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Fernanda Capobianco – Challenges of starting a vegan Business

Butter or dairy so I just decided to open wholesale business and was really really hard in the beginning because nobody even nobody knew what was vegan and I would give the pastries for free people wouldn’t even try it they didn’t want to eat and you know was really hard at one point I said maybe I should just do a regular bakery and then you know but I said I know that in a few years this will be like a long-term commitment because I know that one day this is just will come and I don’t think that yet the vegan it’s mainstream this is still it’s really very difficult I will tell you about it later but it’s now people are very interested out it and you know so many wonderful like the news and all of this the information is out there so I think that now is is really much easier so vegan divas it’s a bakery we are in the Upper East Side in Manhattan we distribute to more than 45 or 50 supermarkets and you know restaurants and locate other locations we also have e-commerce website we ship across the country and then we have the the bakery and we’re opening more locations and we’re opening something a license outside the country so this is the businesses three years old now the biggest challenge for me still it’s to fight the ingredients because they’re they’re not too many suppliers that have all the ingredients that we need so sometimes it’s really hard when I want to get something different for example tapioca it’s it’s the tapioca that I want to have for a special desserts it is really hard there’s not everyone that has or just one supplier so this is one thing that it’s very difficult another thing is that most the products they come in a packaging that is really small so for for example we buy like so much tofu I know hundred cases at a time and we have to open like each packages like these size because they don’t make it yet the tofu like in you know in a big containers like a regular bakery like they sell butter or any everything else so this is like very makes very difficult for us for to get in the large scale of the business and sourcing the ingredients is still really hard and sometimes can be very expensive and we also have to find the balance like it has to be something that we we can sell because the price has to be right or people are not going to buy but at the same time we have to keep the quality so this is I think one of our biggest challenge every day I because I was I learned with all these chefs and French chefs and you know for me it really has to taste good and the presentation has to be beautiful I love beautiful packaging I buy all of my packaging in France so I go every year to the 100 best chefs pastry chefs in the world seminar and one of the things that I do when I go there not just to try to make them eat the dessert and make the dessert without butter because they lead the business the pastry business in the world these guys and they never heard about vegan or they don’t even know what is that and they’re just you know poisoning people but I think that the way that I can touch them and talk to them is just not imposing them what I do but just trying to make they taste something different and now little by little they’re starting to make PMA of Philippe Conti Jeanne all of these famous French chefs they’re starting to make some recipes you know with less butter or no eggs or without dairy because they’re learning now that the demand is creating a demand and they know that they don’t have just to sell a product this is not just a business you know they’re really responsible for your feeding someone and you’re really responsible not to you know just kill this person with diabetes and all of these problems that we have another challenge of this business it’s when I started looking for distributors the distributors they they love the product but it’s hard for them to convince their sales team to sell this product because they when they go to the markets everyone wants to buy yogurt ice cream or dairy everyone buys milk but nobody buys vegan desserts so they have to spend much more time explaining to them this is vegan it’s made of tofu you have to put it in the freezer you have to do these so for them they don’t want to have this extra time selling the products in the wholesale customers which is was really hard for me this is one of the biggest challenge and then but now I finally have a distributor that you know they really see that it’s a in one or two years hopefully though this category of vegan desserts and pastries and baking goods will be in all the supermarket’s across the country so hopefully they will have the aisle or a section for the vegan desserts like they have the gluten free but we’re not there yet when the sales teams they go to the supermarkets they have to explain to them what is vegan most of them they don’t know and you know it’s still when we sell it’s really hard because they try to compare the our product with a regular brownie and of course our product is a little bit more expensive because we use better ingredients but for them it’s hard to say I don’t want to sell your product because it’s more expensive but they don’t have anything else to compare they don’t have 50 other items to compare there are vegan too so they say how come yours is 250 and the other one is $1.00 and I say but it’s vegan and they say but it’s a brownie so it’s it’s it’s very challenging also for the consumer it’s of course here everyone it’s maybe it’s vegan or it’s knowledgeable about vegan but in the markets people still they don’t know why should I buy this and then we really have to do a lot of demos and because of the price so this is another thing that we have to do so I think that this business we have already a regular business it’s a challenge to just be a bakery or whatever your manufacturer it’s a it’s a challenge but a vegan it’s I would say 10 times more because it’s something it’s a movement that we’re building now it’s a starting we’re creating so it’s still like in the baby steps and you have to invest everything you have to educate people we have to you know it’s a great to have events like that then people can learn and can talk about and we can spread the word but it’s for the business it’s really very complicated and it’s it’s really hard because you know it’s just you have to explain everything more than just to the consumer and to the to our customers at the bakery who goes to the bakery they’re not necessarily vegan they just like the product and because it’s healthier I think that after they don’t want to go back to a regular baked it good my husband ironically he’s a very famous pastry chef and he cooks with butter and eggs and cream and you know now I have a lot of his customers coming to my place because they they just can’t eat that stuff any more every day and when they try our brownie they say wow this is this is really taste good so I will try I’m not vegan but I