It’s easy to get drawn into Victoria Moran’s positive message when you listen to her speak or on one of her many media appearances.
Her calm demeanor and surety coupled with her long personal journey as a 30-year vegan bring depth to her message of being well through living well.
Like many vegans, Victoria successfully merged her values with work and is making solid go of it. After all, veganism is no longer the marginalized “hippie” movement of the 70’s. As Victoria’s enterprise implies, it is now part of the “mainstream”.
Today, more and more vegans are looking to create purpose-driven work by tying veganism into how they make a living. Be it a chef, personal trainer, etc.
The aspiration is to help impart a more sustainable way of living, one that centers on the greater good. Victoria identified this need over eight years ago resulting in the creation of Main Street Vegan Academy which offers curriculum for professionals seeking to earn the Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator (VLCE) Certification. Today, the VLCE title is held by an impressive roster of alumni who have gone on to launch successful coaching, subject matter expert practices and various vegan centered businesses.
Victoria Moran, is also a best-selling author and founder of Main Street Vegan, a multimedia platform that includes content creation, events and online-courses on veganism.
vWire caught up with Victoria recently looking to showcase her wealth of knowledge as this month’s Expert Insight feature. As we kick off 2021 this is a great time to start planning and developing a course of action for anyone wishing to expand their professional offering and tap into the vegan economy which is growing at an accelerated clip.
vWire: What was your starting point?
Victoria: Everything I’m doing now grew from what I did earlier in my life. I was writing for teen magazines at 14, then moved on to vegetarian publications, then books. All the Main Street Vegan activities have grown from my 2012 book, Main Street Vegan. The guiding philosophy is making the vegan lifestyle available and inviting to everyone — just like Main Street in an idyllic town where everybody is welcome and respected.
Tell us a little bit about Main Street Vegan Academy?
Since its founding eight and a half years ago, MSVA has graduated 500 certified Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators (VLCEs) from 30 countries on six continents. Our faculty is superb, and includes luminaries such as:
- Jasmin Singer (VegNews, Kinder Beauty, Our Hen House)
- Mariann Sullivan, JD (Our Hen House, New York University)
- Robert Ostfeld, MD (Montifiore Cardiac Wellness Program)
- Joshua Katcher (fashion designer, Brave Gentleman)
- Fred Beasley II (director, NYC Hip Hop Is Green)
- Fran Costigan (vegan chef, author Vegan Chocolate)
- David Benzaquen (founder, Plantbased Solutions, CEO Ocean Hugger Foods)
- And JL Fields, VLCE (founder, Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy, author Vegan Pressure Cooking, The Vegan Air Fryer, and more).
For our first seven-plus years, our classes were offered exclusively in person, in New York City. Due to COVID, we now offer the certification course as MSV-Zoom — live online — and, when we can get together in three dimensions again, MSV-Elite, here in NYC, offering field trips and a life-changing life experience. But something really cool is that the Zoom classes are life-changing experiences, too, and Zoom grads have access to the same follow-up support and continuing ed as the in-person grads.
Main Street Vegan Academy boasts an impressive alum roster? How have they taken what they learned into building a plant-based/vegan operation?
One of the first surprises of running MSVA was that, even though the certification is “coach and educator,” a certain percentage of grads have the entrepreneurial gene and they go into a vegan business. We’ve added courses to our foundational program, as well as post-course classes, that address business issues. Among the grads who’ve taken the biz route are:
- Carmella Lanni Giardina, VLCE, and Carlo Giardina, VLCE: V Marks the Shop, a vegan grocery store in Philadelphia
- Lita Dwight, VLCE: BrytLife Foods: yogurt and cheese manufacturing, Brooklyn, NY
- Kat Mendenhall, VLCE: Kat Mendenhall Boots, vegan, eco-friendly, made-in-America cowboy boots and accessories — based in Dallas, available online
- Carolina Molina, VLCE: L’Artisane Creative Bakery, Miami Beach — they won “Best Crossant in Miami” within two weeks of opening
- Michaela Grob, VLCE: Riverdel Cheese, retail in NYC, plus cheese manufacturing and distribution
- Laura Leal, VLCE: Bon Mot Ice Cream, Mexico City
- Maureeen Tierson, VLCE: The Vegan Community Center, Rochester, NY — temporarily closed due to the pandemic but poised to bounce back, because vegans always do.
For someone thinking of setting up a business – be it in food development, content creation, coaching. What advice do you have for a vegan entrepreneur on where to start?
It’s important to know who you are, what your gifts are, and what your stress tolerance is.
