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Building a Plant-based Community with The Vurger Co

Building a Plant-based Community with The Vurger Co

Rachel Hugh

In this piece, we introduce you to Rachel Hugh, co-founder at The Vurger Co.

After a trip to California, Rachel made it her mission to bring tasty vegan food to the streets of London – and to make Veganism mainstream. The Vurger Co. was born.

In just four years, the brand has exploded in popularity, growing from a market stall to a multi-site restaurant and retail product company, serving up 100% Vegan fast food using environmentally friendly plant-based packaging.

Last year, The Vurger Co. raised £1.4m and Rachel was named on the Forward Fooding Top 10 Women in Food Tech and top 35 Female entrepreneurs under 35 in the UK 2020. Read on to learn more about Rachel and her mission.

The best ideas and businesses were born from those who had buckets of passion to drive some form of change through the product they were creating without any prior knowledge. The point here is you become an expert through every single day that you’re working within your business, surrounding yourself with its natural problems to overcome and finding a way to make your product better every single day. Nobody is born an expert in anything, just keep working hard at it.

Our mission is to revolutionise fast food through delicious vegan innovative creations – i.e plants!

We began in 2016 when the options were pretty much non-existent and definitely not appealing to a mainstream audience. We immediately wanted to change that and create appeal on a wider scale. Creating delicious options, providing an experience, and making it convenient is all about allowing a customer to make great choices that are beneficial not just for health but also for the environment.

The eureka moment

Neil, my co-founder, suffered for years with a health concern that no doctor could get to the bottom of. It blows our mind that nobody asked him what he was eating and whether that would have an impact. Instead, he was prescribed every pill possible which of course did not work. Following these years of suffering and hitting the big ’30’ birthday, we took a trip to California, and one vegan Mexican restaurant, in particular, blew our minds. It was then we realised London had it all wrong.

Nobody was creating delicious, exciting and innovative vegan dishes in our city and making them convenient and accessible in a gorgeous environment. Nobody! So that was the moment, we spent the rest of the holiday discussing names for our new ‘idea’ – and so The Vurger Co was born.

We knew the only way to get any idea if people genuinely wanted this was to get cooking and get out into the world with our creations.

So we set up a market stall in North London (whilst we worked full time in our jobs at the time) and sold our burgers every single weekend to gain feedback, insight, understanding of our customer and what is and isn’t needed in the market place. It was the best learning curve and has made us who we are today without a doubt.

Lessons and celebrations

We set out to open a restaurant, our market stalls were the stepping stone we needed to prove our concept. However because a Vegan concept in a mainstream site in London was a truly untapped territory, we spent a lot of time convincing, educating, setting tasting sessions, and speaking with institutional landlords and small investors.

Out of those we talked to, it was rare that somebody understood the importance of a concept like ours and what it would bring to the city. So in turn, we didn’t command the importance or relevance in 2016 that we thought we would.

However, this was actually the best thing to happen to us as we then realised the one thing we should focus on in all of this, in spite of everyone telling us ‘no’ is what we do have and that was our community we had amassed on social media.

So that’s when we turned to crowdfund our first restaurant. We used the power of our community, those who spoke highly of our food because they’re already fans to drive the change we needed. We are so glad on every level we took that leap of faith as our fans became shareholders, landlords suddenly wanted the next ‘cool’ concept, and we managed to attract the attention of some trailblazing investors back then too! That moment changed the course of our journey and we’re so thankful it did.

We have as a business been a part of the UK’s Start Up 100 List 3 years in a row.

In 2018, we were the only vegan restaurant brand, that speaks volumes, and to be included 3 years in a row is a phenomenal achievement for us. We have grown as a business from a market stall, to 3 restaurant sites, a retail range of sauces sold online and in Planet Organic stores, and also a meal kit delivery service that services the whole of the UK. That’s not a bad achievement for a brand that is only 4 years old from idea to today.

The role of social media

Social media has been extremely important to our business. We built our crowdfunding campaign in 2017 on our community we had built on Instagram. This allowed us to talk directly to our customers, gain their insights and best of all it allowed us to hear immediate feedback regarding their recent experience.

See Also

We wouldn’t change our community for the world, we are open, honest and authentic to the core, this has allowed us to build a trustworthy platform that people feel comfortable to be a part of. We’re all passionate about the same cause and we all ultimately want the same thing, the more support we can provide to one another the better.

Investments and tools

I am the kind of person who loves to do everything myself, I love to get it done and do it well and move on. However, starting a business, hiring a team and growing simply doesn’t allow for this mentality, you have to trust in people, you have to share your knowledge and you have to enable everybody to become the best at what they’re doing and contributing to the company.

I can’t stress it enough, a large budget does not automatically mean access to great people.

Imparting your knowledge and spending the time with the key people in your business to help them grow is what in turn keeps your business thriving. So the most worthwhile business investment is giving time to your people, they are the driving force.

One of my favourite business books is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

Reading this book made me feel slightly more human again, allowed me to feel my way through the challenges, the mental struggles and the sacrifices that are present when running your own business. Phil writes from the heart, his story is relatable no matter the industry you work in and his journey is nothing short of impressive.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Ready to start your own business?

Don’t be scared, take that leap of faith! It is so important to always stand up for what you believe is right no matter what the outcome may be. That little voice inside that speaks to you before making a key decision, or your gut instinct telling you to stay away … listen to that, it’s your guiding light! Then secondly I would say to remain positive, just keep looking for the positives in every situation without fail.

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