Each month we post conversations we have with cool people who live mindfully whether it’s living with less or being healthy without doing harm to others. This is not an interview series but more a down-to-earth catchup over a casual cup of tea.
This month we had the pleasure of catching up with our friend Jacky Wasserman founder of clothing label BEETxBEET.
We virtually met Jacky about a year ago after connecting on Facebook. Jacky has an amazing heart and she also subscribes to a similar lifestyle to ours. She values compassion, creativity and simplicity. She’s a super talented t-shirt designer and she has managed to combine both her talents and passions to build a successful company.
In this chat we cover a wide range of topics including creativity, entrepreneurship, veganism and simple living practices.
We connect on so many different areas. Hope you enjoy this chat as much as we did!
When you first go to your website, it says “we are the changemakers.” Can you elaborate on what that means to you?
I first heard of the word changemakers at an event and it really resonated with me. As members of the vegan community, we are making change in the world and it’s really amazing to see how everything is building year over year. Veganism is getting more recognised around the world.
Every one of us has played a role in making change. If we didn’t exist, nothing would be happening. We’re the ones speaking out and trying to make a difference and you can tell that it’s working.
Why did you start BEETxBEET?
I moved to Los Angeles two and a half years ago and I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I have a deep background in apparel graphics so I worked with various apparel companies for quite a long time.
Then one day I was researching a t-shirt with a vegan message and started thinking about doing something myself. Obviously there are companies who are doing similar things and have been around for a while now.
I love what they do but some of their garments weren’t exactly what I wanted to wear. I’m very passionate about veganism and the environment. I noticed other apparel companies weren’t really talking about GMOs or Monsanto and things like that. So I thought it would be really cool to incorporate those issues with veganism. I already know how to design apparel graphics and I know all of the ins and outs of the industry so why don’t I do it myself?
From there I started brainstorming names for my company and came up with BEETxBEET.
What was the name ideation like for coming up with BEETxBEET?
I got a big piece of paper and listed a bunch of word combinations and eventually I came up with BEETxBEET. It stemmed from taking a beet, as in a vegetable, and making it sound cool. The name also sounds like a music reference which worked for me because I’m also a DJ. It also symbolises taking one step at a time to make a difference.
You mentioned that you’re a DJ as well as a graphic designer. Are these interests you picked up later on in life or have you always been interested in creative endeavours?
Yeah definitely, I’ve always been creative. I used skateboard when I was younger and always loved to draw street art and graffiti letters.
I was also involved in the rave scene and I always loved the flyers and how the graphics looked. So when I was in high school I taught myself how to use photoshop to make flyers. I knew then that I wanted to be a graphic designer.
When I finished college it was at the time when the brand OBEY was really blowing up. They were one of my favourite clothing brands and they had a t-shirt design competition. I entered the competition and actually won it! They produced my design on their t-shirts in stores around the US. This experience really catapulted my apparel design career.
What has the life of an entrepreneur been like for you?
It’s been tough being on my own as like most creative people, you have many ideas in your head of where you want to be and I’m definitely that perfectionist type – so I really had to let go of a lot of things. The challenge was taking things one step at a time because I don’t have the capacity to do some of the things that I want to do without additional help.
What’s helped a lot is the support from our community. Particularly in LA. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by a strong community who is willing to help each other out and collaborate as much as they can.
So I think it’s important to get out there, network and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I have a few friends who also own t-shirt companies so I will often catch up with them to share ideas on how we can all grow our businesses.
It must be so helpful to have such a strong vegan community where you live.
I agree. I don’t think my business would be as successful if I didn’t have such a strong vegan community here in LA. As a vegan living here, you can quickly find yourself in the right avenues to grow your company.
How do you manage to stay balanced as a busy entrepreneur?
Yeah I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Recently I’ve been making sure to get up a little earlier to stretch, meditate and do yoga. And I’ve found that over time it has made my mind more quiet. It’s like developing a habit of going to the gym and honestly it has been so important for me.
I also like hiking and connecting with nature. So I will often take a day off and go out to clear my head.
When did your journey towards veganism start?
I’ve been vegan for 4 and a half years. Just prior to that I was dating a girl who was vegetarian and had grown up vegetarian since she was a child. Not because of her family but because of her beliefs. So automatically I started consuming less meat.
I did still have a lot of stigma and a perceived stereo type towards vegans as I didn’t know what their community was like. I thought they were these weird hippy people and I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t eat meat. I thought they were extremists along with other negative thoughts.
At around the same time I was experiencing some health problems – so I decided to try a juice cleanse to help out. At the same time, I watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, which got me more intrigued about a plant based lifestyle. From there, I ended up watching Forks Over Knives and that sent me over the edge. I remember sitting on the couch with my mouth open as I cycled through so many emotions. First I was sad. Then I was angry and wanted to scream on top of my lungs.
