Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melanie McDonald, founder of A Virtual Vegan, located in Victoria, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is A Virtual Vegan, and it's a recipe website/blog where I develop and publish totally delicious and approachable comfort food recipes made vegan. Recipes that anyone, vegan or not, will enjoy!
People often stop in their tracks when I tell them what I do because they don't understand how it can be a business and how I make money from it. Basically, though, visitors to my website are my customers, and the vast majority of my income comes from the ad revenue they generate while there. I also work with brands to promote their products. This usually involves me developing a recipe around a product for my website or social media, whether that be a food product or kitchen tool/appliance. It's a great way for a company to reach a large, loyal, and highly targeted niche audience.
Tell us about yourself
I've always loved food and cooking, and I started my website to share recipes as a hobby when I became vegan in 2015. What started as a hobby soon grew into a full-blown business, and within a year, I was able to leave my regular job. Now A Virtual Vegan reaches millions of people every month and has grown into so much more than I could have ever imagined. I am truly so grateful to be able to do what I love every day.
Vegan food is so stigmatized, and my goal has always been to show how amazing it can be. I do that through my recipes. My motivation comes from the feedback, comments, photos, and videos my readers share after making my recipes and from knowing I'm helping people reduce/eliminate their use of animal products.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment has to be my cookbook, Vegan Comfort Cooking, being published in 2019. I couldn't believe it when I was approached by a publisher, and writing and photographing the book then seeing it come to life and beloved by so many people has been amazing!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing about being a business owner is that the work is never-ending. I could literally work 24/7 if I let myself. It's so hard to set boundaries and stick to them. Having to learn new things continuously is hard too. It can feel like your brain is about to explode at times. SEO and social media requirements are constantly changing, and having to keep up with it all can be exhausting.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- We can't all be good at everything, and we also don't have time to do every single thing ourselves. Hire out what you don't like doing or aren't so good at. You'll be happier. You'll have more time to focus on the things that bring you joy and that you are good at, and your business will grow as a result. Hiring a videographer, an ad management company, an assistant to handle a lot of social media and admin work, WordPress support to handle website maintenance and tech issues, and an SEO expert to audit my website have been game-changers for me.
- Set boundaries, allow yourself to switch off, and get enough rest. Burnout is real, and we can't be at our most productive if we aren't looking after ourselves.
- Stay true to your brand and believe in yourself!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I truly love what I do and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to build a career out of doing what I love. It makes me incredibly happy to know I'm making a difference for the animals and helping make people's vegan transition easier and much tastier!
Feel free to reach out with any questions about my business, ways in which we can work together, or for advice about becoming vegan. I'm always happy to help!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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