Sara Colohan talks to people who took their lifestyle choice one stage further and now have vegan jobs as well.
It’s clear to all that the vegan industry is on the rise, making a huge impact ethically and financially on a global scale. No longer seen as radical and left wing, with ‘out there’ ideas, the vegan lifestyle is being embraced by all walks of life.
With veganism a viable and thriving industry worldwide, more and more people are now searching not only for vegan food and clothing options, but also for jobs within the industry, ideally in ethical, sustainable and innovative companies.
We met up with a few people working in the vegan industry here in the UK.
Black Arts Vegan – Lue Cuttiford
I founded Black Arts Vegan in October of 2017 and I juggle it with a part-time job to supplement my income. I started the business because I’ve been vegan for eight years and I just didn’t want to spend the rest of my life not being able to eat cheese on toast!
After a bit of trial and error, I started to make really good hand-made vegan cheese that melts well and tastes like the real thing. Mostly, I sell at weekend markets like Hackney Downs Vegan Market and sometimes get invited to do special events.
Right now, I’m building my portfolio of catering clients so that I can make Black Arts Vegan a full-time business.
Every single day is different, which is fantastic because variety is what I always wanted in my work. The learning curve has been crazy, but really fun – I now know bits about business planning, marketing, branding, product development, sales, accounting and bookkeeping, networking and lots more.
At the moment I’m producing and directing a short promotional video, so you just never know where the job will take you! Of course, the most important aspect of what I do (and for any start-up) is innovation.
Sometimes that can get lost in the to-do list and, truthfully, my own fear. Learning to be scared and doing things anyway has definitely paid dividends.
One other really big lesson I learned was over-investing in something before you know if it will do well. I made some special cheeses earlier in the year, spent about £200 on outlay for it, made lots and lots of product and ended up selling about four units.
It was a hard but important lesson to learn! If you are interested in contacting BlackArts Vegan, email [email protected]
The Spread Eagle Vegan Pub Landlady – Sherri
I’ve been running pubs for many years, but this is the brainchild of my business partner and very good friend of over 17 years, Luke. He had been obsessed with Club Mexicana since they first started and had become great friends with Meriel.
He knows and has seen my passion for running pubs and restaurants and we have always wanted to work together on a project after running a festival bar together for five years.
We’re all very passionate about what we do and the potential of what we could offer and how we could make a difference, so when the three of us got together it felt like magic happened.
It’s so heartwarming that we get such a wide range of customers come to visit us at The Spread Eagle. It’s a real split of vegans, carnivores, young, old, families with grandparents and babies and dogs, large birthday groups and everything in between.
Basically what you would expect from any local community pub. Our doors are open to all.
I only have to source the drink side as the wonderful Club Mexicana team take care of the food, but it’s been a fantastic experience working with our suppliers to source great quality and fully vegan-friendly products.
Our local breweries, such as Five Points and Howling Hops, have been super accommodating by pulling a couple of kegs aside specially for us without adding the finings, and our regulars can vouch for the fact this hasn’t compromised the quality or flavours in any way.
When we first spoke with our suppliers and told them we were launching a fully vegan pub, they were as excited as us and everyone we work with has been fully on board from the start.
Using things like aquafaba as a replacement for egg in a traditional sour cocktail, really makes you think outside the box and get creative.
Freedom Shoe shop owner – Caroline Back
Our little showroom on Hackney Road opens at 11am everyday and closes at 7pm. We are the only own-brand vegan shoe store in London so we feel quite special.
We have visitors coming to see us from all over the world – last year we had an airline pilot from Singapore fly in specifically to see us.
All of our shoes are made in the UK, in a traditional British method, a speciality of Northampton, the home of UK shoe manufacturing. We go up a lot to see the process and check that everything is running smoothly.
The advantage of manufacturing here is that we can be sure that the working conditions of the staff are good and that they are properly paid.
We recently introduced bags and belts to our collection. They are made for us by an artisan maker who works locally. We teamed up with the wonderful artist Iva Troj to collaborate on a collection of hand painted bags, which we have just launched.
Our belts have been flying out since they arrived, we had so many requests for them that we just couldn’t ignore.
One of the best things about having the shop is meeting fellow vegans, we really get the sense of the change that is coming. New people arrive all the time saying they have just transitioned to being vegan and need to change their wardrobes.
We get a lot of people expressing their joy at finding us, we are part of the changing landscape, Shoreditch has a phenomenal amount of vegan businesses, so we are very well located.
Although we have an online business as well, we find that people like to have the experience of trying on our shoes before they buy. We like to feel that our shop is a little social hub for vegans.
We love chatting and swapping recommendations, we get to meet lots of other like minded folk, it really is a great working life.
Made in Hackney – Director Sarah Bentley
Made In Hackney Project Director Sarah Bentley works alongside an Enterprise Manager, Finance Director, Venue Manager and freelance Project Manager.
“Work is never the same – and that helps to keep the job interesting with lots of laughs, idea-storming and amusing incidents. We’re a vegan community cookery school and charity, so we spend a lot of time coordinating classes, liaising with teachers to prepare classes, checking recipes and hand-outs.
The phone and email is constantly going with all sorts of questions, as we have about 15 programmes running at any one time. Amongst the day to day of running our kitchen – washing aprons, emptying the compost, checking we have enough peelers – we have meetings with funders, our contractors like Public Health Hackney, and new teachers and volunteers.
I also give talks and presentations fairly regularly, so I’m often squinting over a PowerPoint of images, agonising about what to say to a group of people that best describes the magic of our work and how we get our attendees – who are 90% not vegan and vegetarian – to not only enjoy our classes and food, but keep coming back.
As well as our community class programme we run masterclasses, which are more specialist, and by charging for these they help fund our free community work.
We’re always discussing new class themes for this – coming up we have Aquafaba, Seaweed, Vegan Fish, Vegan Meats, Going Vegan, Plant Powered Fitness, Healthy Baking, The Fabulous Art Of Fermentation, Nut Cheese and much more.
We’re always discussing ways to promote these better and get the word out there – there aren’t many cookery schools that do what we do and all proceeds go back into charitable work. Another key part of our job is promoting our Employer Day offer, where we host team building and health and well-being days for groups of colleagues.
A favourite part of my job is co-planning our twice-yearly community celebrations where we host a massive party for the extended Made In Hackney family.
This year I coordinated our first plastic-free dinner service and set up a camp-style washing station so everyone had to wash their own plate, bowl and cup and when they did this they got a raffle prize. It worked really well – thinking outside of the box and getting people to pitch in.
The best thing about working at Made In Hackney is there is no boss, no hierarchy and we all get paid the same. We work collaboratively and support each other as equals and this creates a lovely family atmosphere.
As we’re all striving to have a positive impact on the world – helping people to grow, cook and eat more plants – it brings the team together under a shared goal, which is amazing.
We all love to share moving stories and anecdotes eith each other about how our programme is changing people’s lives – whether curing someone of type 2 diabetes, helping a parent to get their child’s weight under control by gentle adaptation of their diet or creating an opportunity for vulnerable people to get together and socialise – we endeavour to share all this, and often, as it keeps us motivated to crack on with all the less inspiring stuff like spreadsheets, funding bids and finance reviews. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”
To find out more about Made In Hackney, book a class or make a donation, visit www.madeinhackney.org