We caught up with the ultimate vegan queen Laura Callan who is the Editor and Founder of Bright Zine, a vegan lifestyle magazine that is one of the most interesting, diverse and inspiring mags out there in the plant powered world. Find out how Laura started Bright, who her female entrepreneur inspirations are and how she thinks women can all help each other.
To celebrate International Women's Week (yeah, we think it should be a week) and our upcoming Vevolution Topics: Entrepreneurs event on the 13th March we've created an IWD series where we've hand selected some inspiring entrepreneurial women to tell us their stories. This series is in collaboration with Badass Vegan Women.
Tell us a little bit about Bright – how did it all start?
I realised that there was this huge vegan community coming together and growing, and I wanted to document it somehow. I trained as a journalist, so I thought I'd write articles online but it was pretty unsatisfying so I looked into self-publishing and Bright has just gone from strength to strength ever since.
You’ve been vegan for over tens years - that’s incredible! It must be amazing seeing the progress and change happen over the years and how veganism has gone mainstream. Why do you think veganism has exploded over the past few years?
It's absolutely incredible to think back and see how far we've come, how much things have changed. I think a lot of it had to do with awareness, and the internet! Networks like YouTube and Instagram have given so many people a platform to share, educate and inspire others. And it's helped people to spread the truth. Look at Februdairy, it was supposed to promote the dairy industry after Veganuary, but they just couldn't keep up with people sharing the truth about how cruel dairy farming is. There is so much information being shared so people are really able to find the truth, make more informed decisions and be more conscious consumers.
Your new project Support Vegan Businesses is great - we love it! How do you feel about corporations and other companies who aren’t vegan jumping on the vegan bandwagon just because they see profit to be made but who don’t share the same values and vision for the vegan movement? Do you think vegans should be only buying from vegan independents and boycotting big businesses?
Thanks! On a personal level I'm trying to shop independent where I can, and that's something that absolutely transfers into vegan business too. I am always thrilled when I see new vegan options in restaurants and shops - I can't tell you how happy it makes me to be able to buy Wicked Kitchen sandwiches and pizzas in my Tesco. This normalises veganism and makes it accessible and attractive to the mainstream and that is nothing but a good thing. I want to see vegan options everywhere. But I also don't want to forget, overshadow or leave behind the vegan trailblazers who have been championing veganism for years, creating, innovating and paving the way for these more mainstream options that we have today. It's down to the hard work and commitment of independent creators, chefs, food traders and businesses.
What drives you to work everyday?
I absolutely love what I do. I've had different jobs and a bit of a meandering career path, but this is what I 100% should be doing. I am like a professional vegan, that's what my work is. Veganism and animal liberation are what I care really strongly about so it makes sense that my 'job' is now centred around that. I'm vegan for the animals, so I feel like this is a form of activism, talking about important issues in our community and society more broadly, as well as making veganism tangible, accessible and aspirational for people so they can make that switch. I love what I do and I feel value in what I do, so that gets me out of bed in the morning.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
I have a mixture of feelings with it. In some ways I could say being a female entrepreneur isn't any different to a male entrepreneur, and I'm lucky that veganism has a large female population. But at the same time, I have dealt with being patronised by male suppliers, fobbed off like I haven't known what I'm talking about and so on. I've seen it with other female led companies too, and it's ridiculous. But I think the best advice is to just be aware that you may have some disadvantages, and then be super assertive if they come up. Don't let anyone talk down to you or tell you you're wrong when you know your business and you know what's right. Believe in yourself 100%.
How can women entrepreneurs help each other?
Work together, collaborate and lift each other up. Don't fall into the traps of competition, support your sisters, skill share and promote each other. If a female-led company similar to yours is doing well, great! Celebrate that, don't feel that their success is overshadowing yours.
Who are some of your favourite inspiring female entrepreneurs?
There are so many amazing female entrepreneurs in this community, I’m constantly inspired. Just look around - there’s Judy the co-founder of Vevolution, Grace who founded SpiceBox, Meriel and Lois from Club Mexicana, Dani and Vane from Vida Bakery, Sara who’s been running Pomodoro E Basilico for years, Heather Mills who founded VBites 25 years ago, the list goes on and on.
I’m trying to get into the habit of making sure I see talks by female entrepreneurs to hear their stories, celebrate them and that female entrepreneur power.
What are your hopes for Bright in 2018 and the future?
We want to be more widespread, we want our magazines in the hands of vegans and vegan-curious people all around the UK and way beyond. We also want to do more community events, we love our Vegan Queen run, yoga and wellness clubs and want to do more events like these that bring people together. We’re absolutely loving the journey as we grow and we’re excited to see what’s next for us, and for the rest of the vegan community.