You can best find this out by looking at your life thus far. What have you done that you’ve loved? What have you done that was successful? What are people always telling you? — Is it, “You ought to write a book,” or “You ought to open a restaurant”?
I think it’s also worth saying that going into a vegan business is not the only way to be effective at furthering the vegan cause. Oftentimes people want to go into the vegan workspace full force and full time when they might actually be able to help bring about a vegan world more readily by staying where they are — for example, someone in finance or a lucrative profession that could enable them to invest in vegan enterprises and contribute to vegan causes. Another case is when someone is simply very good at what they do now. It’s a great boon to veganism to have people out there saying, “My lawyer (or physical therapist or web designer or minister) is fabulous at what they do, and they’re vegan. I really need to look into that.”
How important is personal branding in setting up a coaching business?
To my mind, the most important thing about coaching is that you have a coach’s personality. Vegan coaching is a curious combination of listening and teaching. Some people are good at one but not the other, and both are essential. Another great boon for a vegan coach is if they can include this service along with something with which people are more familiar — personal training, yoga teaching, that sort of thing. Then you have a pre-built audience for an additional service.
In terms of personal branding, you do need to set yourself apart to an extent because people want to work with a coach with whom they’ll be comfortable. There used to be a guy here in New York who had signs out everywhere: “Toughest Trainer in NYC!” I’d pass those signs and think, “He’s the last person on earth I’d want to train with.” But obviously, his “tough” tactic was appealing to other people. It’s really about being authentic. It’s a big world and there are plenty of people looking for services to make their lives better. You’ll have the most success if you attract the people who want what you offer.
What are some common early hurdles and how do you overcome them as you’re trying to build your vegan business?
The specifics differ from business to business, but the primary obstacle is usually funding. Many new businesses, vegan and otherwise, aren’t aware of the amount of “prudent reserve” they’ll need to get up and running, keep things going through the start-up period, and cover any unforeseen eventualities, whether that’s something relatively minor (equipment breaks down, supplies don’t show up) or something enormous like the current pandemic. (A wonderful resource is Beyond Animal — poised to become the “vegan LinkedIn.” Investors are there, along with businesses seeking investment.)
It’s also important, if you’re going into business, to know something about business — and to be excited about it. If you’re in the U.S., the Small Business Administration has a superb service called SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). You can find experts in branding, marketing and digital marketing, funding, legal, human resources, web design, and more, available to work with you one on one.
What books, podcasts would you recommend to a vegan entrepreneur as a resource in building his/her business?
- The vegan business book that is required reading for Main Street Vegan Academy students is Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business, by Katrina Fox, who also hosts the Vegan Business Talk podcast and founded The Vegan Women’s Leadership Network.
- Another great business podcast is Plant CEO, hosted by vegan businessman and investor Anant Joshi.
- A rather surprising book to have a vegan connection is Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business: How to Launch and Grow a Business from Concept to Cash. The popular TV show tapped entrepreneur and vegan, Michael Parrish Dudell, to write that book and its sequel, Shark Tank: Secrets to Success.
- And the classes, webinars, and support services of Stephanie Redcross West and her company, Vegan Mainstream are unparalleled. Stephanie parlayed corporate savvy into working with vegan solopreneurs and small business owners over a decade ago, and her services are invaluable.
As a best-selling author of 13 books, someone may be wondering: “How do I get published, I’m a vegan blogger with a ton of recipes to share. “ What advice do you have for someone looking to take that step?
Books are my heart. I love the quotation, attributed to Buddha: “Words, when they are both kind and true, can change our world.” The book business, however, has changed a huge amount in the past ten years. Between the near monopolization of book sales by Amazon and the ubiquitous availability of free content online, publishers and authors — nonfiction authors, in particular — must struggle to stay relevant.
There was a time when I encouraged every new author to write their book and not let rejections get them down; one publisher’s reject can be another’s bestseller. But that was when there were a lot of publishers. Many have closed and many more have been acquired by larger houses. There’s an odd “rule” in the book biz that if one imprint of a publisher says no to your book, that counts as a “no” from every imprint. This is a problem when you realize that HarperCollins has 120 imprints. PenguinRandomHouse has 275, and they recently bought Simon & Schuster, the country’s third largest publisher.
My advice to aspiring authors today is something I’ve heard given to young actors: “Only pursue this profession if you simply cannot do anything else.” It takes that kind of passion to persist. In addition, I suggest that you critically look at what you have to offer and be sure that the book is the best form for it. If you have a terrific blog, maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be: a terrific blog. Or perhaps your idea would take well to documentary film format, or a YouTube channel.
