Every vegan entrepreneur is a collaborator. When I was doing interviews for my book Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business and continue to do so for my podcast Vegan Business Talk, everyone I spoke to said they didn’t consider other vegan business owners as ‘competition’, but as collaborators who are all on the same mission: Creating a vegan world.
I’ve seen some amazing collaborations between vegan entrepreneurs that have resulted in wins for everyone: Three vegan shoe brands, for example, shared a booth (stall) at several events in different countries, with each one taking turns to staff it and promote the other brands’ products as well as their own.
It can be exciting and fulfilling to work with other vegan entrepreneurs. I personally love it – whether it’s collaborating on a live or online event, a summit, a course or program, book, podcast, radio or TV show, media outlet, in-store demonstration or anything else that can help to achieve the greater mission.
Nowadays there are lots more professionals coming into the vegan sector. They may have had corporate careers or are service providers keen to offer their skills and services to vegan business owners. Again, this is brilliant as it helps the vegan movement and economy gain momentum.
That said, sadly there are times when potential collaborations can go wrong, typically when one party behaves in an unethical manner towards the others.
Perhaps someone bounces into the vegan community simply because they see it as a sector that’s on trend which they can make money from, or their heart may be in the right place and they are passionate animal advocates, but their life circumstances have led them to act in a way that harms others. It’s unfortunate that this occasionally takes place in a community based on compassion for all, but such is human nature.
So, with that in mind, here are a few tips for you to take into account if you’re considering a partnership or collaboration with other vegan entrepreneurs.
(Please note this is NOT legal or financial advice and you should consult a legal or finance professional when considering any partnerships or collaborations).
Get everything in writing
This is so important, but can get lost in all the excitement. Even if you’re planning to collaborate with a friend, get everything in writing. I did some PR work for some close friends recently and I got each of them to sign a simple Letter of Agreement outlining everyone’s responsibilities along with the key deliverables.
This ensures that everyone is on the same page, understands who is responsible for what, and when it must be completed.
If joint income from a venture is proposed, ensure that the breakdown of how this will be distributed is included in the contract, along with who will be responsible for managing this.
If the project involves customers signing up with their email address, ensure it’s clear in writing who will collect and manage the list, who has access to it and how it will be used – making sure this complies with international anti-spam laws.
If someone resists putting things in writing from the outset and accuses you of being too focused on the ‘minutia’ or ‘detail’ and being a ‘small thinker’ instead of seeing the ‘big picture’, that should raise red flags.
Having a contract is standard business practice, even among friends. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or try to wriggle out of it, especially if they attempt to make you feel inferior for requesting it. This is a form of gaslighting – don’t fall for it.
Use an NDA
If you have some proprietary information or IP that you want to share with a potential collaborator, it’s fine to ask them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
Ensure that if it’s a mutual NDA ie where both parties are disclosing information that it is signed by both and ensure that named entities are signing it – an NDA is likely to be invalid if it’s made in the name of an unknown or yet to be named entity. Again, make sure you have your legal professional check any documents you propose to sign.
Trust your intuition
This may sound a bit ‘woo woo’, so if you prefer, think of it as trusting your ‘gut’.
Sometimes someone may approach you and talk a big game. They seem friendly and passionate and may say all the right things when you speak with them, either in person or on a video call. But you have a niggling feeling that something is not quite right.
It can be so tempting to ignore this niggling feeling. Perhaps the project the person is proposing sounds amazing and you don’t want to believe that anything can be wrong, let alone that you and others may be being deceived, so you push ahead and consciously tell yourself everything is fine.
Trust your intuition – no matter how fantastic the project sounds. Ninety-nine percent of the time you’re likely to be right. It’s better to get out early before you’re in too deep and it gets messy – especially if they want you to hand over money.
Protect your reputation
Be conscious of who you introduce collaborators to. If someone is fairly new to the vegan community, especially the vegan business community, and they immediately start tapping you for your contacts for their own purposes, be aware that any introductions you do may be considered a recommendation. If that person turns out to be untrustworthy, it can reflect badly on you.
We all have to pay our dues to be accepted and trusted in our communities and that takes time. If someone appears to be leveraging your reputation and contacts to bypass this process, that may be a cause for concern.
To wrap up …
It’s an exciting time for veganism. More people are starting vegan businesses, investors are funding vegan ventures, and collaborations are a vital part of growing the vegan economy and changing the world for the better – for animals, people and planet.
So, be open to teaming up with other vegans – just make sure you do your due diligence, especially if they are new to the community.