This Is What It’s Like to Start Your Own Vegan Bakery
As consumers become more aware of the mistreatment of farmed animals and the widespread environmental destruction caused by the meat industry, they are demanding change. So it should come as no surprise that vegan businesses are booming, and vegan bakeries are near the top of the list.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to run my own vegan bakery (or cafe, since I can’t actually bake), so I caught up with Jen Regan, the head “baketress” behind Poison Berry Bakery, an all-vegan bakery that opened a few months ago in Cleveland.
You recently opened one of the only vegan bakeries in Cleveland. How did you get your start as a baker?
I liked to throw parties and bake for friends, so I’d make vegan versions of common non-vegan desserts. Friends were really impressed and encouraged me to open a bakery.
What inspired you to start your own vegan bakery? What effect do you hope to have on the community?
I had a couple of jobs after college that I wasn’t really happy with, and I found enjoyment baking vegan treats. I seemed to have a knack for it, and I felt excited when friends would eat stuff I baked and rave about it.
I really hope to bring veganism to parts of Cleveland where vegan foods aren’t often available. We picked our location on Larchmere Boulevard because we liked the community feel and wanted to be a part of it. I feel that we can open people’s eyes and hearts to a compassionate diet through vegan baked goods.
When my husband, Jon, and I were planning the storefront for the bakery several years ago, there were zero all-vegan breakfast options in Cleveland. With breakfast being Jon’s favorite meal, he really wanted a place where he could serve it all day and focus on comfort foods (waffles, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, etc.). We like the idea of being able to get pancakes for dinner. For now, we offer the all-day breakfast only on Saturday but hope to expand in the future.
Since we don’t offer standard lunch and dinner fare, we decided that a good way to expand our business and promote other vegan businesses would be to host vegan caterers for pop-ups at the bakery. Since I baked out of the house for over six years before opening, I understand how difficult it can be to reach fans without a proper storefront. By hosting Urban Sweetness and Foodhisattva, we’ve been able to promote veganism, grow our customer base, and help some good friends.
What has been the response from local residents?
Local residents have been really supportive. The bakery has had its ups and downs, but we’ve been able to convince some of the locals that vegan food can be delicious, that it’s not “poison.” Setting out, we realized that we had to get the locals in the door in order to thrive. It seems like we’ve been able to do that, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the results so far.
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in starting their own vegan business?
It’s a lot of work but can be very rewarding. If you want to start your own vegan business, make sure you know your target market and who your competitors are. For instance, in the early planning, we knew we wanted to include a full-service coffee bar, so we had to find a location that didn’t already have one—not easy to do nowadays.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Compassion and love are and will always be at the center of what Poison Berry does. We believe veganism is the way to go and hope to show people the way—one donut, cupcake, or cookie at a time.