I’d like to introduce Susanna Andrews from Tofuture Ltd.
What was the ‘Aaahaaa’ moment when you decided to go Vegan?
Whilst reading the Vegetarian Recipe Club article about milk I realised I could no longer have anything to do with the dairy industry. It was an immediate decision and I’ve never looked back.
When did you embrace a compassionate Vegan lifestyle?
November 2008, vegetarian since 1989
What were the reactions of family and friends when you first embraced Veganism?
They were initially bemused but gradually encouraging, especially when they tried all the new food I was creating.
Why did you start your business?
My partner and I wanted to make a change in our lives and do something we believed in, rather than putting all our energies into IT and insurance and commuting up to London every day. We wanted to run our own business and promote the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle and encourage people to think about what they are eating and the effects it has on animals and the environment.
What problem are you trying to solve? (Or – what’s wrong with the status quo?)
We’ve always struggled with pressing tofu under piles of plates and when one day the pile came crashing down in the kitchen we set about doing something about it.
What’s your point of differentiation over your competitors?
Unable to find a reasonably priced/easy to ship tofu press on the market we designed one ourselves. We wanted the press to fit in the fridge, not make loads of mess and not require you to return to the tofu to maintain the pressure so you can press it overnight.
What’s the reaction to your product/service been like?
Really positive. Lots of good responses all across social media including comments such as, ‘at last, I’ve always wanted one of those’
What is your most popular feature/product/service and why?
We currently only sell the press on our website but will also be selling ‘Make your own Tofu Kits’ at festivals and tofu based products
Tell me about your journey to get to this point, what have you done?
We’ve registered a new start up company, chosen a logo and company name, designed and patented the press, employed graphic artists and a marketing company to come up with a look for the packaging and website, learnt WordPress, digital photography, started blogging, started learning German, got familiar with social media, shipping, fulfilment, manufacture…
What mistakes have you made?
We started out with a completely different design for the press using a vacuum. This proved too difficult to test at prototype stage so we had to scratch it and start again.
What have you learned, and what would you differently next time?
We have learnt so much, definitely we wouldn’t have signed up to various services until we were certain the product was ready. For example, Barclays Business Account and Amazon charge a monthly rate and we signed up years before we needed either.
What advice would you give to people thinking of entering this area?
Go for it. If you’ve got an original idea and you believe in it as you have to devote a lot of free time to it. If you don’t know something, Google it.
What type of customers do you attract?
Currently our customer base is 21-35 year old vegans and vegetarians, predominantly female but that may change.
What features/expansion are you planning in the next 12 months?
We are touring the UK vegan fairs this year and next year are looking to get into the German market as they have millions of vegetarians, 600,000 vegans and a progressive attitude towards nutritional and compassionate lifestyles.
How did you get started online and what technical challenges did you have to overcome?
We employed a company called Amodeo to design our website and have taught ourselves WordPress so we can manage the site now ourselves. We’ve had to do a lot of reading about website marketing and SEO etc.. to understand these things.
What did you want to be when you grow up?
I used to want to be a fashion designer before I realised you needed to be able to draw
What do you do for fun?
Cooking! Camping and walking, outside activities and water sports, reading, learning German, playing with my cats.
How do you spread your message about veganism?
By being a responsible and healthy person, I try not to preach to meat-eaters but instead demonstrate that you can be healthy, fit and eat delicious food on a vegan diet.
How do you think the Internet and Social Media has impacted on the Vegan World?
Enormously. There are so many vegan groups on social media and lots of support and encouragement for vegans. Also, there is lots more information now on where you can eat/stay/buy vegan products and places so you’re not so lost when going somewhere new.
Do you follow business influencers online (e.g. Blogs, Podcasts, etc) and if so who?
There’s a great veggie blogger called Cathy White who has been really encouraging and excited about our press and wrote a great blog about it with pictures.
You can find out more about Tofuture and the Tofu Press on their website.