Recognized as UK’s Top Online Retailer for vegan shopping, The Vegan Kind is doing all the right things and has its eyes trained on becoming bigger and better in continuing to help make plant-based living easily accessible for all.
With a super successful Seedrs campaign that was instantly oversubscribed of the intended target, Scott McCulloch, Co-Founder of TheVeganKind, reveals his future plans in taking his business to the next level while recounting his journey from a banker to a successful entrepreneur in an exclusive interview with Totally Vegan Buzz.
When Scott and his wife, Karris, turned vegan, they faced a lot of difficulty in finding and sourcing the right kind of vegan products. With big problems, come big business opportunities! And that is exactly what Scott and Karris felt. They saw an opportunity to not only help themselves but anyone who had turned vegan and was looking for plant-based options.
Subscription box and supermarket
They originally started off “purely as a Subscription Box service” because his wife, Karris, used to get “beauty box subscriptions from the likes of Glossy box and Birch box and bit by bit found she couldn’t use many of the products because they were not cruelty-free”.
TheVeganKind supermarket came into existence when they realized, “There wasn’t a one stop shop where you could go and do your shopping online as a vegan,” so after working in the finance sector for 10-12 years, he and his wife and co-founder Karris, decided to drop their full-fledged careers to launch a fully online store in order to deliver speciality vegan products all over the UK.
Scott adds that they run the subscription box services and the supermarket separately for seamless operations and to avoid confusion.
“They’re 2 distinct sides of the business, they’ve got their own social pages so quite often we meet people that don’t even know we have a 100% vegan Supermarket or who don’t even know we do subscription boxes, but we’ve chosen to do that deliberately because we think if we blend them together and send a customer to one place with two sets of separating operating models, it can be confusing,” he says.
“We treat both sides of the business as independent children really, we want them to have their own identity, have their own voice that’s why we’ve chosen to keep them separate on social. We then cross-market each business as part of the after sale. Although we keep these sides of the business separate, they are alway part of our core brand “TheVeganKind”.
Roles in the business
The roles for the couple in the business are defined. They lead together, but while Scott manages the sales and marketing function because of his expertise in banking and sales, Karris handles HR and accounts. She also has the final say on the contents of the subscription boxes, which Scott has pretty much nothing to do with it because he is more inclined towards, “Figuring out the digital marketing of the business, managing the PPC and the advertising of the business as well as strategizing about how the hell we are going to meet these next goals.”
Scott also acknowledged his team members and said TVK’s smooth operations and success has been possible largely because of the right team behind him and Karris. He commended their dedication and work ethic and he couldn’t thank them enough.
Answering whether he anticipated TVK to do so well when they initially started out, he proudly said: “We’ve ultimately surpassed any of the forecasts that we look back on now.
“It doesn’t seem like the same business we’re talking about. We never foresaw that we were going to be anything more than subscription boxes.”
The team is happy the model has grown leaps and bounds over the years. Today, they have over 4,500 different vegan and plant-based products in stock, which will probably be 6000 by next summer.
However, he adds that they tasted success thanks to strategic planning and foresight because although at the time “the subscription boxes had not necessarily ran their course because they were very much still growing in a steep curve, but as an operating model we knew they didn’t carry enough weight to continue on that same growth trajectory and we were aware that if we didn’t implement something else to the business then we had a danger of flatlining or the subscription churn rate becoming unsavable.”
After floating TheVeganKind supermarket, they have grown massively in terms of loyal customers and brands. Their social following has grown exponentially thanks to their dedicated social pages, which boast an engaged social following of 500,000 making it an attractive opportunity for potential investors to get involved with.
Their Accidentally Vegan UK page helps them showcase new product launches, and market them. The page is also a platform that allows them to promote their own brand products and direct all the followers to TheVeganKind. They have 3 Instagram pages: @thevegankind, @thevegankindsupermarket and @accidentallyveganuk.
His answer to any skeptic trying to dismiss them as any other online supermarket or health store is that TheVeganKind has a massive fan following evident through their social pages. In addition, their Seedrs campaign has got about 1700 people pledging support, and it is fast heading towards being the most supported vegan crowd raise ever seen in the UK (Tribe had 1710 supporters in 2017, the current record). Scott says: “In terms of the loyalty we have, the fan base that we have the amount of people that have watched us grow from nothing in 2013 to what we are now – I definitely think it is quite hard to achieve what we have achieved, and so I think that sort of sets us apart from the rest. We are still growing rapidly, and have a firm platform now for us to kick on from. This Seedrs raise will be game changing for us. It almost feels like this is actually just the beginning.”
He also mentions that their operating models have helped them generate a recurring revenue every single month, a feat not necessarily possible for other supermarkets to replicate. Scott adds that they were also one of the earlier businesses to introduce and market the subscription box idea in 2013 and they have a strong hold on it since then, which a lot of the other businesses entering the market in the last 5-6 years have failed to master.
In response to whether it would have been better for them to approach a private equity firm for funding rather than opt for crowdfunding? Scott replies: “We sort of deliberately went with a crowd raise. We were keen to have as many people on board as possible because we know there is a whole lot of brand loyalty that will come with all of those investors. We knew that with having such a strong following we did have a chance of having one of these raises that has a really high amount of people come on board. Turns out that has been the case, and we are so happy to welcome so many new people aboard Team TVK.”
Since the campaign within no time reached the stretch target of 200%, Scott & Karris with the overfunding intend to refresh the brand and tie up all the different businesses into “one core theme” to convey a uniform message across platforms and essentially just get bigger and better at what they’re already doing so well over the years. Of course, TVK also intends to pump in resources into product development and marketing and Scott says, the team will analyse why certain brands do well as compared to others and after thorough research, launch their own brand product through the subscription box, which they will then make exclusively available in their TVK supermarket before rolling it out to 3rd party retailers.
While Scott and Karris worked 24/7 when setting up their business, Scott says he has now been able to structure and strategize his working week to be able to switch off over the weekends and spend quality time with Karris and their two adorable children. He attributes his disciplined life to getting up at 5 am in the morning and admits those two hours in the morning before getting into the daily grind has recalibrated his life. “I am pretty certain all the way through my whole life, no matter what age I am no matter what I am doing, I will always wake at 5 am because it has just recalibrated my working hours and helps me start my day on the right foot. I’ve got personal development time in the morning, even to do things to do like just pull-ups push-ups, you know stretching, or even walking the dog, hanging up the washing…all the basic tasks that we all have in our lives. It is just about having the freedom and space and time to make sure to look after yourself. That’s why I value it. I enjoy the peace and tranquility at that time. I don’t touch my phone for the first hour of waking, other than to listen to an audio book,” he says.
With the business growing 58% in 2019 Vs 2018, and expecting that same growth in 2020, Scott says that the business already has its eyes on 2021 and what they will need to implement now is to ensure this strong growth continues. He concludes: “When looking at ways to improve our business now, we don’t really look at what our direct competitors are doing. We look to the big, blue chip companies; the leading supermarkets and retailers and try and pick out the best, most achievable features and ideas that they are working on. We want to be seen as one of the best vegan companies in the world, with world class customer service, an amazing user experience, and core values that come through in everything we do.” Watch out for TVK, Ocado!
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