- Business is a powerful force (indeed, one of the most powerful) in modern society.
- Our movement has a small (but growing!) set of organizations devoted to helping vegan businesses, vegan business owners, and people interested in the vegan business scene. Businesses dedicated to providing services to other businesses (rather than consumers) are called “business-to-business” models (B2B).
- These organizations help with: networking, startup coaching, investing, finding jobs, marketing, programming and tech, and many other things.
One of the missions of AMP is to “bring together”—meaning to take the different pieces of our growing movement and help us see all of them in context, to see the full picture.
Today, we’re going to be doing that with the whole vegan business landscape. (Or at least a pretty big slice of it.)
Why Business Is Important
This might need no explaining to most people, but it’s a profound point that I want to spend a couple sentences on.
How do goods and services get created and distributed? How do resources change hands?
A Quick History of Commerce
As anthropologists have documented, the practice of trade has existed for millennia. If you have something that I want or need, and vice versa, then we’re both better off if we trade. But, this kind of trading can be tricky because it depends on you having exactly the thing I need, and me having exactly the thing you need. But, if we both use a shared currency—something that we agree is a generic representation of value—then you can give me currency for goods (or services), and I know I can spend that currency on anything I need later on, as long as the person I’m trading with accepts that currency.
Plato is credited as one of the first discoverers of “division of labor”—the idea that specialization leads to greater productivity—which has since become an axiom of business. In other words, it’s more efficient for you to grow corn while I cut down trees rather than both of us try to do both things. It’s more efficient to have one person maintain your database while another takes care of graphic design instead of both people trying to do both. The higher productivity of specialization combined with the flexibility of a generic currency is a very powerful combination.
The most prevalent model for creating and exchanging resources today is called a mixed economy, where both governments (i.e. public sector) and free markets (i.e. private sector) are each partially responsible for creating goods and making them available to others. The extent to which each of these two sectors contributes to the economy is dependent on the policies in place at any given time: for example, how many subsidies are given to what industries, or which goods and services should be classified as public goods. The story of which sector should control water is one example of how these decisions aren’t straightforward.
There are other ways that goods and services change hands, such as bartering or free gifts, but these aren’t usually discussed as primary driving forces of economies. (Although the psychological effect of gift giving surely has an enormous influence on business and politics.)
This intricate interplay among businesses, government, and consumers is one of the most important aspects of society, and as such businesses are an incredibly powerful force that we should pay attention to.
The Infrastructure of Vegan Businesses
When we think about vegan businesses, we might picture restaurants and food companies (which we’ll cover briefly first). But there’s also a whole ecosystem of organizations that exist to help vegan businesses. These types of businesses are known as “business-to-business” models (or B2B), and some good examples of types of B2B businesses are marketing agencies, software as a service (SaaS) companies, and tech firms that help with needs like web development.
This article isn’t intended to be comprehensive, but hopefully will give you a good picture of some of the types of businesses that you might not have known of. If you’re a vegan business owner, you might find something useful here!
With that said, let’s start our look at the big picture of vegan business and its supporting infrastructure.
Vegan Companies and Products
Wikipedia has a very-incomplete list of vegan and vegetarian companies, and a quick Google search brings up various “listicles” of other vegan businesses (like 9 Vegan Startups You Need to Know About in 2018 and 5 Woman-Owned Vegan Businesses You Should Be Obsessed With) as well as other incomplete lists like this one or this one. If you’re looking for vegan or cruelty-free makeup brands, the list of lists is even longer. These days, new vegan companies are popping up so quickly that it’s hard to keep track of them all.
The organization Vegan Action takes the cake by far, though. They certify products as vegan (with the instantly-recognizable “V heart” logo), so their list of companies using their logo is very comprehensive. And although these are just companies with vegan products, and not necessarily vegan companies, it’s still impressive to see so many companies listed. There’s also the European site V-Label (with another recognizable certification logo), although I wasn’t able to find their list of certified products or companies.
Investing in Vegan Companies
If you’re interested in investing in vegan companies, there aren’t many options available right now since most of them are private—but there is a website called Vegan Launch dedicated to helping people find investment opportunities. (There are also opportunities to invest in early stage companies such as Billion Vegans through platforms like Wefunder.) Then, there are venture capital funds like New Crop Capital that “invest in companies developing meat, dairy, eggs and seafood with plant-based ingredients or through cellular agriculture, as well as companies that promote and distribute these products.”
As of mid-2018, there’s also now a US Vegan Climate Index stock index that investors can use to help them guide their investments towards companies that harm animals less, even if the investments aren’t in vegan companies. The index was created by some folks at Beyond Investing (here’s their other site), which is another platform for helping people invest in vegan businesses.
