spend but haven’t become set in their ways when it comes to shopping habits yet. They have more time and freedom to dedicate to things that matter to them than slightly older people who are juggling careers with families. They are also used to communicating online and can mobilise like-minded people across the globe to causes their care about.
Research also shows that the values that matter most to 18-34-year-olds are animal rights, sustainability, environmental protection, anti-racism, inclusiveness, feminism and LGBT rights.
The various social media platforms can offer a powerful and yet relatively inexpensive way for start-up vegan businesses to reach potential customers. You don’t have to use all the platforms but try to identify where your target audience spends their time and build your presence there (e.g. Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are great for the 18-34 age group; LinkedIn is ideal for business-to-business marketing).
Tip: Once you have settled on your business name and have a broad sense of your brand, make sure you snap up any relevant and available website domains as well as social media handles so that you can start building your visibility and cohesive brand identity across different channels.
6. Learn how to network
Many successful businesses are defined by the people they have met on their journey. Always look for opportunities to connect with other people who might be a positive contact for your business, be it at face-to-face networking events or via online networking channels such as LinkedIn.
Speak to other vegan business owners and reflect on their insights. Go to local events, such as food markets or fashion events and talk to people about your business and about what they do.
If you’re not sure where to find these events, try looking on a service like Meetup where you can find listings of forthcoming in-person and virtual events relevant to your business and audience.
The best strategy is to go into networking with an attitude of giving rather than expecting to receive. Think about how you can help others or add your voice in a meaningful way to conversations in your industry. This might be by publishing a regular blog, speaking at events or even just commenting on relevant social media posts.
In time, people will start to see you as the go-to person in your field and recommend you to others.
7. Market to vegans and non-vegans
Although more and more people are adopting a vegan lifestyle, many of your potential customers may currently be non-vegans.
It’s important to consider how you will plan to market to a non-vegan segment of your audience. What are the barriers that are preventing them from buying vegan? What are they worried about? How can you reassure them? What benefits do your vegan products or services offer that will make a positive difference to non-vegans?
If you can frame your products and services in terms of what people stand to gain and how they can make a positive difference in the world by choosing to buy vegan more often, you will help to empower more people to switch to a vegan lifestyle.
8. Research your supply chain
As a vegan business, it’s important to understand what happens and who is involved at every stage of your supply chain. More and more people want to know the provenance of what they buy and will ask you about it.
As well as checking how ingredients are made or sourced, you’ll need to understand how workers are paid, what transport is used, where your suppliers invest their money and more.
Is every aspect of your offering vegan?
9. Be transparent about your ethical credentials
Following on from this, it’s essential that you’re transparent about your ethical credentials. This is about more than attaining vegan certification, for example.
Your customers want to know that their money is being spent with a business that cares about issues such as sustainability, low environmental impact, workers’ rights, healthy ingredients, protecting non-human animals at all stages of the supply chain and so on.
It’s always a good idea to clearly explain your ethical credentials on your website. Tell people why you choose to be certified through a specific organisation or how you checked your supply chain, for example.
Share community initiatives you’re involved with or campaigns that you support. You might also decide to share things you’re working to improve.
There are many reasons why transparency makes good business sense. It builds trust, reflects your brand values, protects you from accusations of “greenwashing” and positions you as a case study for how to operate a great vegan business.
If you haven’t heard of them already, the Vegan Business Tribe offers support to the vegan business community including online support clinics and vegan business networking events, as well as advice about accessing funding or marketing a vegan business. It’s not affiliated with Ethical Globe in any way but we know several of our directory members have found this community helpful.
Do you run or know of a sustainable vegan business that’s committed to helping people shop more ethically? Yes?! Then we’d love to feature this business in the Ethical Globe directory.
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