with that again and I think that for that reason people they change their palate they change you know the perception and they became they have like a more operate palette this is really it’s really for me it’s one of the things that drives me on my business is just to see like the moms and the people they’re coming like you know I could never I have this intolerance of dairy or my daughter can have eggs and finally I can find something that is not just vegan but it’s healthy and you know this is really what makes us keep going because it’s really hard so maybe you guys want to do some questions now and we can continue yeah what do you think has worked in getting the word out about vegan divas how do you what do you think has worked and getting the word out about vegan divas I think that is just the timing now is right when I started I would offer everything for free and people would be scared I wouldn’t say it’s vegan you know the word was a bad word people would associate with the hippie crunchy and you know dog food if I can say that but now when I go to the places and the markets that when I say all this try this is vegan people get really interested about it so now for me particularly it’s an asset to have the name vegan on the brand vegan divas so I think that is just the the timing is right now and it’s just growing a lot yeah a who’s your target market for vegans because in America as income and education go down weight goes up so you don’t find a lot of poor people or people even in the middle class who can afford to shop at Whole Foods or pay more for a brownie it’s a lot less expensive so who’s really your demographic in your target market if you’re gonna start a pagan business of any kind so it’s mostly women and then from 23 to 35 years old and where places is California Oklahoma after San Francisco of course Chicago Alabama Las Vegas a New York City yeah but I think that what we do is a little bit more upscale and my goal is to make the product to sell the product everywhere every bodega every supermarket doesn’t matter if it’s cheap or not but you know my goal is to sell everywhere and to give the chance for people that you know I have a sweet tooth and I think that everyone does so my goal is to make the product affordable the wholesale line to everyone across the country hi can you talk a little bit about the challenge of which I would imagine is true in any business beginner or not of when you first started and you were first literally trying to get people to buy your baked goods and did you take it around to local places in your neighborhood what did you do exactly so when I started I am partner with the local market in the Upper East Side they were my partners and I was baking everything in their facility and we were selling in his place so then we would do constantly look sample of the products and then people like some people they wouldn’t try when we say try this vegan product but when we just give the product they were trying and after they like and they would buy and they would say this is very expensive so then you have to try it again and it’s expensive and you know at this time three years ago nobody most of the people didn’t know what it was vegan was just the gluten-free and and for me I don’t want to follow a trend you know I do this because this is my lifestyle is the way I leave and I’m not I don’t care attach it to like gluten-free or vegan for me it has to be its of course it’s vegan because you’re already covering a lot of things there is no cholesterol is really good for you and you know we almost use no sugar but I don’t want to say and we have of course gluten-free items but it doesn’t mean that you’re healthier because you’re vegan right some people they eat a lot of processed foods and you know they eat all of this I shouldn’t say that here but a hot-dog vegan and all of these things all the time french fries they think it’s good to be vegan but for me I don’t want to do this what do we do it’s like all we pick all the ingredients very healthy and we make them tasty so this is this is my goal it’s to make like a food that it’s really fresh in known process and you know that’s that’s the idea because just you know if you want to follow a trend after when the trend is gone I think that your business you know will be the next thing too for me it’s really I’m committed to a healthy product and then when people try and they know that it’s healthy but also another thing if you can you can tell them that it’s gluten free or vegan but if they taste and doesn’t taste good you’re not going anywhere I think that you really have to be committed to the taste yeah yes so if I want to branch out beyond deserts yes in the we have a quiche that we make yeah which is really great but to make it that in a like a big scale we have to make it it’s it’s a totally different process than the pastries and the baking goods so for now I I just want to be the best and in the deserts and the cakes you know because then it’s so different it’s different to make savory sandwiches then baking it’s totally different so we’re now focusing the dessert now when we open another store next year yeah next year we’re going to have more options like savory because people they want in the store more options so and we have also had the ice cream there the soft-serve ice cream which is great yeah yes we do we sell to restaurants that are known vegan which is great you know and that and for that I think that now more and more like known restaurants even if you go to the most like expensive like if you go to Danielle or if you go to the wine bars like they’re not really exposure people want the option and you know they really have a full menu of vegan desserts and vegan food so I think that it’s it’s really a great time for for us now and you know it’s just it’s just growing it’s just growing so I think of what can I say now for someone that wants to start this business you really have to know that it’s something that you’re doing long-term it’s not something for tomorrow but it’s really something long-term and I think that in two two years or at least in two years this will be really really big but you know just don’t think about tomorrow like sometimes you have to lose money a little bit but you know I think that at the end of the day will be worth it for everyone because we’re doing something bigger than just selling a food we’re just you know we’re passionate about something that we just we wanna cater like a better food you know anyway we want to encourage people to eat like that at home just lounge at my cookbook and the book is for people that are just known non vegan it’s for everyone I just you know doesn’t need to be for vegan it can be you can eat meat but you know the idea is to slowly just make people try something different and not telling them you have to be vegan you know I don’t like to say this just I just like to cook something and don’t say what it is and I think that people like that they will get curious and they will