All Good Interviews: Stephanie

We sat down with Stephanie, owner of two plant-based companies; The Vegan Treatory and Veganut Co. We chatted all about how she started not one, but two plant based businesses, who inspires her, her favourite cookie she’s created and so much more!

on March 21, 2022

Tell us about yourself and your background:

I’m 25 years old and am lucky enough to have grown up in beautiful New Zealand. After finishing high school, I completed a nutrition science degree and then combined my nutritionist background with my creativity and passion for plant based foods to start two 100% plant based companies!

We’re obsessed with your cookies and would love to know what inspired you to start a vegan cookie company? 

Thank you! I’ve always been a massive foodie at heart with a big sweet tooth, and we all love cookies, right? It’s hard to make the move towards more conscious consumption when the vegan alternatives of the foods you know and love aren’t as enjoyable or easily adoptable into your everyday life. I wanted to show that choosing vegan doesn’t mean giving up those comforts you love, and that vegan alternatives can taste just as good (better some might say…) as the non-vegan comforts that we have loved for so long. Cookies aren’t a new idea, it was really all about taking something that we already love and making it available in a way that is animal and planet friendly!

As well as The Vegan Treatory, you also have another company Veganut Co. Tell us about that!

I started Veganut fresh out of university. As a qualified nutritionist with a love for running and moving my body, I had been trying to make the switch to vegan protein powder but found myself frustrated by how difficult it was to find one that actually tasted good. I knew it had to be possible, so I set out to create my own - one that was 100% vegan AND 100% delicious, one that you could enjoy every day. And so, Veganut was born! A range of vegan protein powder that isn’t just good for the earth and good for you, but actually tastes really yummy (and we’re plastic free too!). We are actually re-launching this month and I can’t wait to show everyone what’s in store!

What drove you to start eating a more plant-based diet?

For me, it was a gradual change throughout my early twenties where I started to realise that there are so many delicious plant based foods that we can use to nourish our bodies and create really delicious food. I really love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, so learning how to use plant based foods to create food that I love and truly enjoy has been a big part of my journey. And with the abundance of plant based foods available today, there are so many options to choose from! I do think balance is key though and that we should enjoy all things, all while being more conscious of where they are coming from and how they are made.

How have you had to change and adapt your businesses throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns?

Being an online business meant that I already had a business model that could continue to operate through the lockdowns, however, I wasn’t completely immune because I did have to close during Level 4. I was forced to find new ways to provide value to my customers while I was closed, ways that didn’t include selling my product, and this really pushed me to get creative. We have to be constantly moving and innovating and the lockdowns were a huge testament to that. I also started working on some new and exciting products for The Vegan Treatory that will hopefully get me into the supermarket space (stay tuned!) and allow me to be less dependent on a single product offering. Something really positive that has also come out of the lockdowns has been the huge drive to support local. The demand for my cookies has grown hugely over the past 12 months because of this, so I’ve had to work really hard on increasing my efficiencies. Now I’m in the process of finding a bigger space where I can set up The Vegan Treatory Cookie Factory!

What’s your favourite cookie you’ve created and why?

This is SUCH a tough question. I almost feel guilty for picking a favourite. There’s nothing like the OG Classic Choc Chunk but that’s too predictable. Can I pick two?! I’d have to say the “Jacinnamon Ardern Cookie”, because the name is just the best. But I’d also have to say the Peanut Butter Marshmallow & Golden Oreo Cookie (wow what a mouthful) because this is my personal all-time favourite and my cookie lovers were absolutely obsessed. You wouldn’t believe how much peanut butter goes into that cookie dough.

Looking back, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in business so far? 

That it’s normal to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing sometimes. This used to really freak me out but I quickly learnt that most people getting into business feel this way, and feel this way often, but it’s about learning, adapting, and growing confidence along the way. I think if you’re not making mistakes and having to push yourself, then you’re doing something wrong.

Who inspires you the most?

My family are my greatest inspiration for everything and I am so lucky to have them. They inspire me to work hard and support me in forging my own path. Shama Sukul Lee (founder of Sunfed Meats) is also a huge inspiration of mine. It’s extremely empowering to see a female founder and CEO in NZ shaking up the food industry with planet friendly meat alternatives. She left a job in software engineering and is now inspiring real change while paving the way for female entrepreneurs. How cool is that?!

First place you would travel to when we can travel again, and why?

Right now we can’t even travel out of Auckland, so I really just want to travel up to Northland for summer with my partner. Some of my favourite spots in the entire world are in hidden in Northland and we are so lucky to have it on our doorstep. Outside of NZ though, I am dying to go back to Hawaii. My best friend and I travelled there in 2018 and it has held a special place in my heart ever since; the smell of the air, the wonderful people, the beautiful mountains, the ocean, the fresh food, everything about it is magical.

Share three pieces of advice to anyone starting their own business.

1. Don’t wait until you feel like you know everything before you start, otherwise you will never start! Just jump in and learn along the way! I am still learning every single day and make many mistakes for every win.

2. Passion is really important but you also have to have determination and work ethic because passion alone can wear pretty thin when you’re working 12 hour days trying to make your business work.

3. Try and be as authentic as possible and share the story behind what you have created/what you are selling. Don’t just sell a product; it must be so much more than that if you want people to really care about what you are doing. If they get to know what’s behind the product, what you’re about, and who you are, it adds so much value and you will have much more of an impact, inspiring others to care about it as much as you do.

We loved your iso cooking series over lockdown, what is your favourite baked good to whip up in 5 ingredients or less?

Oh this is such a hard choice but my lemon loaf has to be the winner. It’s always a good time for a lemon loaf. Always. I love to have it warm out of the oven with a dollop of coconut yoghurt. You can find the recipe on my Instagram if you want to give it a go (I know I’m biased but it’s just divine and that crumble on top makes it extra special!).