Working as a freelance writer and engaging with animal activism, but feeling like nothing was changing, Alice Shopland had the idea of vegan food being a positive contribution which could fit her entrepreneurial interests. Fast forward to now, and what started as a small importer of vegan cheeses, has now grown to a successful and mission-driven business with accomplishments making New Zealand headlines. How did she get there? And what are some secrets to her success? Listen to find out her story.
Long-time vegan, social justice activist, and awesome entrepreneur - these are just a few ways you could describe Angel Food founder Alice Shopland. But how was the business born, and how did it get to the place it's in today?
Alice: 'I was starting to find he activism quite depressing. It felt like we were putting in so much work and the change just wasn't visible. That's how I had the idea of vegan food as a positive contribution which could fit my entrepreneurial interests.'
What makes this amazing is that it adds a layer to the activism potential within the vegan community. I mean it's part of the reason we have this podcast here at Bite Society - we want to inspire you and others out there who may be sitting on the fence about how to make a difference to get involved in the business space.
Alice: 'Telling someone to stop eating vegan cheese is much easier if there's an alternative that they can easily swap over to.'
But it wasn't a straight transition. Despite working full time hours on the business, Alice continued working as a freelance writer as it wasn't for a few years until the business started making money.
Alice: 'I think it's pretty normal to work crazy hours, it's almost part of the challenge. Having enough determination and energy to make things happen. But if you can do it without, then that's a lot better. It's going to be better for your mental health, your relationships and your family. For me, it was the only way I knew how.'
And for those who may not know, Angel Food started off as a small importer of vegan cheese. Alice talks about how it was a good way to get started as the product already existed, and important decisions about shelf life were not her responsibility. But there came a cost with it too.
Alice: 'Because the market was so limited in NZ, I could only bring in a small number of products at a time. This was done through air freight, and was incredibly expensive, making it not a viable business model.'
'If everything went right, there would be some profit. But if something went wrong, like there was a delay, or the chiller at our warehouse broke down there was no profit.'
That wasn't the only reason that Alice pulled the plug on importing cheeses.
Alice: 'People would also tell me that I was undermining everything I stood for by importing vegan products. So, being as stubborn as I am, I decided we would make it locally ourselves.'
And with that she spent the next couple of years working with a contract food technologist, developing their first vegan mozzarella product. An awesome FYI - they made the first mainstream vegan cheese product for New Zealand!
Fast forward to now, 14 years after the business was initially founded, and Angel Food has ambitions to go international, with one of the main reasons being that NZ is famous for its exports of animal products.
Alice: 'As much as we want to give people good alternatives to animal products, we also want farmers to have good options of what they can grow. We want NZ to be renown for its vegan products!'
But this too comes with a lot of challenges. How do you overcome freight costs, for example, the same, very first challenges that caused Alice to make the product locally herself? Also expansion may require extra capital, which can be taxing in and of itself.
Luckily, Angel Food is no stranger to raising capital, with the business running a few crowdfunding campaigns over the years, one of which raised close to $400,000 in just 9 days!
What's her advice?
1. Don't underestimate how much time and energy you will have to put in to make the campaign successful. Not all of Alice's rounds went well, with planning being absolutely critical.
'When I put up the campaign in 2016, I was extremely drained and quite desperate, and therefore things didn't really work out.'
2. Once it's done you can't just sit back and watch the money roll in. You'll need to continue promoting it and answering questions, until you're sick of the sight of what it is you're promoting!
In terms of the future for Angel Food, there are many things Alice is excited about. At the time of recording the episode, she wasn't able to disclose her news, but now we're happy to announce that Pizza Hut NZ have done a soft launch with their cheese! So if you're in NZ, or plan to visit sometime soon when restrictions allow, make sure to pop in and give it a try!
Otherwise, if you just want to follow their journey, you can find them at angelfood.co.nz or on social @angel.foodnz.
Until next time, have a great week and remember to #biteforwhatsright!