change their palate I think that if you try to you know impose something it’s it’s not going to be a good reaction so I think that for the business and for like as a human being like trying to help my my idea is just to just to make the change slowly and I think that people they get it you know any more questions so our next go now for vegan divas we’re hoping in Columbus Circle location we’re working in a few other things locations and then we’re opening a licensed international tool it’s a big group that asking us to open and they didn’t come because was vegan but they came because there it’s a big hotel chain they own like seven hotels I cannot say yeah where it is but they they wanted to sell vegan Eva’s because it’s low calories so that’s why there were very interested in the products which is which is great because when it’s vegan it’s covering that too of course the our chocolate mousse is 150 calories versus another chocolate mousse would be like 400 calories so you know we’re covering many things in with one product which is great any question yeah what I think that I will see main strip vegan as a mainstream when I go to all the supermarkets and we have a big you know a lot of options of everything you know like the gluten free now which is the gluten free for me it’s a little bit dangerous because you know people they get caught up with gluten free and sometimes it’s not healthy most of the times but vegan is already it’s healthier anyways it’s healthier so I think that it would be mainstream when when you can go to every supermarket doesn’t matter the price you know because people have to afford that everywhere not just in New York City but when you can buy a product in every supermarket I think that it will be amazing yeah yes yeah my partner he owns Dunkin Donuts yeah and you know was to convince him was funny because he I brought we make the bacon doughnuts and I gave them a sample of the doughnut and he was in his board meeting so all the his partners and people that work with him they tried the doughnuts and they say wow this tastes better than the aankhen doughnuts and he was like okay so now I have to invest but in general it’s it’s hard to to sometimes convince people to do business because it’s a vegan business for example we do event at Saks Fifth Avenue you know and because I have this background with more like a traditional chefs or cooking or more like upscale but it’s still this they are really for them it’s really something you they don’t know what it’s vegan and and you know I just try to show them because if these guys these big chefs now they start talking about it and they start offering and there start cooking like this I think this will be mainstream too because these people these guys they lead the market so I think that you know it’s very important to just have them doing that and talking about it and you know just the more they do it’s it’s better for us but it’s really harder when you were a vegan business because people they say I don’t want to try if you want to if you want to have a partner for a non vegan business it will be easier of course it’s harder it’s much harder so we go to a few suppliers and it’s sometimes I have to get up in France or in Japan you know I have to go to the manufacturing most of the times and you know they have the it’s is hard it’s really hard so I have someone that it’s constantly sourcing out ingredients some ingredients are not available here yet so sometimes I can’t make something because we don’t have the ingredient and it’s it’s more it’s hard to get a better price too because for most of the ingredients is just one or two suppliers selling so which makes really hard I don’t have like ten people selling butter like its if it was butter so it’s it’s hard but it’s it’s becoming now more popular I’m trying to get the other suppliers to start having a line of vegan you know ingredients and I try to help them to go to other vegan business this way they can buy more you know so they can have more different things available to everyone because if it’s just me buying he’s not going to have something an ingredient just for me so I try to push him to sell to other people when you know but yes yes there are two or three suppliers and one of them I I just don’t like to do business with them I’m honest and you know so it’s always hard because you have to go to a not to just two suppliers and they don’t have everything or sometimes the price is hard because it’s hard to the product would be very expensive so it’s really hard but at the same time I keep the product like 100% the clean there’s no preservative its 100% well it’s not 100% organic because it’s impossible but everything that I can find it in the market that it’s organic we get organic it’s more expensive but at the end of the day I think not everyone will be able to buy unfortunately but the people that they want to spend a little bit more just to to have the best product they will buy it and I think that that’s is our target that’s a niche that is just becoming bigger now any question yeah so if she’s asking if I have an advice for someone that wants to start a big in business my advice is to start small if you want to sell a product just you know first you you ask your friends or people you know just to start in the small scale in your local markets or and you know and and just try to make get people tasting and you go get their opinion and it really has to be something that tastes good because if it’s not it’s not because it’s gluten-free that it’s going to sell and you really have to have your goal like really clear because you know most of the times you will you know want to give up because it’s still really hard every day every week I think like what am i doing this why don’t I just work for someone it’s just easier but no but I know that when I move to because I first I lost my dad very early with diabetes and he was very sick and you know when I came to America I realized there was this huge crisis in the health population I was working with a Coalition for health is good and I used to go to all the public schools and the kids they wouldn’t even know what it was being they never ate beans in their lives you know was really sad the first day I was like crying because those kids they were just eating chicken nuggets and the budget in the school is one dollar so they were everyday eating chicken nuggets and the worst quality of the burgers you know and they were feeding them like all of this horrible food and dairy and most of them they were lactose intolerant so America it’s it’s really everyone I think that we have to do something you know and what I what I can do it you know is with the food we can influence a lot with the food through the food so you have any questions there now okay thank you I’m doing a book signing over there and after I would like I would love to invite you to try the our products the donuts the brownies and everything is there

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