The world of vegan businesses is booming. From “bleeding” burgers to dairy-free cheese to cruelty-free skincare, there are new plant-based products gracing supermarket shelves, luxury department stores, and restaurants from the fast to the fancy. The vegan market is thriving because consumer attitudes are changing. It’s supply and demand. Now is the time to get into plant-based business.
If you’re a budding entrepreneur, there has never been a better time to jump into the vegan market. If you’ve got a limited budget, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of ways you can get a business started without breaking the bank.
Identifying Your Target Market
Identifying a target market is the foundation of building a brand. It’s only when you know who you’re talking to that you can start to develop your business. You can determine your target market by defining your product or service and then researching other similar businesses.
You can find out more about your target market by using resources like Survey Monkey. The site has its own audience panel with respondents from all over the world. It has several different survey templates to choose from and can even build you a custom product concept testing survey.
Alternatively, you could scan through free data, like that available on Google Trends. Google Trends analyzes the top search queries in Google, looking at different regions around the world. Through graphs, it compares the search volume of various different queries over time.
You could also choose to host a focus group. This is when you get together a few people to test and review a product. Eventbrite says the ideal number of people for a focus group is between 10 and 15.
You don’t need to pay an agency to do this for you, you can do it on your own, by posting an ad on Craigslist or posting homemade flyers in relevant areas, for example. If you don’t have the budget, you don’t have to pay participants either. You could keep it as simple as offering a chance to learn about something new and potentially — if you have the cooking skills or resources — a free lunch.
To determine your target audience, spread out your focus groups to include people of different ages or backgrounds. Or aim to hold one with different people represented within that group.
Preparing a Business Plan
Writing a business plan is essential to the success of your business. It will help you think about your strategy and the specific steps you need to take to reach your goal, including fundraising. According to business magazine Entrepreneur, a perfectly written business plan requires thorough research before you even type the first word.
To help you along, you could use a Business Model Canvas (BMC). According to entrepreneur Alexander Cowan, a BMC will give you the structure of a business plan. It has nine different elements. The first is customer segments. Who are your customers? What do they do? The second is value propositions. What’s different or compelling about your idea? Why would people need or want it?
The third is channels. What channels will you use to get your product or service to the customer? Other elements include customer relationships, revenue streams, key activities, key resources, key partnerships, and cost structure, all of which are explained thoroughly on Cowan’s website.
According to Cowan, BMCs are popular with entrepreneurs and investors because they provide focus, flexibility, and transparency.
Free Resources for Writing a Business Plan
There are plenty of free resources available to help you write a business plan. YouTube, for example, is filled with helpful video tutorials and tips. The Young Entrepreneurs Forum has several videos on its channel about how to write the best business plan. Its videos take you through how to write a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, how to write a financial plan, and how to write a market research plan, among other things.
Gillian Perkins runs another helpful YouTube channel. Perkins — an entrepreneur and marketing strategist — has more than 280,000 subscribers. She has videos on how to write a business plan, as well as tips on how to start a business with no money, and productivity hacks.
You can also find templates online. The Prince’s Trust — a UK charity set up to help vulnerable young people — offers several free resources and templates for writing a business plan, as well as tips on how to get started.
Other sites like Small Business Pro, Great Business, and Business Gateway also offer business plan templates that are free to download.
Making Use of Social Media
Once you name your company or product, make sure you grab the relevant domains and social media handles. Don’t underestimate the power and influence of social media, either! When your business gets going, these platforms will be invaluable marketing platforms for you and one of the easiest ways to grow with a limited budget. Although a social media strategy team can be one of the best spends for a small business, you can start out on your own, mastering many of these techniques for yourself.
You should identify which social media platform is right for you to focus on, and this goes back to your target audience. If your goal is to be business-to-business, consider focusing on platforms like Linkedin. If your target audience is Millennials and Generation-Zers, your focus should be on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
Find out where your people are. Are you starting a vegan skincare line? The beauty blogging industry has exploded in recent years, and the main platforms for influencers and bloggers are Instagram and YouTube, so this is where you need to be, too.
Jackie Lutze, social media coordinator for LIVEKINDLY, believes social media is a “no brainer” when it comes to developing a marketing strategy. She says, “it allows business owners to open the dialogue between themselves and their customers, more so than any other marketing option before.”