For people looking for vegan or animal advocacy jobs, VeganJobs.com helps connect companies to individuals. There’s also the VegNews job board, as well as the job board maintained by the business services company Vegan Mainstream (and the corresponding Vegan Jobs Facebook page).
The organization 80,000 Hours is devoted to helping people find high-impact careers, with animal welfare work being one of the main problem areas, so their job board is also a great place to look. (As of this posting, there are 35 job postings under the “Factory Farming” problem area filter.)
Vegan Business Networking
There are some solid organizations in this category.
First, there’s Vegan Leaders network “for vegans working in corporate (esp. Fortune 500) management and business functions.” Talk about a powerhouse network of people who can really make a difference in the business world. To help executives (and other employees) make traction in the companies they work in, Vegan Leaders put together the Vegan Leaders Playbook with information on how to veganize a company from the inside out. Their official purpose is “to a) demonstrate the pro-vegan trend among business leaders, b) provide a peer network for corporate vegan influencers, c) engage members in valuable discussions and initiatives.”
Next, there’s the great networking group Vegan Ladyboss: “Vegan Ladyboss is a global community of vegan womxn who organize meetings all over the world to advance their careers and animal advocacy.” There are currently about 40 groups in different cities around the world, although the majority of the groups are distributed throughout the US—including one here in Boulder, Colorado! (There’s also Vegan Business Exchange, which looks similar.)
Finally, ever heard of Toastmasters? Well guess what—there’s a Vegan Toastmasters! It looks like there’s only one for now (in Los Angeles), but maybe more will pop up in the future.
Vegan Business Media
To kick this category off, there’s the eponymous Vegan Business Media run by Katrina Fox, and her podcast Vegan Business Talk. There’s vegconomist which bills itself as “the vegan business magazine”, and there’s also the (rather abandoned) website Vegan Business Magazine.
There’s the Vegan Trade Journal, the Vegan Trade Council, the Plant Based Foods Association, and even a Plant Based Foods of Canada which is comprised of companies such as Daiya, The Field Roast Company, and Beyond Meat Canada.
The Vegetarian Resource Group has a vegetarian business page with a decent amount of information (some recently updated, some a bit older), and The Vegan Society has a “your business” page with resources.
Starting and Running a Vegan Business
If you’re looking to start a vegan business, there’s certainly no shortage of ideas: just see here, here, here, here, and here. There are a lot of ideas out there—we just need people to run with them! There are also a lot of advice articles, such as Colleen Holland’s tips for starting a vegan business or Melissa Vanderhorst’s advice for starting a vegan business.
(As an interesting aside, I really do think we need more people who are willing to devote a significant amount of time and energy to developing the potential stored in a single idea. The founder of HappyCow, for example, started the website back in 1999 and put in years of work making it what it is today. There are something like 30 million vegans globally; imagine what would happen if each of us picked a project and put all of our effort into it.)
Finally, there are several organizations whose goal is to provide vegan entrepreneurs with coaching and training. Vegan Mainstream offers consulting and online courses for owners of vegan businesses. Smart Vegan Biz connects individuals with vegan franchising opportunities, and they also have an “Academy” section of their site.
Vegan Service Providers
As you’re starting your vegan business, you might need some services—and there are vegan organizations for that, too.
If you need help building a website or app, there’s Vegan Web Design or the solopreneur project TofuDesk. (There’s also Vegan Hacktivists, although they’re currently devoting all of their time to projects delegated by the organization You Are Their Voice.) For marketing, you could use Edgy Vegan Marketing, Sweet FireBrand, or V-GON Creative.
While not really in the category of vegan business associations or services, I find it pretty incredible how many vegan travel and cruise organizations there are:
Miscellaneous—Vegan Festivals & Events
There are also websites for vegan events:
And finally, this massive list wouldn’t be complete without including the far-reaching and rather-difficult-to-grasp Vegan Nation, the creators of the blockchain currency VeganCoin: “We in VeganNation, share this conviction and strongly believe that a designated coin will not only unite vegans, but empower the community, creating a force to be reckoned with. A strong and united community will be able to have a bigger impact on pressing global issues and make the vegan lifestyle more approachable and attainable.”
Woo! What a ride. So many links.
While not all of the groups I listed here are high-quality or recommendable by themselves, I think it’s really impressive to see the quantity and variety of organizations branding themselves as vegan. And, the more people work on these issues, the better the quality will become.
After all, it takes a lot of bad ideas to get a few good ones—but everyone in business knows that already.
Animal Movement Project (AMP) is a platform dedicated to building the movement for animals.
We share thoughts and ideas that can take the movement for animals from x to 10x. Our focus is predominantly on animals exploited for food since they account for more than 99% of the animals exploited by humans. The topics covered are often about ways to tie the pieces of the movement together or to fill in the gaps. We focus on connecting people, ideas, and resources to each other.