Plant Power Instagram: @plantpowerfastfood
Producing with Purpose Instagram: @producingwithpurpose
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On this milestone episode, episode number 10 of Producing with Purpose, Presented by Noskin - I catch up with Jeffrey Harris, one of three co-founders and co-CEO's of the rapid growing vegan fast food chain, Plant Power.
We talk about the importance of mindfulness when taking on large-scale business challenges and the growth of the plant based market in the US, with plenty of tips and insights into crafting a business that is built for scale from day one, all the way through to the current Series A funding that Jeffrey is currently finalising.
Finding the missing piece of the puzzle
Jeffrey and I begin our conversation with the story of how he met his co-founders and co-CEO's, Mitch Wallace and Zach Vouga, and launched the first Plant Power location, as part of the first step of many towards creating a 'vegan version of McDonalds' and introducing high quality vegan fast food to the West Coast of the USA.
"We've gone from three guys building restaurants, to three guys who are building a team and a company that is running restaurants."
In my research for this episode, I heard many times that Jeffrey encountered resistance and negativity towards the idea of starting the vegan version, or vegan rival to major fast food outlets.
It's not uncommon to encounter negativity when starting a business venture - which can often come from those who are closest to you who have your best interest at heart, so I dig deeper with Jeffrey to understand how he worked around some of this negativity and kept pushing forward on his path to his vision.
Reminiscing on his earlier experience of being vegetarian from the 70's, Jeffrey saw first hand the shift in the market and felt that there was a genuine demand for his idea.
“One thing I’ve learned in my own life is that, nothing is easy. It’s not easy to be poor, it’s not easy to work hard. But if you have dedication and passion, and just keep asking yourself ‘what is the next step’ I’ve never had any doubt it was possible. Something in my heart just said - you've got to be fearless"
The 'shit's getting real' moment
“The day that the doors are opening for the first time, I’m still wondering - is this going to work?”
Jeffrey takes us through the early stages of Plant Power, where the doors to the first restaurant were opening, and the phases of excitement, doubt and fear that passed over him during this time.
Speaking about his mindfulness and meditation practices, Jeffrey delivers some incredible wisdom and insight into how to manage some of the noise that we encounter in these moments, to remain focussed on the goal in front of us.
“Our minds kick up dust. Doubt, anxiety, fear, paranoia, all sorts of ego and greed. So we’re always managing our own mental framework and own mind.”
We take some time to discuss the importance of mindful practices to keep your attention in the right place, and how taking some time for this practice, or even going to the extent of a mindfulness retreat can help to re-align yourself with your mission.
Unlocking the potential and funding the next steps
We talk about some of Plant Power's fantastic 70's inspired branding which really sets them apart in the market, and talk about how this was developed. With internal creativity and design skills, Jeffrey tells us how they were able to unlock and expand the skills of people within the team to reach these outcomes, and the importance of allowing your team members to shine before relying on external sources.
Jeffrey talks us through the current status of their Series A funding and gives guidance and insight into the situation to help anyone who hopes to go through a similar process.
"It was a hard sell at first to pitch our vision, but as we began to execute on our vision, it became easier and easier to secure funding"
With the current Series A funding being an exciting time for growth at Plant Power, we take a moment to reflect back to the financial situation before the first restaurant was built - and how this was funded.
Jeffrey talks us through the process of early investment and the focus on transparency that kept these investors happy in the early stages, and therefore opened the door to future investment, or easier to obtain investment from other sources.
“Given what we have at this moment, let’s use the levers of capitalism and move money to cruelty free, environmental and sustainable endeavors, and show capital that they can do better there, than they can with endeavours that are harmful to our planet.”