After that point, I knew that I didn’t want to contribute to factory farming and the slaughtering of billions of animals every year. It was a gradual process for me. I was learning what I needed to substitute in my kitchen and where I could get all of the right nutrients. It definitely wasn’t an overnight change.
If I could recommend anything for people who are looking to transition to a vegan diet, I suggest giving it 30 days. They usually say 30 days is the time it takes to change your taste buds in your diet.
So were you in LA at the time you became vegan?
No I was still in Atlanta. It was a struggle to navigate this new way of living as there weren’t many options for vegan restaurants at the time.
I also remember getting asked a lot of questions at my workplace about what I’m doing with my diet and what I’m doing with my protein, and other typical questions.
So yeah, it was a very different environment to LA. I mean, LA is an amazing place for vegans as we’re absolutely spoilt with options! And there’s obviously a much larger vegan community here which also helps.
When you first told your friends and family that you were becoming vegan, how did they respond?
It’s interesting. My dad just had a heart attack and he was in Orlando at the time. And his doctor there actually told him to go vegan, which was surprising advice in itself.
So my dad started to eat vegetarian food and lost a ton of weight. His health is much better now and he doesn’t eat meat or dairy. I would call him a pescatarian as he still eats fish every now and then.
My family were pretty supportive. My brother and sister had moments of being vegan and vegetarian in the past and are trying to stay consistent now.
In terms of friends, they were cool. The only thing for them was inconvenience. If they were throwing a party they might not of been very accommodating. Then other friends were.
Having been a vegan for over 4 and a half years, has your comfort level with conversations with non-vegans changed? For example, in situations where people ask why you don’t eat meat, where do you get your calcium etc?
Yeah definitely. In the early days, I had a lot of feelings of judgement and anger. So when somebody would ask me a question I would jump to providing facts on factory farming and health. It has evolved a lot as I don’t do that anymore and instead, I lead by example.
I work from home now, but when I was employed at my previous job, I would always bring my lunch into work and people could actually see what I was eating. And more often than not, my food would look way more appetising than what they were eating. I would routinely get compliments and comments about how good my food looked.
I always let anyone taste the food and they seemed surprised as to how well it tasted.
Eventually people would come to me for advice. They would start opening up about how they want to eat less meat and what they can do to get started.
This was really interesting for me because everyone knew that I was vegan and I would never make any judging comments towards them. They would always be the ones to reach out to me and have changed their diet as a result.
What’s your take on the different approaches to activism? I.e in your face vs a more subtle approach?
There’s an activist community here in LA and they have an active Facebook group with updates on where you can help participate in marches and protests.
I think there’s definitely a place for such communities but some of the activists that I hear of around the country can take it too far, at least in my opinion. I heard of people going to public barbecues and chanting their protest with their posters. And judging by the look on peoples faces, I don’t think that approach is very effective. Disrupting people might not be the best way to connect with people.
It’s a touchy subject because I get the feeling that the hardcore activists do this because they feel like it’s the best thing that they can do to help the cause, which is completely understandable.
Having said that, I like to approach it by leading by example and having people come to me.
Has veganism changed your awareness of other social issues in the world?
I discovered GMOs after I became vegan as well as other issues, particularly fast fashion. The documentary, The True Cost was another eye opener for me.
When I first started out with BEETxBEET I wanted everything to be organic but it was so expensive. It can be hard being a small business owner and trying to overcome these challenges. I’ve done a ton of research and I’m excited to say that I’m transitioning to having all of my garments organic.
But it’s hard to find suppliers wholesale who have a level of transparency and are compliant, not to mention fashionable styles. The challenge is that the demand is not there for these companies therefore the cost is much higher.
Which makes it extremely tough to compete with companies who do not use organic garments. The goal is to make organic ethical t-shirts but still make the price competitive and affordable for our customers.
So it’s about educating people about why organic is important and what they’re supporting. My goal this year is to make more videos and make people aware of fast fashion and the impact that it has.
I’ve also been talking to other entrepreneurs who own t-shirt companies about potentially partnering and making a bulk order of t-shirts together to get the unit cost down and make the price point affordable for everybody. It’s a win win situation.
When your hear the phrase, ‘less is more’, what comes to mind?
A word that just came to my mind is happiness.
There’s something so freeing with having less. A bit of a weight off your shoulders.
I remember when I was preparing to move across the country to LA, I got rid of so many personal belongings and it was the most freeing moment of my life. It was also the scariest!
We hang onto so many things that we really don’t need and when you go through an experience like that, it makes you realise what’s really important in life and what’s not important.
We’re such a consumer based society and we’re used to getting easy access to whatever we want. And I think people can get a lot out of the experience of putting yourself out of your comfort zone and living with considerably less that what you’re used to.