When it comes to home-cooked food, nobody does it better than Mum. So many family businesses find their inspiration this way, and Melbourne’s The Vegan Weasel is no exception.
Hiba, one of the company’s Co-Founders (pictured, right), told us their story in a recent conversation. “The company started because I was homesick for homemade food after moving to Dubai when I got married. But I was also now vegan! I was hungry and said to my Mum, ‘Can you please make me a vegan lasagne? I’ve been craving it so badly.’”
Everyone craves good food
“My mum is a genius at being able to make anything into tasty vegan food,” she says. “It tasted exactly the same as “normal” lasagne; I ate it and said, ‘Mom, this is AMAZING. We should sell it in our cafe,’ and we did!” They started getting foot traffic from far and wide just for the taste of their lasagne. “Most of the customers were non-vegans,” she said, “But they couldn’t tell the difference! To this day we advertise it as a vegetable lasagne but have not had even one person comment that it’s actually vegan.”
With rising popularity and a tried-and-true recipe, interest piqued, and an offer came through from Quinton’s supermarket in Warrandyte, VIC. “We went back to the drawing board,” said Hiba’s Mum Helen the Company Owner (pictured, left). “They wanted to sample the food, of course…” She made three different versions of the lasagne, and they loved each immediately. Once approved, the packaging and nutritional panel were formulated quickly to get it up and running. “Honestly, I had a vision, a dream about where the product would sit in-store,” she said. “Then Lisa from Quinton’s opened the freezer door and they were sitting exactly where I pictured them!”
They come for the quality
As a frozen meal, this lasagne continues to boast basic, fundamental goodness, and that homemade taste. “It doesn’t matter how many stores we’ve gone into,” said Hiba, “we’ve kept it exactly how it was since the day my mum first made it for me. We’re never going to change that.” “Our brand is about good quality, homemade vegan food,” said Helen, “and we’re committed to that vision.” Although this endeavor operates on a lower profit margin, the quality of the output is worth it, she says.
“What keeps us true to our mission is that everything we’ve done so far, from branding to sales strategies, is all founded in family values.” Knowing that thousands of people will be eating their family recipe without changes or modifications makes this truly personal. “It’s our family to yours,” says Hiba.
And stay for the connection
Even with the pressures of a growing business, this family is thoroughly committed to its customer base, and it is paying back in spades. “We’re constantly listening to our customers,” said Hiba. “They write to us and we take all feedback very seriously. We respond to every single customer.”
“Our customers message us, and we know their life stories,” she said. “We connect with them, we meet up with them. We even ran a ‘gratitude giveaway,’ and it’s not because we were getting all the money and we have the time to do it – in fact it’s the opposite. We just wanted to express our gratitude for the support we received. We know how hard it is in business, especially when people are starting out; and we got so much support and so much love from our customers, so we really wanted to give back.”
In business as in life, when we value other people and commit to our vision, everything else comes naturally. In the web of life, we have so many chances to serve one another; and when this is our view, our vantage point can only expand.
If you’d like to learn more about the opportunities out there to grow your business, or you’d like to learn about the services we offer, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!