“For the first time, brands can actually follow and get to know their ideal market,” she adds. “Consumers are also wanting to know more about the companies they are supporting, and social media allows entrepreneurs to share more about the business, products, ethics, and why people can feel good about supporting them.”
Social Media Marketing Tools
If it all seems like a lot to manage, there are social media marketing software tools to help you. Hootsuite, for example, has more than 16 million users around the world. It allows you to manage all of your social media in one place. Not sure if that’s the right tool for you? It will give you a free trial period so you have time to decide.
Loomly is another choice. It’s easy to use and offers several different packages, including Solo (for one user operating 10 social media accounts), Pro (for five users operating up to 15 social media accounts), and Small Team (for 10 users operating up to 30 social media accounts). It will also provide you with post inspiration and allow you to see exactly how your post will look before you post it. You could also look into similar platforms like Later, Sprout Social, and Hubspot.
Social media comes in handy again when it comes to networking. PX CEO Frans Van Hulle says, “use platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook to produce, comment on, and engage with relevant industry content to build trust among your followers. You’ll also generate inbound networking — contacts will find and reach out to you, so you’ll spend less time having to actively seek more contacts.”
Linkedin is a particularly good platform to use for online networking. Reach out to others, but make sure each message is customized instead of sending out the same generic text. Accept connection requests when relevant people reach out to you as soon as possible. You should also trust the algorithm and review and connect to those who are suggested to you by Linkedin.
Vegan Facebook groups — like Vegan Professional Network and Vegan Businesses — are another useful tool. You can connect with those already in the world of vegan business and seek helpful tips, advice, and support.
Outside of social media, participate in local events. If you make vegan cheese, for example, find out when food markets are taking place in your town. Or find out about larger events you can travel to. If you’re in the beauty world, look for anything beauty related. Same with fashion or food.
If you’re not sure how to go about finding the right events for you, you can use services like MeetUp. MeetUp allows users to organize and find events with like-minded people. It can be a useful source for finding local vegan business networking events. Talk to people, build contacts, and get advice from others. Eventbrite also lists out events by region and they’re sortable by event type, too.
Consider applying for a small bank loan.
How to Fund Your Business
When starting a company on a budget, raising capital is going to be one of the most important factors for your success. Thankfully, there are many ways in which you can secure financial support.
You can ask friends and family to help you when it comes to finances. Forbes says, “consider inviting family and friends to invest in the company with the understanding that their money may not be returned. In most cases, these friends and family are investing in you, not your business. Both parties should think of this investment as a grant with no strings attached.”
You could also consider a small bank loan. Most banks and credit unions offer small business loans. To apply, you will be expected to provide the bank with a full understanding of your business. You will need to prove that you have the skills and expertise to make your business plan work.
You could also look for Angel investors. Forbes says, “this affluent individual — or a group of individuals who pool their research and resources — provides capital for a business start-up usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.”
For guidance, consider heading back to school for a course or two. Class Rebel offers a digital Fundraising 101 course. The six-module program will teach you how to find the right investors and how to approach them. It will also help you with what to include in a pitch deck to give a quick overview of your business plan. You can show it to investors, potential co-founders, partners, and even customers interested in helping you succeed.
By the end of the Fundraising 101 course, you will be able to navigate financial conversations with investors and know which terms of the deal you need to focus on to keep as much equity and control as possible over your business.
Crowdfunding is another option for financing your business. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are responsible for a number of major success stories. Did you watch the “Veronica Mars” movie? That was made possible through Kickstarter. Fans of the teen TV show raised more than $5 million.
Baubax was able to create “the world’s best travel jacket” thanks to Kickstarter and Indiegogo. In July 2015, it raised more than $9 million. The following September, it raised a further $2 million. For the newer version of the jacket, the Baubax 2.0, another $4 million was raised on Indiegogo. Pebble crowdfunded its first smartwatch on Kickstarter back in 2012, managing to raise more than $10 million.
Kickstarter says that people love peeking behind the creative curtain and “directly supporting the creative process. In fact, 13.9 million people have pledged more than $3.39 billion to bring Kickstarter projects to life over the years.”