Many of us have moved along a continuum towards plant-based living and sometimes the toughest part is taking the first step. What’s a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with the vegan and plant-based lifestyle?
Simply having the interest gets you started. Then let curiosity lead you to what you need to learn:
- Animal issues ~ A website such as Peta.org can be a one-stop resource to get you up to speed on how animals live and die to produce meat, eggs, dairy products, and “seafood” for humans
- Health and nutrition ~ Check out Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org) and Dr. Michael Greger’s site, nutritionfacts.org
- Environment ~ The Eat for the Planet (eftp.co) and Healthy Eating, Healthy World (hpjmh.com) have the answers you’re looking for
- And recipe blogs such as AnnArborVeganKitchen.com, Plant2Platter.com, and Veganification.com will help you transform your curiosity into marvelous meals.
Documentaries can also be powerful tools, especially those that are geared to your particular area of interest, such as:
- Going from veg-skeptical to ethically vegan: Vegucated
- Being an athlete or fitness enthusiast: The Game Changers
- Building vitality and preventing illness: What the Health?
- Saving the planet: Cowspiracy
- Being a religious or spiritual vegan: A Prayer for Compassion
And get support. If there aren’t vegans in your real-world circle, find them through Meetup groups, Facebook groups, and so on. It’s hard to be the only vegan you know. It’s easy and fun and empowering to be one of many.
Your career path spans 30 years and you’ve touched many, many lives along the way. What would you say are your proudest achievements?
Proudest achievements, oh my goodness … well, there’s ego-proud like having been a guest on the Oprah show twice; and the way that filmmaker Michael Moore, who’d been influenced by one of my earlier books, intervened with my editor so that I could keep my working book title, Main Street Vegan, when her team had wanted to scrap “Main Street.”
But the more meaningful achievements are that I went vegan in time to raise my daughter, Adair, this way. She’s still vegan, and so is her husband. She works as a stunt performer and aerialist, and she’s a certified wildlife rehabber. I’m incredibly proud of my Main Street Vegan Academy graduates who are out there making a difference around the world every single day. And I’m proud of those times when I faced my fears and went into factory farms, and of the one awful day I spent in a slaughterhouse. I had an interaction with a cow there that has resulted in a “signature story” that’s made its way into magazine articles, my book Main Street Vegan, and the documentary, A Prayer for Compassion. When I can’t get my head around the immensity of the suffering and death animals endure at the hands of humans, I focus on her, and she keeps me going.
There’s so much awareness today about the connection between food and health, people are cooking at home more and wanting to be healthier. How do we keep the momentum going?
I think the healthy part is here to stay. We just have to keep getting the word out that “healthiest” equals “plant-exclusive.”
One challenge we face going forward is making this equitable. All people, whatever their socio-economic group, deserve to be able to eat health-promoting, vegan food. It’s easy to say, “Well, rice and beans are cheap,” but nobody wants to live on rice and beans, especially when McDonald’s and Taco Bell are equally inexpensive and more of a taste thrill.
Government subsidies to animal agriculture are unfair to low-income people, to farmers who grow plant foods for human consumption, and of course to the exploited animals. We need to work to change this policy and all the others that make “vegan” comparable to “elitist” in many people’s minds. Initiatives devoted to this issue and related ones include:
- The Virsa Foundation: thevirsafoundation.org
- A Well-Fed World: awellfedworld.org
- The Food Empowerment Project: foodispower.org
- Brighter Green: brightergreen.org
- and Seeds to Inspire: seedstoinspireaz.org.
What are your goals, resolutions, hopes for 2021?
Thanks for ending with such a hopeful question! I have two personal resolutions: (1) to get up by 6 a.m. every day (that’s a little Ayurvedic wisdom for a healthy life, and morning is also when I do my best work), and (2) to drastically and even ruthlessly cut my email and messaging time. As I get older and see that mortality actually applies to me, I realize that way too much of my life is being spent responsively, rather than proactively. It is imperative that I prioritize — writing, self-care, family, and doing work that reaches large numbers of people and hopefully results in saving the lives of large numbers of animals.
And a couple of broader goals are (1) to observe what’s working for the veganization of this planet and be part of that, and (2) to be a voice for #bringbackclass. I’m appalled by the critical nature of so much human interaction these days, online and otherwise. I want to live with respect for people, even those who disagree with me, and strive to find ways to connect and communicate. I want to live an aspirational life and be inspired by others who express courtesy, kindness, and even a touch of style. As we come out of this difficult time, it seems to me we may as well come out better.