Welcome to this episode of Living Meatless Tales featuring Emily Abu-Midden of Vegan Veins. Be inspired as you are taken on an adventure of transformation and understanding as our guest shares her experience of making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle, building a business and inspiring others to do the same.
I’m sure you will agree, that reading a great story of someone who made the decision to follow their passion and start a business that inspires people all over the world.
Our guest today is no exception…
Emily Abu-Midden, is a 23-year-old vegan, who is originally from Ontario. She now lives in Alberta with her boyfriend and their rescue dog Jamal, both of who are also vegan.
In college, Emily studied ecological restoration and horticulture. She has been an ethical vegan for seven years and a vegan entrepreneur for five years. Her passions include animal and human rights, plant medicine and sustainability.
Join me as I interview this young vegan entrepreneur on her journey to Living Meatless…
I connected with Emily through Instagram as I had found her profile through a mutual contact. I started looking at the products, t-shirts, bags, buttons, etc. that had beautiful art depicting various messages promoting a vegan lifestyle.
I know that these types products are becoming more and more popular as the vegan community grows around the world.
I was blessed that Emily was able to take the time to answer a few questions so we could be inspired by her story.
Rachel: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I am excited to hear your story and how you started your business.
Let me ask you first, how did you come to embrace a vegan lifestyle?
Emily: “I am vegan for the animals. The health benefits and lessened environmental impact I make are both huge bonuses!
I embraced veganism as soon as I found out about factory farming and the dairy and egg industry when I was 16 years old. I went vegan overnight and lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cereal with soy milk until I taught myself how to cook.”
Rachel: It is very much a shock to learn about factory farming, isn’t it? I find that many people choose a vegan lifestyle once they learn the reality of the industry.
Since you decided to become vegan for the animals what made you decide to start your business, Vegan Veins?
Emily: “After being vegan for two years, I kept getting more and more passionate about the lifestyle and thinking of ways I could spread the vegan message. Being a super shy and introverted person, I figured t-shirts would be a good way to do this. I could spread the vegan message without even having to talk to anybody or say a word.
I also lived in a small town, in the country, so there were no protests or activism events near me that I could participate in.
When I sought out vegan shirts online, five years ago, I didn’t like any of the designs. The selection was scarce compared to what there is today.
I’ve always been into art and loved drawing, so I decided to draw an image of what I wanted on a shirt. My first design ever was the “not your mom not your milk” shirt.
Long story short, I started Vegan Veins because I wanted an easy and effective way to spread the vegan message and I had so many ideas of shirts I wanted to wear that no one else had available.”
Rachel: I love that you personally design the pictures and messages on the products you sell. How do you decide what products to make?
Emily: “I started out with t-shirts because it was something that everyone wears. And It was easy for me to put a large design on it.
Eventually, I started making pins to put on backpacks. Now I make tote bags, art prints, sweaters, postcards and stickers that people can purchase.”
Rachel: Wonderful! I love the idea of the pins. I used to collect pins when I was a child. They are a great thing to subtly share this message my placing it on a bag. Also, a great little gift for someone.
What are your customer’s favourite products? What are your best sellers?
We’re just about to release a new design that I’m really excited about and I have a feeling it will be our new bestseller.”
Rachel: Eat Figs Not Pigs! I LOVE that! What a clever saying. I really love the drawings of both of those designs.
If a young person came to you looking for help about embracing a vegan lifestyle and you only had a few minutes to give him, or her, your best piece of advice, what would it be?
Emily: “Educate yourself! In my opinion, educating yourself is the most important thing if you want to go vegan and stay vegan.
Once you know what the animals go through, how terrible animal products are for your health and how animal agriculture is destroying the planet, it’s pretty hard to ignore that. I felt a moral obligation to go vegan as soon as I found out about all this.
Hopefully, if others educate themselves by reading books, watching documentaries, videos, expert talks and reading articles, they will feel the same way.
One of my favourite vegan books, that I would recommend people read, is Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
I feel that it’s easy to be vegan if you think of the animals instead of just about yourself.
I would say the best way to move forward is to not view veganism as giving anything up. Rather, view it as a life-changing decision that will make you a better person and open your eyes to many new experiences, food and people you didn’t even know existed!”
Rachel: I agree. I think when making any change education is key. That is why I focus so passionately on educating people about living a healthier, more compassionate, vegan lifestyle. When we have all the facts it’s much easier to make a decision as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to complete your story?
Emily: “I just want to say that I’m not special for starting a business and I truly believe anyone can do it. I have no experience in business, marketing or anything like that. I’m a college drop-out, the only vegan in a family of six and I come from a very low-income family.
I had zero dollars saved before starting Vegan Veins. Literally, not even one dollar. I couldn’t even start the business until I got my student loans, which I then used to buy a few t-shirts to get started.
I started out slow. I taught myself everything as I went along the process. How to get a design printed onto shirts, where to buy eco-friendly packing, how to mail packages, how to create a website and everything else that comes with running a business. I developed a following on social media, organically, by posting every single day for over five years. No one taught me any of this or helped me. I researched, and implemented everything on my own.
As I was learning about, and starting this business, I was a full-time college student with two jobs.
I didn’t start Vegan Veins to make a ton of money, I did it because there were designs I wanted on t-shirts and instead of waiting around for other people to make them, I decided to do it myself.
If you have a business idea that you’ve been thinking about doing for a while, just start! Even if all you do is make an Instagram account for that business, without having any products yet, that’s still a start.
Anything is possible if you are determined enough.”
Rachel: Thank you Emily for sharing your story with us on Living Meatless Tales.
Your determination and passion to do what you are doing with your business is very inspiring. I especially love your advice to people who are thinking about starting a business… JUST DO IT! So true.
I believe the more of us who stand in our truth and use our voice for the animals, the environment and the human race as a whole are the ones who will make this world a better place and save us all from mass destruction.
If you enjoyed reading Emily’s story and feel inspired to support her work. You can find her in a variety of ways:
- Website: www.etsy.com/shop/veganveins and www.veganemily.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/veganveins
- Location(s): Located in Grande Prairie, Alberta. You can find Vegan Veins at various vegan festivals around Canada throughout the year. Follow them on social media to stay updated on locations.
Please leave comments below.
Until next time,
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Vegan, Author, Health & Wellness Coach